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  • What personal experiences motivated the introduction of this decriminalization movement? How did this start in Port Townsend?
    Rebecca and Erin were both immediately inspired to work on decriminalization when they heard about Oakland’s resolution passing. Rebecca jumped right in, starting the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society and drafting an initial resolution. Erin had a similar reaction, reaching out to one of her school colleagues who was a main organizer in Oakland, only to soon learn that Rebecca was already started on the project. So they teamed up, and the rest is history in process.
  • What has Port Townsend Psychedelic Society done thus far?
    We began introducing local decriminalization resolutions to local city and county officials in 2019. So far, our resolutions have been adopted by the County Board of Health, the County Commissioners, and the City Council. Resolution approved by City Council: Dec. 20th, 2021 Resolution approved by County Commissioners: May 1st, 2022 Some of our work included meeting with the county health officer, the chief of police, the city attorney, the police navigator, the mayor, as well as several individual city councillors and county commissioners. In addition to the policy work we do, we also host events and offerings in hopes to service our values of community, education, and integration. Some of this work has included harm reduction support tents at music festivals, peer support trainings, integration circles, resources and conversations for end of life care, and much more. ​
  • What is the long-term view for PTPS?
    Some of the things we hope to offer are: Educational workshops for the public and for law enforcement personnel Psychedelic risk-reduction education in local high schools Psychedelic support spaces at local events An ever-evolving guide to local entheogenic integration and support resources Peer integration groups Community building events
  • Why decriminalization instead of legalization?
    We absolutely believe decriminalization is a mandatory first step if we are to be true to the idea of access and non-commodification. Anything else opens the doors to venture capital take over and the commodification or medicalization of the industry. Without decriminalization before legalization, those people/corporations/clinicians can use the legal system to have anyone arrested who isn’t following their regulations. Criminalization through regulation perpetuates the drug war for disenfranchised communities who cannot afford treatment or purchase of said substances; only people with certain socioeconomic status will have access. We believe decriminalization empowers all people to have the basic right and equitable access to these medicines and that this right must be maintained upon legal channels also opening. ​ We also encourage the conscientious and thoughtful deliberation of leadership at all levels of government to protect this equitable access to entheogenic plants and fungi by seeking to restrict any corporate activity that would diminish accessibility, diversity, or supply of these entheogens to ensure they remain forever available to all humans. Additionally, legalization of these federally illegal, Schedule I substances goes directly against federal law. As a small community, the City of Port Townsend and Jefferson County does not have the resources to fight a potential federal lawsuit. We recommend visiting the following link to view a chart comparing the Decriminalize Nature movement to Oregon's Psilocybin Service Initiative. We believe these movements can be complementary, but the chart displays the reasons we strongly emphasize the importance of decriminalizing first:
  • Why Jefferson County?
    We are a resilient community characterized by a unique blend of cohesive community, healthy food systems, quirky out of the box character, open minded individuals, collaborative spirit, and access to a plethora of healing modalities. Decriminalizing entheogens emphasizes our community values of personal freedom, self-responsibility, social justice and reform of harmful societal structures/practices, curiosity, creativity, progressive free-thinking, connection to the natural world (including those who have a working relationship with it - farmers, loggers, fishers, and so forth), and alternative living (including education, medicine, therapy, and the healing arts). We feel it's a perfect environment to support such work being done with integrity, care, and maturity. Based on many connections, conversations, and research involving the city and county populations, we have also found that this is generally a non-partisan issue. Some people support decriminalization because they see the value these plants have for treating mental health issues, working with addiction, connecting people with nature and community, or for spiritual development. Others support it because they lean more libertarian and don't believe the government should regulate what they choose to put in their bodies. Others prioritize social justice, ending the war on drugs, and making healing accessible to all. Furthermore, this community already has vast resources of knowledge, experience, and people dedicated to providing support and education to the public about safe and therapeutic use of entheogens. Decriminalization creates a context in which these resources can become available to all. Our vision is of this being a place where responsible, respectful engagement with these medicines can shine a light for other places to be inspired by and learn from.
  • Why are you focusing on the local level rather than the state level?
    Politics begin at a local level and as such, we are primarily concerned with our immediate community. We believe in building a strong network of support and offering ourselves as a local example, first showing evidence at the grassroots level that people want this change. Many cities are taking the same approach and together we believe we will be able to make a larger impact - one that will eventually reach state and federal levels. We believe this is the beginning of a psychedelic renaissance, a renaissance that will require small, steady, and deliberately planned-out steps to achieve. Furthermore, we believe working at the local level helps build and strengthen our local community connections and resilience.
  • What are entheogens?
