During the Monday council briefing, several Seattle City Councilmembers indicated some support for decriminalizing psychedelic drugs as they affixed their names to a letter that asked the Overdose Emergency and Innovative Recovery task force to put the policy question on its agenda.
The Public Defender Association and Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County board chair Deaunte Damper are convening a task force and stocking it with "local experts, relevant community leaders, and people who are impacted" in order to "promote interventions with a focus on marginalized people who use drugs," said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who coordinated with CM Andrew Lewis to put the issue on the task force's radar.
Lewis said the group will meet throughout the summer and then make recommendations to the King County Board of Health, county and city councils, and the state legislature by this fall.
Over the phone, he said he will serve as a member of the task force along with "medical researchers and public health professionals."
Lewis said he will "almost certainly" drop an ordinance to make psychedelics the lowest-level enforcement priority for law enforcement at the city level after the task force releases its recommendations, but both he and Herbold stressed the opportunity here for state-level action.
Given the growing mountain of promising research showing the therapeutic benefits of using plants with psychoactive compounds to treat addiction, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Washington could follow in Oregon's footsteps and legalize some of these psychedelic drugs for prescription use.
Noting the number of cities, counties, and states that have already loosened restrictions on these drugs, Lewis said there's already "plenty of justification" to pass such legislation but added that "none of us on the council are medical experts, so this is sort of an opportunity as policymakers to do our due diligence in getting some recommendations that will establish authoritatively the record we need to justify that kind of action from our state legislative delegation."
He called movement on the issue “critical,” as the health problems these drugs improve (when paired with guidance from trained medical practitioners) create barriers to housing for “a lot of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.”
CM Kshama Sawant said she was "happy" to sign the letter in support of the Decriminalize Nature movement and said she's also working on legislation related to the issue.
CM Teresa Mosqueda seemed into the idea as well, and highlighted the potential for these drugs to help treat traumatic brain injuries.
In all, seven of nine council members signed onto the letter, with Dan Strauss absent and ol' Alex Pedersen requesting "more time to review" the letter's language.