Thousands of people showed up at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor this weekend to attend the city's first-ever psychedelics festival.
The Entheofest was organized by the university's Student Association for Psychedelic Studies, along with Decriminalize Michigan, part of a larger advocacy group working to decriminalize psychedelics on state and national levels. The event was held to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Ann Arbor's decision to decriminalize natural psychedelics. This ordinance directs local cops to make the enforcement of laws against using or possessing shrooms, mescaline, ayahuasca, and other natural psychedelics their lowest priority.
Organizers cautioned that the event was being held to celebrate and learn about psychedelics, not to use them in public. And although some attendees were definitely exercising their state-legal right to smoke weed, the crowd largely seemed sober and attentive. The University of Michigan police, who watched over the event, reported no issues or arrests.
The three-hour event hosted several speakers, including local politicians and psychedelics advocates, along with live music. The organizers set up educational booths to share information about the medicinal use of entheogens, and also encouraged attendees to sign petitions in support of a new bill that would decriminalize natural psychedelics throughout the entire state of Michigan.
The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D), told the crowd that he “introduced this legislation because it makes no sense that we continue to arrest people and prosecute them, and turn their lives upside down, and spend our tax dollars doing it when it does no good for the people of Michigan,” MLive reports. “It does no good to criminalize these plants. By decriminalizing them and legalizing them, and providing safe and legal access, we could do a tremendous amount of good for the people of Michigan.”
Among the speakers at Sunday's event was Kat Ebert, one of the hundreds of young women who were abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Ebert said that psychedelics helped her heal from depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder in ways that traditional pharmaceutical drugs did not. Ebert has now graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in neuroscience and pharmacology and plans to become a clinical researcher exploring how psychedelics can treat addiction, anxiety, and depression.
Two local prosecutors also spoke out in favor of Ann Arbor's psychedelics decriminalization ordinance. Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit detailed how getting busted for minor possession crimes can lead to permanent criminal records that can prevent people, especially people of color, from getting jobs, education, or housing. “That is what the war on drugs has wrought,” he said, according to MLive. “It is a weighted roulette wheel.”
“You want a county prosecutor’s office that prioritizes dangerous crime and uses our resources to go after the crime that matters, right?” asked local Chief Assistant Prosecutor Victoria Burton-Harris. After a response of cheers and applause, Burton-Harris encouraged attendees to sign the petition supporting the statewide decriminalization bill. “This should not be limited to Ann Arbor.”