ANN ARBOR, MI University of Michigan police are planning to keep an eye on a psychedelic plant and mushroom festival planned for Sept. 19 on the UM Diag in Ann Arbor.
Our top priority is ensuring the safety of the community, said Melissa Overton, UMs deputy police chief. Any significant violation of state or federal law or any use of entheogenic plants that poses a threat to public health, safety and welfare still could result in law enforcement involvement.
A group called Decriminalize Nature Michigan is organizing the three-hour event known as EntheoFest to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Ann Arbors move to declare entheogenic plants and fungi the citys lowest law-enforcement priority, effectively decriminalizing them at the city level.
That includes ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms and other natural compounds with hallucinogenic properties deemed illegal under state and federal law, though not synthetic compounds like LSD.
UM police enforce state laws and technically still can make arrests for such substances on campus.
Shroom festival planned in Ann Arbor to celebrate psychedelic awareness month
Next months festival on the Diag is expected to include speakers, musical entertainment and educational booths, followed by a walk to UMs Nichols Arboretum.
Decriminalize Nature Michigan is coordinating with a student group known as the Student Association for Psychedelic Studies, which has reserved the Diag, organizers said.
Moss Herberholz, the student groups president, described it as a sacred plant and mushroom festival with a focus on Mother Nature and the incredible plants and fungi that she provides.
UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the student groups application for use of the Diag is still under review.
Local psychedelics activist Chuck Ream is secretary of Decriminalize Nature Michigan, which grew out of Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor. Ream said he supports good policing and agrees with the UM police about focusing on public health, safety and welfare.
This is a free speech event, Ream said. This is not a chance to come in and get really high. You can do that at home and we would prefer that you did that at home.
The festival is for people to come together to share information and enthusiasm about psychedelic plants and fungi and how they can be used for therapeutic and spiritual purposes, in addition to enjoyment, Ream said.
He expects about 200 to 300 people will show up, though its hard to predict and there could be as many as 2,000 to 3,000, he said. He doesnt expect police to bother people who arent bothering anyone, he said, and as a former government official and kindergarten teacher, his advice to festival-goers is, Everybody better behave properly.
We dont see it as a place to get high, he said. If someone is high, theyll be smiling a lot and that wont bother anyone at all. I assume police wont bust people for smiling too much.
Ream said he once drank a magic mushroom-infused tea and the next day his face hurt from smiling so much. He has used psychedelics for spiritual exploration, seeking what Mother God wants him to do to help save the earth, he said.
Its going to be mainly a shroom fest, in terms of what people are involved in now, he said of EntheoFest, adding it also will focus on other entheogenic plants with which people could become more involved in the future.
Jim Salome, Decriminalize Nature Michigan deputy director, said EntheoFest is a celebration of sacred medicines.
The organizing group will be advising people not to take any psychedelics at the event, Salome said.
Its not a party necessarily, he said, adding its a way to build the movement and also motivate people to contact state lawmakers to get Michigan laws changed.
Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, and state Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, are on the list of speakers for EntheoFest.
Savit has taken a stance against criminally charging people for use, possession or small-scale distribution of entheogenic plants and fungi, and Irwin has said he plans to introduce legislation next month to try to decriminalize the natural substances across Michigan.
After success in Ann Arbor, Decriminalize Nature Michigan has been working to advance its cause in other cities, including Lansing, East Lansing and Hazel Park. The group anticipates Grand Rapids and Detroit will act on the issue in the coming months.
I think this is really historic and happening fast, Ream said.
Organizers said theres still a chance EntheoFest could be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Theyre watching infection rates and case counts and waiting to see what decisions UM makes about campus events in the next month.
Were watching the numbers every day, Ream said. This whole thing is about health and safety and wholesomeness and we cannot have it become a vector of disease.
City Council voted 10-0 this week to approve a resolution declaring September to be Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Awareness Month, in hopes of increasing understanding of the potential benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic plants and fungi for mental health, personal and spiritual growth, as well as honoring the longstanding ancestral practices and relationships with these entheogens.
EntheoFest, which is planned for the same venue as the long-running Hash Bash marijuana rally in Ann Arbor, will take place every September, the council resolution states.
Clinical studies and research in the U.S., Canada and Europe have shown the safety and efficacy of entheogenic plants/fungi for treating a variety of mental health illnesses going back to the 1960s, the resolution states.
Further, it adds: The FDA has granted breakthrough therapy designation to psilocybin for use in major depressive disorders; psilocybin has been shown to ease treatment-resistant depression, end-of-life anxiety and cluster headaches, ibogaine has been shown to be an effective treatment for opiate addiction, and ayahuasca studies are currently underway to better understand its ability to address depression and substance dependence.
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Michigan, State theaters requiring full COVID vaccination or negative test to attend movies, events
Ann Arbor using $59K in city funds to support a dozen community events
Ann Arbor housing development gets initial OK, but lack of EV chargers a concern
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