Residents of the nation’s capital could have the chance to decriminalize magic mushrooms if a proposed initiative makes its way to November’s ballot. On Wednesday, the Washington, D.C. Board of Elections decided that the proposal, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, could be placed on the ballot for the general election later this year. But before that can happen, the measure must survive a challenge period and supporters of the initiative will be required to collect about 25,000 signatures from city residents.
Under the initiative, the District of Columbia would “make investigation and arrest of adults for non-commercial planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, possessing or engaging in practices with, entheogenic plants and fungi among its lowest law enforcement priorities,” according to the text of the measure. The initiative would include all plants and fungi that naturally produce the chemicals ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocin.
Supporters of the measure say that entheogenic plants and fungi including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote, and others can be used to treat maladies including depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Practices with entheogenic plants and fungi have long existed, have been considered sacred to a number of cultures and religions for millennia and continue to be enhanced and improved,” the initiative reads. “Citizens of the District of Columbia seeking to improve their health and well-being through the use of entheogenic plants and fungi currently use them in fear of arrest and prosecution.”
How The Initiative Could Proceed
The Board of Elections decides whether proposed voter initiatives can legally be placed on the ballot, although it does make recommendations for their approval. Before it decided the entheogenic plant initiative could be placed on the ballot, the board heard testimony from about six residents in support of the measure. No one opposed to the initiative appeared to testify.
“At the end of the day, the merits of the initiative are not our decision to make,” Board of Elections Chairman D. Michael Bennett told the Washington Post. “The merits will be decided by the voters.”
The initiative was proposed by Melissa Lavasani, a spokeswoman for advocacy group Decriminalize Nature DC who works as a budget officer at the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment. She experienced postpartum depression after the birth of her second child, suffering from anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. When she had unwanted side effects from psychiatric medications, she began microdosing psilocybin mushrooms instead. Before long, “everything started to transform” for Lavasani.
“I felt much lighter,” she said. “I was actually happy. I had joyful moments. I was engaging with my children more. It was a quick turnaround.”
Before the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act can be placed on the ballot, anyone opposed to the measure will have 10 days after it is published in the D.C. Register to challenge it in superior court. If the initiative prevails during the challenge period, supporters will have 180 days to gather approximately 25,000 signatures required for the measure to placed on the November ballot.
If the initiative is approved by voters, Washington, D.C. would join cities that have passed similar initiatives including Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz, California.