Citywide Psychedelic Decriminalization Doesn’t Protect Commercial Activities
Over the last year, a handful of cities have passed decriminalization measures for psilocybin and other plant psychedelics. Denver was the first jurisdiction to pass a decriminalization measure, and Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor, and most recently, Washington, D.C., followed suit.
Each of these decriminalization measures is different, but fundamentally they are the same in that they do not actually make psychedelics legal. All they really do is direct law enforcement in those cities to make enforcement of existing criminal laws a low priority, and only then for non-commercial possession and use. Decriminalization measures don’t change state or federal law, and even don’t really change local law.
These limitations on decriminalization are pretty significant. First off, law enforcement is generally not precluded from making arrests, just directed to make them a low priority. This still gives law enforcement discretion to make arrests. Second, decriminalization is generally limited to specific non-commercial activities. While using or possessing certain psychedelics may be “protected”, engaging in commercial activities is not.
It is clear that even in decriminalization jurisdictions, commercial sales are not yet authorized. We want to examine two case studies following the implementation of various decriminalization efforts to show how risky