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I will be voting YES for Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Act of 2020, and I hope you will, too.

The initiative will help DC residents who use natural plant medicines such as psilocybin mushrooms or mescaline from cactus — which are often used to treat anxiety, depression, and PTSD — without the risk of ramifications of the War on Drugs. It would not change DC’s penalties for possessing these plants and fungi, but would make it the lowest priority for enforcement, allowing public safety interventions to be focused on more pressing needs. 

According to the Initiative 81 website, an entheogen “is a natural plant or fungi substance that initiates non-ordinary states of consciousness which can inspire cognitive, emotional, relational, and spiritual growth and healing. Entheogens are naturally occurring and have been consumed for millennia by humans. In many cultures they are sacred and some entheogens are already recognized as such by existing U.S. law.” 

Initiative 81 was proposed by Melissa Lavasani, a Ward 6 mother of two and DC government employee, after she experienced tremendous healing with plant medicines while suffering from debilitating postpartum depression and suicidal thoughts after the birth of her second child. Watch this video on Melissa’s story and why she started the Decriminalize Nature DC campaign.

Research conducted at Johns Hopkins University, NYU, UCLA, and the Imperial College of London has shown that entheogens have significant healing outcomes for individuals suffering from a wide variety of conditions including addiction, depression, trauma, and terminal illness.

I believe that District residents should have the choice to use entheogens without fear of arrest or persecution. I believe the District’s approach to public safety should de-emphasize penalizing personal behavior that does not harm others — just as DC voters chose to decriminalize personal possession of cannabis.

Enforcement of laws around personal behavior almost always is applied disproportionately to Black and brown people in low-income communities. A recent analysis showed that Black people make up 84 percent of arrests for cannabis consumption in DC, even though Black and white people use cannabis at the same rate and just 45 percent of DC residents are Black. Initiative 81 can also be part of minimizing racially inequitable policing.

Paid for by Ed Lazere for DC Council At-Large, P.O. Box 4563, Washington, DC 20017. Joslyn “Jos” Williams, Treasurer. A copy of our report is filed with the Director of Campaign Finance of the District of Columbia Board of Elections.

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