Over 700 community members gathered in the University of Michigan Diag Sunday afternoon to participate in the second annual Entheofest, a festival dedicated to the decriminalization and awareness of entheogens, or psychedelic substances. The event brought together people and organizations from all over the Ann Arbor area, fostering a sense of community through a variety of performances and educational booths.
This September marks the two-year anniversary of the Ann Arbor City Council’s decision to decriminalize psychedelics, declaring it “the lowest priority” for law enforcement. The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office also does not charge individuals for the use, growth or possession of entheogenic plants. According to an MLive article, City Council members were “swayed by arguments about medical and spiritual benefits of using psychedelics, including for mental health treatment” in 2020, when they made their decision.
Though the state of Michigan has not decriminalized psychedelic substances statewide, the city of Detroit officially decriminalized entheogens in November 2021, with Hazel Park following in March 2022. According to Bridge Michigan, only 14 cities nationwide have passed similar policies by March, and Oregon is currently the only state to have decriminalized entheogens for medical purposes.
Julie Barron, president of the Michigan Psychedelic Society and board member of Decriminalize Nature Michigan, has been involved with Entheofest since its inception, one year ago. Barron was beaming as she talked Sunday about the success of this year’s event. Barron told The Michigan Daily that hosting public events like Entheofest promotes a sense of inclusion in the community.
“We want to honor our sacred plants and fungi,” Barron said. “We want to create a space of diversity and equality in the space. Our event is really just to continue the forward motion of the work already done. It’s really to make sure we take time and honor the community and the plants.”
Keynote speaker Moudou Baqui, who is also a key leader in the Decriminalize Nature Detroit campaign, emphasized the less obvious benefits of psychedelics, such as healing trauma and helping those with mental health concerns. His speech spoke to the importance of keeping psychedelic substances under the jurisdiction of activists rather than the government.
“How do (psychedelics) stay in the hands of people? By avoiding the mistakes that we made in the previous movement of cannabis,” Baqui said. “We allowed people to convince us that legalization was the smart way which was really signing us up to enter into a legal structure.”
Based on previous research, Baqui said there is potential for increased health benefits from improving access to psychedelics for individuals experiencing mental health concerns, the elderly and those healing from trauma.
“When we do mushrooms, sometimes I’m dealing with a kid that’s got memories of police repression or drive-bys or memories of friends dying on the street, so we do it with a deeper level of healing,” Baqui said.
Matt Strang, another member of the Michigan Initiative for Community Healing, attended Entheofest for the second time on Sunday. Strang said he was happy with how the event seemed to attract more visitors and felt more welcoming to him this year compared with 2021.
“I like how (Entheofest) is maturing and changing,” Strang said. “People are kind of learning as we go.”
Correction 9/19: Attendance has been updated to reflect the most recent estimate of over 700 attendees.
Daily News Reporter Isabella Kassa can be reached at email@example.com.