Decriminalization of psychedelics in Michigan is a rallying cry at Ann Arbor Entheofest

ANN ARBOR, MI — Washtenaw County Chief Assistant District Attorney Victoria Burton-Harris scanned the audience at Ann Arbor’s Entheofest before delivering her speech on Sunday.

The crowd at the University of Michigan Diag for the second annual festival celebrating entheogenic plants and fungi such as psychedelic mushrooms was predominantly white, she observed.

“Look around this Diag,” said Burton-Harris, who wore a T-shirt with two words on it: Black and Radical.

“Do you see a lot of people around who look like me? No,” she told the crowd. “Is that a problem? Damn, yes.”

Washtenaw County Chief Assistant District Attorney Victoria Burton-Harris speaks at the second annual Ann Arbor Entheofest to celebrate entheogenic plants and fungi, including psychedelic mushrooms, at the University’s Diag Central Campus of Michigan on September 18, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

Burton-Harris, joined by County Attorney Eli Savit at the Sept. 18 event, expressed concern that the movement to decriminalize psychedelics was “whitewashed” and stressed the importance of to honor the African and indigenous peoples “who have used these plants since the beginning of time.”

Discussing the generational trauma black people have suffered due to systemic racism in America, she called for making diversity a priority and including black people in the movement and in research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.

“There are so many healings that can be done in sacred spaces with the use and help of these plants,” she said.

Entheofest 2022

The stage at the second annual Ann Arbor Entheofest to celebrate entheogenic plants and fungi, including psychedelic mushrooms, at the University of Michigan’s Diag Central Campus on September 18, 2022. Madison, who came from Gregory with her family, wore a large red and white mushroom hat that she made from recycled materials, including scraps of fabric and couch cushions found on the side of the road.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

“These are hard truths,” festival emcee Jim Salame, deputy director of organizing group Decriminalize Nature Michigan, said afterwards. “It’s something we should all take from this day and live our whole lives with that in mind.”

Salame said he still thought Sunday’s crowd was quite diverse with people of different races in attendance.

Hundreds and hundreds of people gathered around the Diag during the three-hour event billed as a celebration of sacred medicinal plants. The event included speeches, music, educational booths and opportunities to create art.

Attendees came from near and far and some wore their most groovy tie-dye shirts and mushroom-themed clothes.

Entheofest 2022

The stage for Ann Arbor’s second annual Entheofest to celebrate entheogenic plants and fungi, including psychedelic mushrooms, at the University of Michigan’s Diag Central Campus on September 18, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

Organizers asked people not to use psychedelics or buy and sell products at the event, but that didn’t stop some from carrying bags of shrooms and openly indulging in various substances, including lighting cannabis joints, while UM police surveilled the licensed university. an event.

University of Michigan Greenlights Psychedelic Mushroom Festival

The event celebrated the two-year anniversary of Ann Arbor’s decision to declare entheogenic plants and fungi the city’s lowest law enforcement priority, effectively decriminalizing the substances at the city level. This includes ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, and other natural compounds with hallucinogenic properties.

Similar to the Ann Arbor policy passed by the City Council, the Washtenaw County District Attorney’s Office opposes criminally charging people for such substances.

Entheofest 2022

Washtenaw County District Attorney Eli Savit, right, speaks with an attendee at Ann Arbor’s second annual Entheofest to celebrate entheogenic plants and fungi, including psychedelic mushrooms, at the University’s Diag Central Campus of Michigan on September 18, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

Activists for the movement continue to campaign town by town across Michigan to get others to follow Ann Arbor’s lead, as Detroit and Hazel Park did, with the goal of eventually submitting a ballot proposal to statewide to voters in 2024.

Why Ann Arbor Officials Decided to Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms and Plants

Calling for an end to the war on drugs, a war they called a racist war, speakers at Entheofest on Sunday touted the benefits of psychedelics in helping people treat anxiety, depression, PTSD and addiction to harder drugs and bringing happiness into people’s lives. Ann Arbor activist Chuck Ream said he wants freedom of individual use without the government stopping him.

“The main reason we’re doing this is to protect the people using this material,” Salame said before the event. “It’s not for partying.”

Entheofest 2022

Festival master of ceremonies Jim Salame speaks during Ann Arbor’s second annual Entheofest to celebrate entheogenic plants and fungi, including psychedelic mushrooms, at the University of Michigan’s Diag Central Campus on September 18, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

Grand Rapids native and Iraq War veteran Michael Tuffelmire received applause as he addressed the Entheofest crowd, telling his fellow veterans they’ve come to the right place.

“Coming here, I was thinking of a lot of veterans of my unit who came before me, and I’m not necessarily talking about those who died in action,” he said, explaining that he was referring to deceased persons. injuries caused by mental health trauma, including PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.

Many veterans have taken their own lives and he prepares year after year to see who will be next, he said, crediting psychedelics with helping him and others survive.

Entheofest 2022

The stage for Ann Arbor’s second annual Entheofest to celebrate entheogenic plants and fungi, including psychedelic mushrooms, at the University of Michigan’s Diag Central Campus on September 18, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

“So many of these guys that I know, if they had only had one dose, we would still have them here today,” he said. “But you see, to them, they’re being told that these things are poison and alcohol is the right thing and over-the-counter stuff is the right thing, so that’s what they chose. .”

In addition to Decriminalize Nature Michigan, the event was sponsored by the Students’ Association for Psychedelic Studies at UM, the Michigan Initiative for Community Healing, the Michigan Psychedelic Society, and Students for Reasonable Drug Policy .

UM police did not immediately comment on whether there were any arrests. Salame said that from his perspective, the event went off without a hitch.

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