During a general body meeting last week, the chief petitioner of Decriminalize Nature D.C. gave a presentation on Initiative 81, and delegates then discussed the measure before agreeing to endorse it in a 23-10 vote.
Under the measure, possession and use of entheogenic plants and fungi would be among the district’s lowest law enforcement priorities. If voters approve it in November, D.C. will become the fourth jurisdiction in the U.S. to have enacted the policy change.
“Following a robust discussion between members of our organization and representatives from the Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC, our Party passed a resolution in support of Initiative 81,” D.C. Democratic Party Chairman Charles Wilson said in a press release. “This initiative can help people struggling from mental illness and other afflictions who have found healing through entheogenic medicines, while moving us closer to ending the War on Drugs.”
— DecrimNatureDC (@DecrimNatureDC) October 3, 2020
Decriminalize Nature D.C. Chair Melissa Lavasani, who led the presentation to the body, said the group’s measure “will help ensure that those benefiting from entheogenic plants and fungi are not law enforcement targets.”
“As the proposer of Initiative 81, I would also like to personally thank the D.C. Democratic Party for standing up for residents across DC who currently fear arrest or investigation for using plant medicines that can help treat depression, anxiety and addiction,” she said.
With this endorsement, the party is aligning itself with the majority of Washington, D.C. residents who favor the proposal, according to recent polling. In fact, three-in-five voters in the district are in favor of the initiative.
D.C.’s Board of Elections officially announced that the psychedelics reform measure qualified for the November ballot in August.
Decriminalize Nature D.C. turned in their signatures in July following an intensive petitioning process that saw reform advocates from across the country fly in to the nation’s capital to offer assistance. The campaign needed 24,835 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure and they turned in about 35,000 raw submissions.
But despite positive polling, the campaign still has its work cut out for it when it comes to educating voters about the ballot. In a press release last week, the group noted that, in some wards across the district, the initiative is the only item on the back of the ballot, which could jeopardize some votes if they don’t raise awareness.
“Flip your ballot to the back to vote Yes on Initiative 81,” Lavasani said. “Plant medicines helped save my life. Every DC voter should have the opportunity to vote on Initiative 81 which would make a real difference in the lives of residents across the District and help end part of the destructive war on drugs.”
On the other side of the country in Oregon, a ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes has also received some key endorsements. The Oregon Democratic Party backed the proposal last month as well as a separate measure to decriminalize possession of all drugs that’s also going before voters.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Marijuana Moment in January that he was in favor of the psilocybin reform proposal and that he would be working to boost the campaign as the election approaches. In August, he wrote in an email blast that passing the measure is necessary “because it tackles an important issue in our community, mental health, and it does so in an innovative and responsible way.”
Separately, the Vermont Democratic Party adopted a platform last month that calls for bold drug policy reforms, including legalizing marijuana sales, promoting equity in the cannabis industry and decriminalizing possession of all currently illicit substances.
But while state party officials appear to be increasingly on board with these reforms, the Democratic National Committee’s platform committee earlier this year rejected an amendment that would’ve added cannabis legalization as a 2020 party plank.
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