Evanston’s Human Services Committee on Monday night voted down a proposal to explore legalizing psilocybin, a naturally occurring hallucinogenic compound that some research shows has promising therapeutic value.

Council Members Devon Reid (8th Ward) and Bobby Burns (5th Ward) backed the proposal, which was primarily aimed at encouraging the city to take an official stance against arresting and prosecuting residents for possession or use of psilocybin. There have not been any arrests for psilocybin possession in Evanston over the last decade, police said.

Eighth Ward Council Member Devon Reid. Credit: Richard Cahan

Voters in Colorado and Oregon have passed ballot measures decriminalizing use of the substance, while cities including Denver, Oakland and Ann Arbor have passed decriminalization resolutions similar to the one Reid proposed.

The state of Illinois and the U.S. federal government define psilocybin as a Schedule I illegal narcotic “with no currently accepted medical use,” according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Recent research suggests the compound, which is produced by certain types of fungi (“magic mushrooms”), shows therapeutic promise for people struggling with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, addiction and other health issues.

Council Members Eleanor Revelle (7th Ward), Krissie Harris (2nd Ward) and Juan Geracaris (9th Ward) voted against Reid’s referral.

“We cannot change what the state has deemed a felony. We can choose to enforce it differently, meaning we could choose to make it a low-level priority for our police department,” said Mari Johnson, assistant city attorney, before the vote. “But we cannot change the fact that it is a felony.”

Magical mushrooms being grown indoors. Photo credit: Marco Allegretti

Reid stood up and addressed council members before they moved on to discuss a proposed leaf blower noise ordinance – one that he said “has every chance of passing because wealthy, mostly white folks who live on the north side of town support this.”

“We are not understanding the clear harm that the war on drugs has played in our community, and we are jeopardizing the lives of more and more of our residents with this,” Reid said, before walking out of the room. “And honestly, this is a council that is disappointing to me.”

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Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. I have finally figured out the pattern for Devon Reids proposals:
    – allow topless beaches
    – legalize psylicibin
    – legalize cannabis smoking parlors
    – legalize gambling

    Most are proposed under the theory that these will correct a societal bias. Is this the best way to improve life in Evanston? I don’t think so.