Decriminalize Nature Portland (DNP), the Portland branch of the growing national grassroots activist group Decriminalize Nature, who are working to decriminalize natural psychedelic plant medicine, has filed its petition committee paperwork and language for a 2020 ballot initiative to decriminalize psychedelic plant medicines in Portland, they announced in a press release October 29, 2019. Decriminalize Nature formed as part of the successful initiative in Oakland. If the measure is successful, Portland would become the 4th major city in America to decriminalize psychedelic plant medicine, after Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the country by population, somewhat quietly passed their own decriminalization measure earlier the same month.
Oregon recently made national news on the psychedelic front with the announcement of a measure introduced by PSI 2020 (Psilocybin Service Initiative 2020), an organization working on a statewide therapy model to institute regulated psilocybin based therapy in the state, supported and funded in large part by David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Decriminalize Nature has been supportive but critical of the measure, releasing a statement decrying the removal or addition of language that may restrict access, particularly to the working class, and people of color that have traditionally been left behind in drug reform progress, whether by intent or neglect.
Bryan Kim, director of public outreach for Decriminalize Nature Portland, and one of three DNP chief petitioners on the initiative says, “We’ve been looking at this as companion legislation to PSI 2020, because especially given the changes made, and the fact that they removed their penalty reduction and decriminalization language, what we’re doing is absolutely necessary in the context of the therapy model, because we have to ensure that people outside the therapy model still have access to medicine, and aren’t in danger of being criminalized for pursuing their own cognitive liberty and mental health.”
In their press release, DNP fleshed out their motivations and intentions “Oregon is in the middle of a peak in its mental health and homelessness rates,” said chief petitioner and DNP organizer Holly Sullivan. “And the last thing we need to be doing is locking up more of our most vulnerable folks for the possession or homegrowing of medicines that are clinically proven to treat depression, PTSD, and addiction.”
Further on in the release, another chief petitioner shared his personal story, which parallels that of many who have struggled with addiction and found relief in plant medicines. “”I was able to cure myself of a ten year IV opiate and amphetamine addiction. ” said Nicholas Combest. “The powerful psycho-spiritual experiences that psilocybin mushrooms and San Pedro cacti provided were instrumental in my healing process. They facilitate a deeper level of self analysis and compassion. These medicines get to the root cause and can fundamentally transform us.”
DNP also point out in the statement that polling conducted by PSI 2020 showed a majority of Oregonians in favor of medical psychedelic therapy and the decriminalization of possession, further illustrating why DNP are confident of success in this measure, along with their overall goal of full national decriminalization and access to entheogenic plant medicines.
Bryan also added on behalf of DNP in their press release; “We agree with the folks in Oakland and Denver that we have to put people before profits and liberty before licensing. In a country without universal healthcare, it’s more important than ever that we ensure equality of access through the protection of non-therapeutic possession and personal use homegrowing.”
Decriminalize Nature is also looking forward to their upcoming December 14th statewide Oregon Decriminalization Congress. “We’re meeting with decriminalization activists from Eugene down there to do a Decrim Congress. We’re trying to recruit people from cities all over Oregon who are interested in getting moving on this, and sharing what we and Edelic Center for Ethnobotanical Services have been working on, and trying to spread that to activists around the state at a central meeting point and time.” Bryan Kim elaborated to Nugl. “The therapy model is fantastic, but at the same time is not fantastic if you only have a therapy model, and using outside that model becomes an excuse to crack down on minority and vulnerable populations.” This speaks to a fundamental point that DNP and Bryan repeatedly highlight in interviews, literature and their ideals as a group. “Every time you pass a law in the U.S., the enforcement of that law disproportionately impacts oppressed communities, especially communities of color and working class communities, and it’s really important to ensure that people without traditional class and race based access to (mainstream) therapy have access to this medicine.”
The Congress, which is being organized by Edelic in coordination with DNP, will also reiterate the organizational belief that entheogenic plant medicines must be treated as a sacred and individually considered category, as movements in the state for full drug decriminalization gain momentum. “It’s our belief that psychedelic plant medicines deserve extra consideration and protection than other Schedule 1 drugs, because these are a natural birthright of humanity, given to us by nature or God depending on your belief system, and it is not right to put them on the same level as meth, cocaine, and chemically derived psychedelics, though of course we support all the decriminalization and access bills and campaigns.” While Decriminalize Nature as a group is specifically advocating for entheogenic plants, they are committed to continuing to work in tandem and support with other initiatives aimed at increasing access to psychedelics, and ending the Drug War.
Signature gathering for the Portland measure will begin as soon as the templates are received back from the Secretary of State, approximately 11 business days after the October 29th announcement.
Featured image of Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland by Zach Savinar