- Residents of Washington DC have passed DC Initiative 81
- Washington DC is set to join the growing list of American Jurisdictions to have Decriminalized entheogenic plants and fungi
- Truffle Report looks to representatives of entheogen activist group Decriminalize Nature for comment
Washington DC residents have made a progressive decision, voting to push entheogens to the lowest law enforcement priority level with DC Initiative 81, also called the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020.
With a sweeping polling result of 76.2 percent, the US capital will become the fifth jurisdiction in the country to decriminalize entheogenic plants after Denver, Ann Arbour, Santa Cruz, and Oakland.
“We are really excited to be on the forefront of the changing conversation and encouraging a second look at how things like psilocybin and ayahuasca can make a real difference in the lives of people who are suffering from conditions like anxiety, depression or addiction,” says Erin Dunne, Communications Director of Decriminalize Nature DC.
In their press release, Decriminalize Nature stated, “On election night, Decriminalize Nature in Washington DC won a huge victory by a huge margin, sending a message to leaders throughout the US that US Citizens want entheogenic plants off the Controlled Substances Act.”
There’s a growing discussion around the benefits of psilocybin plants and other entheogens, with the decision on DC Initiative 81 coming at the right time to stimulate the cause. “It sends a message to the elected officials throughout the US that there is strong support [for the initiative]”, Carlos Plazola, Chair of Decriminalize Nature tells Truffle Report. He adds, “This is happening in the nation’s capital to show not just the elected officials but the world that there is strong support in communities for decriminalizing naturally occurring plants.”
Initiative 81, officially presented to the DC Board of Elections in 2019 by Decriminalize Nature, will decriminalize simple possession of entheogens. Those naturally occurring plants include psilocybin mushrooms, psilocin, cacti, ayahuasca, iboga. In other words, the petition demands the “DC Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for DC to cease prosecution of criminal charges involving entheogens.” However, it doesn’t alter the legal status of entheogens “or alter existing penalties.”
Since Washington DC is not a state, Congress has put certain restrictions on the types of measures it can enact. While Oregon was able to officially decriminalize possession of drugs on November 3, DC opted for a different process to achieve similar goals. The approach in DC is to effectively do so by changing the police department’s priorities, even though the district can’t fully decriminalize or legalize entheogens. Initiative 81 doesn’t create a regulated medical landscape, but instead offers a layer of protection and normalization for people who choose to use medicinal plants and fungi.
Federal Elections And DC Initiative 81
As all eyes are fixed and eagerly waiting on American election results. The psychedelic industry is not far behind, keeping a close watch on who the next policymakers may be. Plazola says, “Interestingly if Kamala Harris becomes the Vice President, she is from Oakland where the movement started. We hope that she will become a strong supporter and lead the drug policy reform as well as the movement to decriminalize naturally occurring plants and fungi.”
The Initiative had a diverse set of supporters from all walks of life, including politicians, medical professionals, and veterans groups that strengthened the cause. The three main political parties in support were the DC Democratic Party, the DC Statehood Green Party, and the DC Libertarian Party.
In Dunne’s opinion, no matter what the results of the federal election be, there will be no definite changes to the ballot or the initiative due to strong political support.
The victory in DC could incentivize other states to follow the lead and decriminalize psychedelics in some way. “Our hope is that it catches on and by 2022, we will remove entheogenic plants and fungi from the Controlled Substances Act. These plants and fungi should’ve never been under the act,” Plazola says.
The DC Board of Elections will be certifying the initiative results shortly. The initiative will then be moved to the city council. From there, it will be transferred to Congress. “We anticipate that this will happen in a few months and when it goes into effect, we will continue to educate people on the specifics of what Initiative 81 means and also to further engage on how the plant and fungi medicine help improve mental health and well being,” says Dunne.
Ritika is a Toronto-based reporter. She writes about drug policies and developments in psychedelics.