Editorial Note: Although this topic does not directly concern cannabis, it is closely related in terms of policy reform and decriminalization efforts. Given the relevance of these issues to our audience, we believe this news is significant and pertinent to our community.
In a significant policy shift, Ypsilanti city leaders are poised to vote on the decriminalization of psychedelic plants and fungi, including "magic mushrooms," in the upcoming year. This proposal, discussed by the City Council on December 19th, was initially brought to the table by Decriminalize Nature Michigan, an advocacy group championing the decriminalization of entheogenic plants, fungi, and related compounds.
Entheogens, a term derived from Greek meaning "becoming divine within," include substances such as ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote, and psilocybin mushrooms. These substances, recognized for their hallucinogenic properties, are currently illegal under both state and federal laws.
Larry Norris, a co-founder of Decriminalize Nature and a University of Michigan alumnus, argues for a new approach that respects individual sovereignty and the right to interact with nature without fear of legal repercussions. Norris, along with other activists, points to the 27 cities across the United States that have already adopted similar decriminalization policies since mid-2019. This list includes Detroit, Ferndale, Hazel Park, and Ann Arbor in Michigan.
In 2020, Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution making these psychedelic plants a low priority for law enforcement, a stance subsequently mirrored by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office. Cornelius Williams, an Ypsilanti resident and outreach director for Decriminalize Nature Michigan, argues that Ypsilanti should align with these policies for greater cohesion.
Advocates of decriminalization not only emphasize the spiritual significance of these substances but also point to their potential medical benefits. Studies suggest that these entheogens can be effective in treating mental health issues like PTSD, depression, and substance use disorders. Personal testimonies, like that of Matt Strang, who spoke to the city council about using psychedelics to manage his depression during substance recovery, underscore these claims.
Ypsilanti's City Council, presented with a resolution for decriminalization, discussed the need for an ordinance change. Mayor Nicole Brown and Council Member Desirae Simmons expressed support for this initiative. Simmons also hopes for a city statement backing state-wide legislation proposed by State Sen. Jeff Irwin for decriminalization.
Norris, in his presentation, distinguished these plants and fungi from typical recreational drugs, highlighting their traditional use in ceremonial contexts. He acknowledged their risks but compared them to legal substances like alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals, suggesting they pose less danger.
As the city of Ypsilanti deliberates this policy shift, it stands at the forefront of a broader movement seeking to redefine the legal status and societal perception of psychedelic substances.
The latest findings from the Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the University of Michigan and financed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reveal a significant trend in adolescent behavior. The 2023 data indicates that the percentage of teenagers using illicit substances has remained below the pre-pandemic levels noted in 2020. This continuation suggests a lasting change in substance use patterns among adolescents following the initial drop observed after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey, which annually collects self-reported data on substance use from eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, showed that in 2023, 10.9% of eighth graders, 19.8% of 10th graders, and 31.2% of 12th graders reported using any illicit drugs in the past year. These figures, although reflective of the lowered levels of 2022, highlight a steady trend in adolescent behavior.
Richard Miech, the study's lead at U-M’s Institute for Social Research, emphasized the importance of these findings. He noted that the persistent decline in teen substance use is significant, potentially indicating long-term reductions in future drug use trajectories. The survey, which also measures students' perceptions of drug harm, disapproval of use, and perceived availability, is crucial for understanding and tracking these behavioral trends.
In 2023, the survey captured responses from 22,318 students across 235 schools in the U.S. and found that the most commonly reported substances were alcohol, nicotine vaping, and cannabis. Notably, alcohol use among eighth and 10th graders remained stable, while there was a decline in use among 12th graders. Nicotine vaping showed a stable trend in eighth graders but declined in the higher grades. Cannabis use remained steady across all three grades surveyed.
For the first time in 2023, the survey included questions on Delta-8 THC use, revealing that 11.4% of 12th graders reported using this substance in the past year. Other illicit drug use outside of marijuana also remained stable among the surveyed grades.
In terms of abstinence from marijuana, alcohol, and nicotine, there was an increase among 12th graders, with 62.6% reporting no use of these substances in the past month. The rates remained stable for eighth and 10th graders.
The diversity of the survey's respondents was notable, with a broad representation across different racial and ethnic groups. Additionally, the survey methodology adapted to the pandemic's impact, with the majority of students completing it in person at school. However, there is an acknowledgment that those less engaged in school, a group at higher risk for drug use, might be underrepresented in these findings.
This study's results are crucial in understanding teen behavior and guiding public health strategies, especially in the context of changing policies and access to substances like Delta-8 THC.
