Decriminalizing Psychedelics in D.C., Explained

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As many have noted, the real winner of this year’s election—which mostly thanks to a spineless Republican party, remains dogged by completely baseless accusations of voter fraud by President Trump—was drug decriminalization. A number of states voted to legalize cannabis, the state of Oregon voted to decriminalize all drugs, and in Washington D.C., plant-based psychedelics were decriminalized. Voters in The District went to the polls in November to vote overwhelmingly in favor of Initiative 81 or the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020 which decriminalizes psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), ayahuasca, iboga and mescaline-containing cacti. Getting Initiative 81 support was not an easy task and was primarily the work of Decriminalize Nature D.C., who seriously—and creatively—organized to gather enough signatures and raise awareness even amid the pandemic. The Outlaw Report has closely covered Initiative 81 and our coverage is gathered below so that readers can see Initiative 81’s complex and sometimes circuitous path over the past year.

“Coronavirus Threatens D.C.’s Success for Decriminalizing Psychedelics”: The Decriminalize Nature D.C. organization has asked the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to develop and sponsor emergency legislation to authorize the Board of Elections to provide for online collection of signatures, citing the coronavirus. The organization will need to collect more than 35,000 signatures from D.C. voters to get their initiative that hopes to decriminalize psychedelics to be successfully placed on the November ballot.

“Petitioning for Decriminalizing Psychedelics Gets Delayed Due to Coronavirus”: Last Thursday, the D.C. Board of Elections voted 2-0 to allow the Decriminalize Nature D.C. organization to postpone petitioning for Initiative 81, otherwise known as the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020. According to Marijuana Moment, the tentative new date for circulation approval is April 1. The board has not authorized a deadline extension for submitting signatures, but there is hope that the D.C. Council will push back the July 6 deadline.

“D.C. Effort To Decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms Gets Creative”: COVID-19 won’t stop Decriminalize Nature D.C.’s goal of getting an initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms on the ballot in 2020. After unsuccessfully asking Washington D.C. City Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to allow online signatures due to the pandemic (which makes it impossible to gather signatures “IRL”), Decriminalize Nature D.C is now floating the possibility of “micro-scale petition signature collection.”

“Decriminalize Nature D.C Poll Shows 60% Support for Psychedelics Decriminalization”: A poll from Washington D.C. advocacy group Decriminalize Nature D.C. suggests a majority of residents support the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms and other “entheogens”—or psychedelic substances—such as mescaline, ayahuasca, or DMT.

“Psychedelics Decriminalization Efforts in Washington D.C. Ramp Up”: “Decriminalize Nature D.C. announced they mailed out 220,000 information packets in hopes of continuing to collect signatures. D.C. residents should receive the Initiative 81 petition this week if they have not already received it.”

“Enemy to Cannabis Andy Harris Goes After Shrooms”: “This is a bald-faced attempt to just make these very serious, very potent, very dangerous—both short-term and long-term—hallucinogenic drugs broadly available,” Harris told The New York Post. “Public health has to be maintained. We know, of course, once you make it a very low enforcement level and encourage prosecutors not to prosecute it, what would prevent people from using hallucinogens, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing people?”

“Cannabis and Shrooms Enemy Andy Harris Backs Down—For Now”: “What my amendment does, it doesn’t say Initiative 81 is negated. But it only reduces the enforcement when it’s used under the recommendation of a physician,” Harris said adding that physician recommendations could only happen for psilocybin. “You can go ahead with Initiative 81 but it’s only for medical use.”

“Commercial Cannabis and Decriminalized Psychedelics in Washington D.C. More Likely”: The effort to put the decriminalization of psychedelics up for a vote in D.C. seems like it has been a success. Members of Decriminalize Nature D.C., who submitted more than enough signatures last month to get Initiative 81—they needed 24,712 and submitted nearly 35,000—have been observing the count (which determines if signatures are legitimate or not). On July 22, Adam Eidinger of Decriminalize Nature D.C. said the count was 85% complete.

“In Preparation For D.C.’s Initiative 81, a Psychedelics Reading List”: Part of what Decriminalize Nature D.C. intends to do leading up to November, Lavasani also wrote, is “to continue educating voters,” and The Outlaw Report decided to help out by recommending a few books framing the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics and the history of their use. 

“D.C. Mayor Won’t Approve Psychedelics Decriminalization Even If Voters Support It”: Despite Bowser’s claims that Initiative 81 “is not an organically D.C-created initiative,” the initiative could only get on the ballot once it received enough local signatures from D.C. residents, which it did. And the organizing around Initiative 81—made harder by the Covid-19 pandemic—came primarily from Decriminalize Nature DC, a political campaign in support of Initiative 81 organized by D.C. residents, including Adam Eidinger, who spearheaded the 2014 cannabis legalization initiative,

“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.

Still from Fantastic Fungi / Courtesy YouTube

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