DC activists push ballot initiative to decriminalize 'magic' mushrooms

If passed, the initiative would be the first for an East Coast city

Activists in Washington, D.C. have collected more than 36,000 signatures in an effort to force a ballot initiative in November that would decriminalize “magic” mushrooms.

Last week, activists submitted the signatures to the Board of Elections, which will hold a verification process. If the signatures hold up, in the upcoming election voters in Washington, D.C. will have their say on the decriminalization of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms and other natural psychedelics like mescaline, but not peyote or human-made psychedelics like LSD.

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The proposed ballot would also instruct the Metropolitan Police Department to consider such substances as a low priority.

If passed, the initiative would be the first for an East Coast city, following in the footsteps of Denver, Colo., which was the first city in the nation to pass such an initiative, along with Oakland, Calif., and Santa Cruz, Calif.

The initiative, if passed, would also likely face efforts in Congress to overturn or block its implementation.

Activists have de-emphasized the recreational aspects of the drugs, focusing on the therapeutic and medical benefits as treatment for depression, trauma and addiction.

“D.C. could really lead the way on this,” said campaign manager Melissa Lavasani. “You shouldn’t bear the repercussions of the drug war while you are healing yourself.”

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The activists had planned to launch their campaign in March with traditional door-to-door canvassing but, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they instead appealed to the D.C. Council for help, which, as part of a larger coronavirus relief package, approved a set of changes allowing residents to download a copy of the petition, sign it, and submit a picture of the signed paper.

Organizers also mailed copies of petitions and detailed packages to nearly 220,000 households.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.