Heather Robertson, an employee at Rize, a recreational marijuana dispensary in Menominee, Michigan, has experienced frequent police stops upon returning to her home in Wisconsin, where marijuana remains illegal. She suspects these stops are due to her association with the dispensary, as officers often inquire about the presence of marijuana in her vehicle. Despite not receiving any tickets, Robertson's experiences highlight the growing tension at the Michigan-Wisconsin border following the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan.
This tension is evident in the rising number of marijuana-related citations in border counties. For instance, Florence County saw an increase from four citations in 2019 to 83 last year, coinciding with the commencement of recreational marijuana sales in Michigan. Similarly, Marinette city police reported a significant jump in citations, from 129 in 2019 to 548 last year.
Local residents and marijuana enthusiasts believe Wisconsin police are closely monitoring dispensaries and customers, particularly those with Wisconsin license plates. This suspicion has led to frequent warnings among dispensary clients about potential police stops upon re-entering Wisconsin.
Despite these concerns, Wisconsin law enforcement officials deny any targeted surveillance or marijuana enforcement operations. Marinette County Sheriff Randy Miller emphasizes that their primary focus is on combating more severe drug issues, such as fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine.
The availability of marijuana in Michigan and its illegality in Wisconsin has created a unique challenge for law enforcement. Officers often encounter marijuana during routine traffic stops, especially when dispensary packaging is visible. Florence County Chief Deputy TJ Peterson acknowledges the ease of finding marijuana on travelers, given the dispensaries at both ends of the border.
Kay Lynn Olesen's experience exemplifies this situation. Pulled over for minor traffic violations, a deputy noticed a dispensary bag in her car and issued a citation. Olesen, a Green Bay resident, where small amounts of marijuana are decriminalized, contested her ticket, expressing her desire for Wisconsin to follow the legalization trend.
Marinette, a bustling city connected to Menominee, Michigan, is experiencing growth, with increased job opportunities and a rise in felony cases. Police Chief Jon Lacombe, emphasizing the city's busy law enforcement agenda, refutes any notion of targeting marijuana users.
Despite higher marijuana possession citation costs in Marinette, former Police Chief John Mabry clarifies that revenue generation is not the objective. The city's budget reflects a minor contribution from court fines, including those for marijuana offenses.
Lacombe, with deep roots in Marinette, recalls a focus on combating heroin in the mid-2000s. He acknowledges the benefits of marijuana legalization, citing reduced risks compared to illegal grow operations and potentially tainted products.
In nearby Peshtigo, Police Chief Fred Popp foresees marijuana legalization as inevitable. He notes a shift in law enforcement perspectives over time, with more experienced officers viewing the issue in shades of gray rather than black and white.
This sentiment is echoed in Florence County's decision to train their drug-sniffing dog without marijuana detection, anticipating future legalization. The county is willing to forego marijuana citations, considering the broader implications for law enforcement.
Note to Readers: While the primary focus of our platform remains cannabis-related news, we think it's important to explore the parallel happenings in the realm of psychedelic substances in Michigan, due to its close kinship and its potential implications for future policy-making in related fields. We hope you find the following article enlightening.
Soul Tribes International Ministries, known for advocating the use of psilocybin mushrooms as a religious sacrament, has recently escalated its legal battle by moving the case to federal court. The organization, operating inside Detroit's Bushnell Congregational Church, faced a significant setback when the Detroit Police Department raided the establishment on September 22nd, leading to a temporary restraining order and a nuisance claim against the owner, Shaman Shu, also known as Robert Shumake and Bobby Japhia.
In a notable development on November 6th, Shu initiated the transfer of his case to federal court, citing a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by the city's shutdown of the church. This move to federal jurisdiction marks a strategic shift in the legal approach of Soul Tribes. However, the City of Detroit has countered this action, petitioning on December 4 to remand the case back to Wayne County Circuit Court, emphasizing that the issue does not involve federal law and is more suited to regional jurisdiction due to its focus on local nuisance concerns.
The transition to federal court led to a significant change in legal representation for Shu. Initially represented by Detroit’s Cannabis Counsel, the firm withdrew from the case on November 27th, citing both an “irreconcilable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship” and unpaid fees. The firm's departure followed Shu's decision to move the case to federal court without their knowledge. Shu is now represented by Florida-based attorney George Lake, who is licensed in multiple states and specializes in the free exercise of religion and the sacramental consumption of psychedelics/entheogens. Lake, who also represents clients in similar cases involving ayahuasca ceremonies, brings a unique expertise to Shu's defense.
This legal controversy centers around Soul Tribes' use of psilocybin mushrooms, which they regard as a holy sacrament. The church was selling these mushrooms from a "sacrament center" on its grounds. The Metro Times' coverage of the church in September preceded the seizure of significant quantities of mushrooms and marijuana by Detroit Police, along with the discovery of a laboratory for manufacturing these substances.
