A stage is set up in the Diag and people sitting on blankets crowd in front of the speaker.
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Hundreds of University of Michigan and Ann Arbor community members gathered on the Diag Sunday afternoon for Ann Arbor’s third annual Entheofest. Pop-up tents lined the Diag with a variety of T-shirts, stickers and educational pamphlets about the decriminalization of entheogens, such as mescaline, psilocybin and other popular psychoactive drugs. The festival was presented by the Michigan Psychedelic Society, the Student Association for Psychedelic Studies and the U-M chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. This year’s event featured local artists, talks from activists and performances from entertainers around drug policy.

On Sept. 21, 2020, Ann Arbor’s City Council unanimously voted to decriminalize psychedelics on the basis that such drugs can be potentially beneficial to one’s mental and physical health, and important in various spiritual practices. Ann Arbor is one of four cities across the state where psychedelics have been decriminalized — the other three being Detroit, Hazel Park and Ferndale. Historically, Ann Arbor has taken a more lenient stance on drug enforcement, being one of the first cities to decriminalize marijuana in 1972 — 26 years before the state did the same in 2018.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily Entheofest Organizer Jim Salame said the original inspiration for an annual Entheofest came from Ann Arbor’s Hash Bash, a 51-year-old annual celebration of marijuana policy reform.

“The idea comes from Hash Bash,” Salame said. “It was really easy to come up with something that fit that same pattern to celebrate something different.”

SAPS president Emma Mead was representing her student organization at the event and said she believes the event provides a space for students and community members to contribute to insightful discussions surrounding entheogens.

“I’m really excited about the educational opportunities and to hear about what’s happening in the political realm around psychedelics and other substances,” Mead said.

Salame said Enthefoest emphasizes community-based education about psychedelics. He said anyone — users and non-users alike — can attend the event to learn about the science and spirituality behind psychedelic drugs.

“Entheofest is for the community,” Salame said. “I think what everyone would like to get out of it is just educating people on these substances and the efficacy of them, along with the culture that they stem from.” 

Julie Barron, owner of local psychedelic therapy consultation group Blue Sage Health and one of the Entheofest organizers, said the event promotes the increased legalization of these kinds of drugs.

“It is a free-speech event celebrating sacred plants and fungi, working towards their liberation and helping create a base of equity in this growing field,” Barron said. 

Allison Bohn, vice president of SSDP and U-M alum, said she hopes events like these will reduce the stigma often associated with psychedelic substances. 

“There is a lot of misconception and stigma surrounding substances and their users, but Entheofest and other events like this work to end the stigma and the harm that it causes people,” Bohn said. 

LSA junior Jozlyn Vazquez said she attended the festival to show her support for raising awareness about the benefits of entheogenic drugs. 

“I think it’s such a great fest for awareness of this kind of stuff because it’s always been really stigmatized,” Vazquez said. “We’re unleashing this whole new world of benefits of psychedelics.” 

LSA sophomore Tyler Amprim also attended Entheofest and said he believes it is important for the University to acknowledge the attitude towards drugs and drug policy in Ann Arbor and to support similar events on campus.

“I think it’s cool that they do this here,” Amprim said. “Ann Arbor is one of the only places in the U.S. (where) psychedelic mushrooms are decriminalized. I think it’s unique that that happens on our campus.”

Daily Staff Reporter Hannah Cuenca can be reached at hcuenca@umich.edu.