Petition to the Philadelphia City Council Requesting the Decriminalization of Entheogenic Plants and Fungi

Councilmembers Nina Ahmad, Chair, Public Health and Human Services Committee (PHHSC); Quetcy Lozada, Vice Chair, PHHSC; Curtis Jones, Jr., Chair, Public Safety Committee (PSC); Quetcy Lozada, Vice Chair PSC

Decriminalize Nature Philadelphia encourages Philadelphia residents to sign the petition below in favor of creating a local bubble of provisional legal protection for those who would like to explore natural entheogens/psychedelics for psycho-spiritual inquiry, healing, and growth, in accordance with our First Amendment rights under the US Constitution and reinforced by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

We endeavor to follow 25 cities across the country--including Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, Washington DC, and Minneapolis--in creating legal protection from federal laws that have since the early 1970s made it a felony offense to use natural entheogens even for the purpose of healing.

We also encourage you to include a brief anecdote in the comments section on how they have helped you or someone you know. This is genuinely very important input for councilmembers! (Please ask consent before including anyone else's identifying information and we recommend exercising discretion concerning details of experiences where psychedelics are not legal. If you prefer to anonymize your own story, you can refer to "Someone I know....")

(If you're already an enthusiastic 'yes', please feel free to scroll right to the bottom to review the brief petition we're asking Philadelphia residents to sign. If you need more information to make your decision, please continue reading.)

Entheogens, translated as "manifesting the divine nature within", have been used by humans around the world for thousands of years for spiritual connection.

Along with numerous anecdotes from high-profile public figures such as Michael Pollan, Tim Ferriss, and innumerable others, dozens of studies over decades from highly credentialed scientific research institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Imperial College London, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, et al. are reinforcing the reality of their effectiveness in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and drug addiction, anxiety, depression, and other widespread social problems.  

A November 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, found that half of patients experienced remission of their major depression after only two psilocybin therapy sessions, making it four times more effective than standard anti-depression medications.

The US government has spent hundreds of billions of American taxpayer dollars over the last several decades in the war on drugs, including an estimated $25.5 billion in 2015 alone.  Drug addiction treatment costs the US an additional $600 billion annually.  

Despite these costly efforts, nearly 841,000 people in the US have died of drug overdoses over roughly the last two decades, including 70,000 in 2019 alone. Opioids accounted for more than 70% of drug overdoses that year.

Philadelphia is one of the epicenters of the opioid crisis, where a record high of 1,413 individuals died of drug overdoses in 2022, 83% of which involved opioids. The drug cartels and high-class pushers in the pharmaceutical industry do not see race, they see market opportunity.    

Philadelphia also suffers from having one of the highest murder rates per capita among the 10 largest cities in the US despite an encouraging 20.2% decline from 2022 to 2023.

Mental health issues are also plaguing our veterans, 270 of whom took their own lives in 2019 and 240 in 2020 in Pennsylvania alone. The veteran suicide rate is nearly double the civilian rate.  

The mental health, drug addiction, and violence problems ravaging our community intensified during the coronavirus pandemic and we now have to address the aftermath of that and take time to heal.

This is an important opportunity to demonstrate that such community-based initiatives can succeed in addressing some of the mental health issues plaguing our country and the first of several steps toward policy reform at the state and federal levels, with Colorado in particular leading the way.  

Note that Although Colorado did not decriminalize natural psychedelics until November 2022, Denver, with ~713,000 residents comprising more than 12% of the state's population, decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms in May 2019.

Despite this, the state's annual rate of inpatient hospitalizations and emergency department visits for nonfatal “stimulant” (under which CDC opaquely lumps psychedelics) overdoses declined from 2018-2022.

Moreover, only ~0.3% of the California population impacted by the decriminalization of natural psychedelics has been hospitalized or had an ER visit in relation to an adverse psychedelic experience, respectively. Those incidents peaked in 2021 and in the case of ER visits, declined 16% from 2021-2022. This data includes incidents related to MDMA and ketamine, which could not be parsed out but which our campaign is not focused on.

You can support this initiative by signing on to our petition below, including a discreet anecdote on how natural psychedelics have helped you or someone you know, sharing this petition with like-minded or receptive people in your social circles, following us on our social media channels and amplifying our intentionally curated articles, op-eds, scientific reports, podcasts, and other content, staying engaged via phone calls and/or emails to your councilmembers once every other week, signing up on our website for volunteer and potential leadership opportunities, buying our merch, donating, etc. We encourage all of the above!  

If you need more information to make your decision or would otherwise like to read it, you are welcome to review our resolution and its supporting scientific documentation here. This is the actual draft legislation we are working to get passed by the Philadelphia City Council (with potential openness to negotiation on particular details).  

If you're still skeptical or even doubtful but open to learning more, you're still welcome to follow us on our social media channels and sign up for emails and we encourage you to communicate support to your councilmember for a public hearing on this so we can learn more from well-credentialed subject matter experts and enrich our public discourse.

To: Councilmembers Nina Ahmad, Chair, Public Health and Human Services Committee (PHHSC); Quetcy Lozada, Vice Chair, PHHSC; Curtis Jones, Jr., Chair, Public Safety Committee (PSC); Quetcy Lozada, Vice Chair PSC
From: [Your Name]

Dear Philadelphia City Council Members,

We urgently request that the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of individuals engaging in the use of entheogenic plants and fungi for psychological and/or spiritual healing and growth be made the lowest law enforcement priority for the City of Philadelphia, per Decriminalize Nature Philadelphia's resolution. We also request that Philadelphia City Council members exhort the Pennsylvania state legislature to recognize and protect the right of local jurisdictions to permit their residents to engage in community healing ceremonies involving the use of entheogenic plants and fungi without fear of arrest and prosecution when practiced in accordance with generally recognized risk reduction guidelines.