News & Politics

It Sure Looks Like DC Has Decriminalized Magic Mushrooms

Unofficial results show a measure to decriminalize "natural psychedelics" passed with 76 percent of the vote.

Lavasani speaking Tuesday night. Photograph by Andrew Beaujon.

More than 76 percent of DC voters appear to have approved a ballot measure that asked police to make arrests over natural psychedelics like mushrooms, mescaline, and ayahuasca among their “lowest law enforcement priorities.”

The measure was put forward by Melissa Lavasani, a DC government employee who found that entheogenic plants and fungi helped her overcome anxiety, severe depression, panic attacks, and suicidal ideation after the birth of her second child.

Speaking Tuesday night in a tent erected on the Washington Monument grounds by a group that holds a series of installations known as Catharsis on the Mall, Lavasani mentioned mental health and healing repeatedly as she celebrated the win, known as Initiative 81. “We’ve just made history tonight,” she said. “A lot of people are watching this win tonight and their eyes are open to the possibilities of natural medicine.”

Decriminalize Nature DC, the group that shepherded the measure to the polls with substantial financial backing from David Brunner of the Dr. Bronner’s soap company, had raised concerns that the measure’s placement on the back of DC ballots—in part because of the 23 candidates who ran for an at-large DC Council seat—would prove a challenge for voters. In the end, that proved to be a non-issue: North of 148,000 people voted for the initiative, according to unofficial results from the DC Board of Elections. “No” votes numbered around 46,000.

Oregon legalized natural psychedelics in its own ballot initiative on Tuesday. Decriminalize Nature DC’s next priority would be to try to convince Congress to deschedule the substances, Lavasani said in the tent Tuesday night.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.