- As Previously Reported, the Recent Protests in the Nation’s Capital Provided the Decriminalize Nature D.C. Campaign with a Big Boost in its Efforts to Collect the Required Number of Signatures in Support of the “I-81” Psychedelics Reform Initiative
- Good News: It Was Announced This Week That Enough Valid Signatures Were Collected in Washington D.C. to Place the Wide-Ranging Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure on the November 2020 Ballot
During a virtual meeting this week, the D.C. Board of Elections confirmed the news via a certification announcement, which means that in just a few short months, D.C. voters will have the final say in this historic opportunity for drug reform. A total of 24,835 valid signatures are required from registered voters to get the measure included on the ballot and Decriminalize Nature D.C. (DNDC) turned in approximately 35,000 raw signatures. The Board of Elections deemed that of those submitted raw signatures, 25,477 were valid.
If approved by voters in November, the initiative — called Initiative Measure No. 81: Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020 or ‘I-81’ — would make psychedelic substances such as ayahuasca, ibogaine, and psilocybin in line with the lowest law enforcement concerns in D.C.
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our campaign saw strong support from D.C. voters for Initiative 81 from all eight wards,” said Chairwoman of Decriminalize Nature D.C., Melissa Lavasani in a press release. “Every District voter who signed the petition to put the initiative on the ballot helped give D.C. residents this historic opportunity to change outdated laws that criminalize people who use natural substances to overcome anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other conditions.”
Back in February, a poll showed that 51% of D.C. residents supported the decriminalization of psychedelics. That number jumped to 59% after they learned about the arguments for and against. Lavasani is committed to furthering the education of voters — and is confident that an enlightened voter base will pass the I-81 initiative in November.
“The conversations that we had in those last two weeks of our signature drive with the public were amazingly positive,” said Lavasani. “I think signature-gathering — while it is a difficult way to get laws changed in any jurisdiction — is a great way to educate the public.”
“We are excited to continue educating voters ahead of the election,” continued Lavasani. “Although the pandemic is an added challenge, I am confident that Initiative 81 will pass on November 3 and that D.C. will take this important step towards ending another part of the destructive and wasteful war on drugs.”
— DecrimNatureDC (@DecrimNatureDC) August 5, 2020
Not Everybody is in Favour
Harris may not be a voting resident of D.C., but he’s repeatedly made efforts to use Congress’s control over D.C. funding to put the brakes on drug policy reform. While this has typically meant efforts to block legal cannabis sales, last month, Harris attempted to undermine the upcoming psychedelics measure.
Fortunately, Harris withdrew the proposal rather than forcing a vote and opted against the opportunity to file the measure on the House floor last week.
Had Harris’ proposal been approved by the House Appropriations Committee, it would have meant that psilocybin mushrooms would receive low priority status only if a physician had prescribed them for medical reasons. However, it’s still possible for a senator to pursue Harris’ proposed restriction in their chamber’s iteration of the D.C. bill.
Psychedelics Reform is on the Rise
The inclusion of a decriminalized psychedelics initiative on the ballot in D.C. is just the latest in a growing trend of psychedelics reform in the U.S. — and Canada.
Over a year ago — in May 2019 — Denver became the first city in the U.S. to officially decriminalize psilocybin thanks to the approval of a local ballot initiative. Shortly after that, lawmakers in Oakland decriminalized possession of all fungi-based and plant-based psychedelic substances. Santa Cruz then followed suit in January 2020 by voting to make law enforcement against psychedelics among their lowest priorities.
In more recent news, a landmark psychedelics decision was made this week in Canada: Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, granted permission for four patients enduring incurable cancer to use psilocybin (magic mushrooms) as part of their end-of-life care.
The movement to decriminalize and legalize substances has always been — and will always be — met with resistance. But if these recent victories tell us anything, it’s that the eventual outcomes are worth struggles.