Monique Bridges, co-chair of education and outreach at Decriminalize Nature Seattle, is here to tell you about the healing powers of psychedelics.
Monique Bridges, co-chair of education and outreach at Decriminalize Nature Seattle, is here to tell you about the healing powers of psychedelics. Decriminalize Nature Seattle

This afternoon from 3 to 5:30 pm, Seattle Councilmember Andrew Lewis and a group called Decriminalize Nature Seattle will convene a panel of experts to discuss the potential use of psychedelic plants to treat intractable mental and behavioral health problems. RSVP here for the link.

As I wrote back in May, Washington is getting its ass kicked when it comes to regulating psychedelics like the plants they are rather than the Schedule 1 drugs the federal government claims they are.

Oregon legalized psilocybin mushrooms for medical use last year, and a handful of other jurisdictions across the country (mostly college towns) have decriminalized mushrooms and other psychedelics as well. Seattle is only now entering the ~community discussion~ phase of this issue, which means, as you'll likely learn at this symposium, that we're missing out on the potential medical, financial, and moral benefits of decriminalizing or legalizing these drugs.

Over the phone, Lewis said he "didn't really know a whole lot about psychedelics" until he took some meetings with Decrim Nature Seattle last spring, but the more he learns about the policy, the substances, the advances in the research and some of its implications, the more he thinks "this is something that should rise to a higher level of discourse."

He put the symposium together so Seattle could share the experience he had after hearing scientists, doctors, and lawyers talking about medical advantages and policy impacts, as well as personal stories from people who "lost loved ones who could have been treated with some of these substances."

To that end, the panel includes University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences professor Dr. Nathan Sackett; Dr. Sunil Aggarwal of the AIMS Institute, which researches and uses cannabinoids and other plant-derived medicines in its treatment plans for people with chronic health conditions; Dr. Mason Marks, a doctor and a lawyer (what am I doing with my life?) who spends his time shaping policy on psychedelics all over the country; Monique Bridges, co-chair of education and outreach at Decrim Nature Seattle, who works to reclaim psychedelics for Black and Indigenous communities; and Tatiana Quintana, a Decrim Nature Seattle co-director whose moving personal history drives her work to also reintegrate psychedelics back into communities of color.

Lewis sees a lot of different policy discussions spinning off of this talk. One of the biggest gateways to chronic homelessness, he said, is people who self-medicate in order to treat untreated mental health conditions. Given the promising research showing that psychedelic compounds can help successfully treat certain addictions, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, he thinks we "should be looking into any potential systemic way to start changing how we have historically dealt with community members who are struggling" with those sorts of medical problems.

He also thinks municipal and state-level policy changes could help set up Washington universities as research hubs for this kind of approach to mental health treatment. (After all, Stanford and Johns Hopkins shouldn't have all the fun [and grant dollars], should they?)

There are also biomedical research implications at hand. Pharmaceutical companies have expressed a strong interest in a lot of this research, as they're very much looking forward to synthesizing some of these compounds for sale on the market.

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And as I reported last spring, King County prosecutors say they deal with "a couple" cases involving only psychedelics per year, so there's not a huge criminal justice angle (in this county at least), but decriminalizing the drugs would give peace of mind to people who use them recreationally or for healing.

Skeptical about all this stuff? Curious about all this stuff? Then tune in today at 3 pm for a nice, informative chat.