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Psychedelics and Cannabis in Washington D.C.’s Election


In Washington D.C., the major drug reform news was the overwhelming vote in support of Initiative 81—the “Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020”—which would decriminalize a number of plant-based psychedelics (such as psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and iboga) within the District.

Initiative 81 received 89,714 votes in favor and 27,429 in opposition. That is 76.59% of the vote.

In a statement from Melissa Lavasani, who proposed Initiative 81 and is part of Decriminalize Nature DC, who organized around the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, praised the initiative passing.

“Initiative 81’s success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets,” Lavasani said. 

Lavasani’s focus on “grassroots support” and invoking of “DC residents” appears to nod to recent comment from D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser, who claimed she would not support the decriminalization of psychedelics even if it was voted in. That’s because, Bowser claimed, “the issue is not an organically D.C-created initiative,” even though Initiative 81 was only on the ballot because of the massive amount of local signatures it received.

“It was a bummer to hear [Bowser’s comment]. I’m chalking it up to she’s a very busy woman right now,” Lavasani told The Outlaw Report last week. “Once we win this next week, we can have a real conversation.” 

The next steps for Initiative 81 is that it will be enacted by the D.C. City Council then transferred to Congress for approval (because D.C. is not a state, congressional approval is needed). The House and/or the Senate could challenge the initiative—a troubling thing to consider given Congressman Andy Harris’ infamous “Harris Rider” which prevented a commercial cannabis industry in D.C. after voters supported cannabis legalization. If there are no challenges the law is published in the D.C. register.

Additionally, a number of pro-cannabis City Council candidates The Outlaw Report has covered were voted into office. That includes, Christina Henderson, who ran for one of the at-large council seats as an Independent. Henderson was endorsed by David Grosso, who decided he was not going to run, and who she worked for when he held an at-large seat. Among the bills  Henderson worked on under Grosso was the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013, which would have created a taxed-and-regulated system for cannabis. Years later, Henderson continues pushing for a commercial industry.

“I think it is completely unfortunate and ridiculous that the Congress is continuing to block D.C. from being able to move forward with a tax-and-regulate system,” Henderson told The Outlaw Report earlier this year. “That has created a patchwork system that we are currently dealing with where we still have not completely put the underground market out of business, which I think is still leading to the detainment and arrest of individuals.”

Henderson won with 65,201 votes—about 15% of the vote. She beat out former councilmember Vincent Orange who received 52,375 votes, developer Marcus Goodwin who received 50,652 votes, and policy analyst Ed Lazere who received 50,278 votes.

In Ward 4, Janeese Lewis George won the general election after defeating moderate councilperson Brandon Todd back in June. George has supported commercial cannabis in D.C. (Todd has been much more hesitant about a commercial industry) and has also said she wants to eventually decriminalize all drugs. George received 31,933 votes easily beating out Green Party candidate Perry Redd who received 1,916 votes.

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