Soul Tribes and Shu now plan a $1 billion countersuit against the city, alleging racial and religious discrimination and claiming substantial vandalism and damage to the church property during the period it was padlocked. The countersuit highlights the church's claims of infringement on religious freedoms and seeks to address the economic damages incurred.
The case of Soul Tribes brings to the forefront critical issues regarding the interpretation of religious freedom, the legality of entheogenic substances, and the role of local versus federal jurisdiction in such matters. The outcome of this case could set a precedent for similar situations involving religious practices and controlled substances.
Puff Cannabis Company, a Michigan-based enterprise, has launched its second annual "Jackets for Joints" charity event in collaboration with Jeeter, a product of Dreamfields Brand. Starting December 5th and running through December 22nd, this event aims to collect new winter coats for children aged 3 to 12. The company invites customers to participate by donating new coats at any of their locations across Michigan, including Madison Heights, Hamtramck, Utica, River Rouge, Bay City, Oscoda, Traverse City, Sturgis, Monroe, and Kalamazoo.
Since its establishment in 2019, Puff Cannabis has focused on delivering top-tier cannabis products, competitive pricing, and outstanding customer service. The "Jackets for Joints" initiative allows customers to contribute a new coat with its tags still attached in exchange for a complimentary 1-gram Jeeter infused pre-roll or a jar of Baby Jeeter infused pre-rolls, subject to a one-per-customer limit while supplies last.
This campaign is part of Puff Cannabis' ongoing commitment to community support, as emphasized by Justin Elias, the Founder and President of Puff Cannabis. Elias highlights the significance of such initiatives, especially in Michigan, where the need for warm winter clothing is critical. Following last year's successful drive and a recent donation of over 2,500 Thanksgiving turkeys, Elias underscores the importance of supporting local communities and ensuring children are well-equipped for winter.
All jackets and coats collected will be donated to local charities across Michigan, directly aiding children in need. Puff Cannabis encourages everyone to join in this meaningful cause this holiday season, aiming to spread warmth and community spirit. The company has listed its various locations across Michigan to facilitate donations:
For Everyone Collective, a Grand Rapids-based custom screen printing company with a unique social mission, recently inaugurated its first physical retail store on the city's far south side. Located at 2215 29th St. SE, this new storefront, which opened in late October, is situated alongside the company's production facilities.
Distinguished by its commitment to employing formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, For Everyone Collective specializes in custom screen printing and design. The company also has its own line of original clothing, which until now, was available only online. The new 700 square-foot retail space not only offers customers the chance to purchase these designs in person but also provides a welcoming lounge area for both customers and supporters.
Sky Rich, the founder of For Everyone Collective, established the organization in 2018 under the name Forgive Everyone. His aim was to leverage clothing as a medium to spotlight the discrimination faced by people who have been incarcerated. Rich's journey began with an eye-opening realization of the systemic barriers faced by these individuals in areas like employment, housing, and societal acceptance. The initial objective of this screen printing venture was to support prison reentry organizations by donating a portion of each sale.
The evolution of For Everyone from a side project into a full-fledged worker-owned collective is a testament to Rich's dedication and the company's growth. Currently, For Everyone operates out of a 5,000-square-foot space on 29th Street, which encompasses production, design, shipping facilities, and now the new storefront. Despite its relatively small team and modest beginnings, For Everyone has impressively fulfilled 10,000 orders for its custom designs in 2023 alone, averaging about 2,000 screen-printed shirts weekly.
For Everyone's ethos extends beyond just creating meaningful designs. It emphasizes ethical business practices, including paying employees above-living wages, offering comprehensive benefits like free dental, health care, and life insurance, providing unlimited time off, and using ethically-sourced materials.
A notable highlight for For Everyone has been its collaboration with the Last Prisoner Project, a national cannabis reform nonprofit, and the renowned comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. This partnership, which focused on a cannabis-themed design, saw Cheech and Chong sporting the shirts in promotional images. A portion of the proceeds from this collaboration was donated to support Last Prisoner Project's constituent support services.
Last Prisoner Project’s Sarah Gersten commended the partnership, emphasizing the shared mission of advocating justice for those adversely affected by the War on Drugs. This collaboration aligns with For Everyone's values and their commitment to raising awareness and supporting those impacted by incarceration.
The significance of For Everyone's mission is underscored by statistics from the Prison Policy Initiative, which reported a stark unemployment rate of 27.3% for formerly incarcerated individuals in 2018, in contrast to the general public’s 5.8% at that time. In Michigan, these challenges disproportionately impact people of color, with over half of the state's prison population being Black, as reported by The Sentencing Project.
This venture by For Everyone Collective not only marks a significant expansion in its business operations but also reinforces its commitment to social justice and community engagement.