Washington, D.C. activists seeking to put a proposal to decriminalize magic mushrooms before voters submitted petitions on Monday that signify that they have enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot. Organizers with Decriminalize Nature D.C. submitted more than 35,000 signatures in support of Initiative 81, which would make the enforcement of laws prohibiting psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic plants and fungi the lowest priority for police in the nation’s capital. 

“Today is a milestone for DC,” said Melissa Lavasani, the chairwoman of Decriminalize Nature D.C., in a press release. “Voters in our nation’s capital have made clear that they are ready to end another piece of the war on drugs and to support their neighbors who, like me, have found relief in entheogenic plant and fungi medicines,” referring to her use of psilocybin mushrooms to treat postpartum depression.

In all, the campaign collected about 10,000 more signatures than required to qualify the initiative for the ballot. A minimum threshold of at least 5% of registered voters from at least five of the district’s eight wards was also met, according to campaign leaders.

“I’ve always felt that so positive about this campaign,” Lavasani said. “And I knew we could do it. It was just a matter of how we were going to do it.”

Coping With COVID-19

Collecting the required number of signatures in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic made the process problematic. But by mailing out information and petitions to more than 200,000 households, the campaign was able to garner approximately 10,000 of the signatures needed. A final push at in-person signature gathering in recent weeks as restrictions put in place because of the outbreak were relaxed added even more.

“It was sometimes good, sometimes not,” Lavasani said. “I think that people sometimes are protective since we’re all home and we are in a pandemic, and maybe their home is their safe space and when a stranger suddenly enters your yard or [gets] close to your door it’s a little scary. But that just varied depending on where we were in the city.”

“But our ground game was good,” she added. “We would approach people from six feet away and we would put the clipboard down on a surface. We weren’t ever touching anything at the same time as anyone. We were carrying tons of hand sanitizer with us, tons of pens so we could have extras to sanitize.”

Now that the petitions for Initiative 81 have been submitted, the D.C. Board of Elections has 30 days to verify all of the signatures. If enough valid signatures have been collected from registered voters, the measure will appear on the November ballot. 

Polling conducted by the campaign in April indicated that 51% of respondents would likely vote for Initiative 81, 27% would vote against the measure, and 22% remained undecided. But after more detailed information about the initiative was given to respondents, the likely yes vote increased to 60%.

If voters approve the initiative, Washington, D.C. will join a trend begun in Denver and Oakland, where psilocybin mushrooms have already been decriminalized.

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