Shrooms Are on the D.C. Ballot  

The reformers who canvassed for signatures for the initiative say they're optimistic it will pass despite objections from Congress, which controls D.C. spending.


Residents of Washington, D.C., will have a chance to vote for the decriminalization of certain psychedelic drugs this November. The reformers who canvassed for signatures for the initiative say they're optimistic it will pass despite objections from Congress, which controls D.C. spending.

In August, the D.C. Board of Elections certified that Decriminalize Nature D.C. had collected enough legitimate signatures to add Initiative 81 to the ballot. The Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020 would "make investigation and arrest of adults for…engaging in practices with entheogenic plants and fungi among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the District of Columbia," according to the proposal. The law would not reduce penalties, but it does encourage D.C.'s attorney general and U.S. attorney to drop prosecutions for "non-commercial planting, non-commercial cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing" or possessing magic mushrooms, mescaline, and other natural psychedelics.

"D.C. voters are really well-educated and well-read," says Decriminalize Nature D.C. campaign manager Melissa Lavasani. "If we do our job right in the educational component of this campaign, we can have a resounding yes."

But the group's biggest challenge may not be convincing voters. Just days after activists submitted their collected signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections, Rep. Andy Harris (R–Md.) announced he would leverage congressional control over D.C.'s finances to bar the use of public funds for Initiative 81's enforcement.

"Public health has to be maintained," Harris told the New York Post. "What would prevent people from using hallucinogens, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing people?"

This is not Harris' first brush with overturning the will of D.C. voters, who have limited autonomy under the Home Rule Act of 1973, which gives Congress authority over the District's budget and veto powers over local legislation. The Baltimore County physician is also responsible for the "Harris rider" that thwarted a key part of the District's 2014 landmark cannabis legalization vote by prohibiting D.C. from instituting a tax-and-regulate scheme. District residents are permitted to possess, gift, and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property.

But while Harris was able to prevent the creation of a legal retail market for marijuana, he hasn't been able to stop D.C. residents from finding creative ways to interpret the rule allowing "gifting," nor can he force local D.C. police to prioritize drug arrests.

Lavasani says Harris' concerns about safety are "completely understandable" but that educating voters will help them appreciate the risks and benefits of psychedelics.

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  2. “Public health has to be maintained,” Harris told the New York Post. “What would prevent people from using hallucinogens, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing people?”

    Uh, the same thing that prevents people from using any kind of weapon to inflict careless or intentional harm for any reason?

    1. Harris’ statement indicates that he’s not familiar with the concept of a “free country”. DC already has a law or 2 about driving badly and killing people. We don’t need laws to prevent all the specific things he’d prefer not to happen, and those we do need have to be limited to behaviors within the power of government.

  3. Apart from a basic human aversion toward killing others, what prevents people from getting behind the wheel of a car and killing people after guzzling liquor? Not much, and certainly not the laughable ‘logic’ or admonishments of moralizing ‘small government’ hypocrites. Hell, no one seeks their approval now, but don’t bother trying to clue them in to that painful reality.

    Much is explained by the realization that most politicians are deranged sociopaths, to begin with. A powerful speedball of narcissism and self-important arrogance is their typical drug of choice. And judging by the rapidity of their descent into full-blown delusions of grandeur, it’s one hell of a drug! The only safe assumption is that most are irrevocably strung out from the first fix, leaving us with only one real option: wage a trillion-dollar ‘War on Politicians.’ For ‘the children’ and ‘public safety,’ of course. Just think how much public safety a trillion dollars could buy the children!

    1. A trillion dollars?! I’ll do it for free!

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  5. Residents of Washington, D.C., will have a chance to vote for the decriminalization of certain psychedelic drugs this November.

    This wont decriminalize drugs. The unconstitutional Controlled Substances Act needs to be struck down or repealed.

    Even the Prohibitionists knew that they needed a constitutional amendment to ban products or services. Many Americans give authority to federal and state drugs laws where there is simply no constitutional authority for those laws.

  6. Shrooming out in the middle of a riot is definitely something I have to add to my bucket list.

    1. I have a hommie who did just that the other day. He gave mixed reviews.

  7. “Public health has to be maintained,” Harris told the New York Post.

    Just as he did with cannabis, Harris is once again committing public health malpractice by lying and fear mongering about hallucinogens, which can help many suffering from mental health conflicts.

    While Democrats have demonized and campaigned to ban sales and use of smokefree tobacco and vapor products (which are 99% less harmful than cigarettes, and have helped >10 million smokers quit smoking), many Republicans continue to demonize and campaign against legalizing sales and use of cannabis and hallucinogens (which are less harmful than alcohol, cigarettes, opioids and many FDA approved drugs).

    Drug harm reduction should be bipartisan, but instead each party supports and opposes harm reduction for different types of drugs.

    1. Big pharma contributions speak a lot louder than science to both parties. Legalizing shrooms could wipe out the antidepressant market, much like how vaping and nicotine pouches have wiped out the anti-smoking drug/NRT market

      1. Yes, and many doctor’s trade associations, nonprofit health organizations, anti drug and anti tobacco organizations have been heavily funded (and even created) by Big Pharma to lobby against legalizing cannabis and hallucinogens, and lobby to ban vapes and smokefree tobacco alternatives (that compete against their FDA approved drug monopolies/oligopolies).

  8. So the control freak wants to prevent the District from spending any money to …. not arrest and not prosecute?

    I wonder how he thinks that works. Does he want to prevent them spending money to circulate memos reporting what the new law says? Are shift sergeants not allowed to report what the new law says? Are prosecutors and judges and juries not allowed to listen to defense lawyers who report what the new law says? Are court reporters not allowed to write down and print when defense lawyers report what the new law says?

    A strange world.

  9. oh please government, allow me to ingest fungus in my pursuit of happiness!

  10. I am for the legalization of drugs.
    I do share the worry of people under the influence of drugs getting behind the wheel of a car.
    I do not think we should wait for the foreseeable drug induced accidents to take some sort of action against drugged driving while allowing drug use.
    What does the hive mind of Reason commenters say?

    1. Then make driving under the influence of drugs illegal. What’s that you say? It already is? Weird.

      The last thing I want to do on hallucinogens is drive. And these drugs are appealing to a very small percentage of the population.

    2. I’d argue that the thing preventing most people from doing psychedelics and driving is self preservation, not whether or not the drug itself is legal. If you’re the kind of person who wants to take shrooms and drive, I don’t think a possible misdemeanor infraction for possession is going to stop you.

      Keep in mind we’re talking about decriminalization, not legalization, there would be no shroom dispensaries. That means this really only affects people who already acquire mushrooms via black market channels. I don’t think you’re creating any new users like this, people have to already be plugged into the supply chain.

      Denver did something similar a while back, and I haven’t heard any stories about a plague of shroomed out drivers killing people. I’m sure there have been some isolated cases, but if we’re concerned about impaired drivers killing people alcohol is still the biggest problem by a country mile.

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  13. They are also on the ballot in Oregon, I demand a full Reason piece covering this.

  14. bar the use of public funds for Initiative 81’s enforcement

    Enforcement? What enforcement? This is about not enforcing it. How could any funds be expended not enforcing something?

    This reminds me of a poem from a listener read on Car Talk about vacuum leaks: “…an absence of absence, a lack of a lack….”

  15. I had an art school girlfriend back in high school who drew some shrooms in a cartoony green field with blue sky and clouds. Across the top of the painting she put “we love ya shroomzy!”

    I can count on one hand the times a girl made me laugh, this was the first of those few.

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