    Entheogens are sacred, natural ethnobotanicals, often erroneously labeled as “drugs.” Common examples of these plants and fungi include psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and cacti containing mescaline. For millennia, cultures have respected entheogens for providing healing, knowledge, creativity, and spiritual connection. Entheogenic plant practices have long historical roots in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, yet this connection was severed for most of the global population long ago. More recently, scientific studies are demonstrating that entheogens can be beneficial for treating conditions such as end-of-life anxiety, substance abuse, addiction, cluster headaches, PTSD, neurodegeneration, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and treatment resistant depression, as well as reduce rates of intimate partner violence and recidivism. Additionally, recent studies have shown entheogens to be beneficial to personal and spiritual growth. These studies confirm the anecdotal evidence provided by entheogenic cultures that have traditionally engaged with these plants.
  • What does safe and responsible practice with entheogens look like?
    This varies with each person’s needs and experience. For an experienced person, it might be finding a safe and supportive place in nature, setting up a place to rest as well as clear boundaries for exploration of the area, having a supportive and trusted sitter, and all your basic needs met. For a person new to this work or working with a new entheogen, it might look like partaking in a ceremony with an experienced facilitator who has been recommended by a trusted community member and with whom you’ve had conversations and feel like it would be a supportive environment for you. It also might include working with the support of a trusted mental health professional or an experienced guide and/or having community support around the preparation and integration process. Recognizing that for entheogenic plants and fungi to provide the healing experiences so needed by humanity, one cannot separate the plant from the approach taken. We encourage approaching all entheogenic experiences with care, reverence, and intention. Here are a few guidelines to start with: Choose the right medicine for you. Do your research, ask people you trust about their experiences, and understand the potential risks. Choose the right dosage. If you are uncertain how much you should take or it is your first time, start small! Choose the right environment. Find a setting that is comfortable for you, one that will help enable you to go deeper into your journey with focus and clarity. Find a trusted sitter. This is strongly recommended if you are inexperienced with these substances. There are mental health professionals who can help assist with preparation, journeying, and integration. Lay out pre-established agreements between the two of you. Be open to lifestyle changes. These experiences may shift your perception regarding thought-habits, behavioral patterns, or relationship dynamics. It is recommended you approach these experiences with an open mind toward making any necessary changes the medicine asks of you (diet, exercise, styles of communication, memory patterns, narrative transformations, etc). We also recommend waiting to make any major decisions until a few weeks after an entheogenic experience so that you have time to thoroughly think and feel them through.
  • Are these substances safe?
    The plants and fungi comprising entheogens have been shown to be safe with very little risk. They are non-addictive and most have no known lethal doses, though a few are contraindicated for people with heart conditions or those taking certain medications (particularly MAO-inhibitors - and while this concern is theoretical, we recommend erring on the side of caution). No entheogens have any evidence of lasting toxicity within the body. Psychologically, there is a chance of triggering or exacerbating underlying psychological disorders or (very rarely) temporary psychosis. And even though the risks involving entheogens are far below alcohol and even many over the counter medicines, much less prescribed pharmaceuticals, we want to help mitigate them through education and various means of support within our community. Some examples of this include 1) screening processes and education about who should avoid these substances (see below) 2) education about what it means to have a safe and supportive set/setting and 3) following the following guidelines originating from Decriminalize Nature Oakland: 1. Entheogens are not for everyone. Knowledgeable clinicians caution that some people should not take entheogenic plants or fungi, including people with a personal or family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, those with personality disorder or suicidal ideation, or who are taking certain medications. 2. If someone has a serious condition like major depression or PTSD, they would do well to get serious, professional help before using an entheogen and to ask that caregiver’s advice. (Some counselors and therapists are glad to work with a client before and after an entheogenic journey). 3. Unless you have expert guidance, it’s best to start with small amounts, using more only after you become familiar with the material and the terrain. 4. Don’t go solo (with nontrivial doses). Have at least one trusted support person (such as a sitter, guide, or facilitator) be with you, sober during the entire journey, and commit in advance to honor that person’s instructions if he or she tells you to not do something. Entheogens can amplify the whole range of human emotions, including anxiety which can sometimes lead to panic. Having a sitter gives you a certain comfort and mental freedom, and helps keep things safe. 5. Reverence reduces risks and can help lead to positive outcomes. In cultures that have long used entheogenic substances beneficially, that use is approached with great respect, not haphazardly, and for life-enhancing purpose We also believe the health and safety risks of engaging with entheogenic plants and fungi stem more from the effects of them being criminalized than from using entheogens themselves. Decriminalization allows for the mitigative factors described above (such as education, creation of safe and supportive spaces, trusted local resources, comfort asking for help without legal consequences) to be put in place and equitably accessed.
  • How do we address issues of cultural appropriation regarding entheogenic use?
    We encourage knowledge exchange programs between traditional indigenous wisdom keepers and contemporary cultures on entheogenic practices. We also encourage individuals drawing from any tradition to do so with respect and gratitude, giving credit to their source.
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