Election 2020: Psychedelics on the Ballot in Washington D.C.

Oregon is not the only jurisdiction with psilocybin (and other controlled psychedelic plant substances) on the ballot this fall. For our coverage of Oregon’s Measure 109, see:

On the other side of the country our nation’s capital has its own ballot initiative on psychedelics, Initiative 81, formally known as the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020. Some news organizations have labeled Initiative 81 as a “decriminalization” measure, but it’s important to recognize that even if Initiative 81 passes, psychedelics won’t be “legal” in D.C. Initiative 81 does the following:

  • It makes the “investigation and arrest of adults for non-commercial planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, possessing, and/or engaging in practices with entheogenic plants and fungi among the Metropolitan Police Department’s lowest law enforcement priorities”; and
  • Codifies that “the people of the District of Columbia call upon the Attorney General for the District of Columbia and the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to cease prosecution of residents of the District of Columbia for these activities.”

So Initiative 81 does not mean that persons may not be prosecuted for the possession, cultivation and so forth of psilocybin and it doesn’t make psilocybin “legal” in any sense.  Psilocybin remains a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the DEA says it has a high likelihood of abuse and no accepted medical use – just like marijuana. (Though just last year the FDA granted psilocybin “breakthrough” status for its potential in treating depression.)

Rather than “legalizing” psilocybin in any respect, Initiative 81 merely declares that the War on Drugs as it pertains to psilocybin should be a low priority for D.C. law enforcement.  In that respect, Initiative 81 is similar to Measure 301, which passed in Denver, Colorado in 2019 and other measures passed in Santa Cruz and Oakland, California and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Among the findings in Initiative 81 is that “practices with entheogenic plants and fungi have long existed, have been considered sacred to a number of cultures and religions for millennia, and continue to be enhanced and improve.” For more on the use of psychedelics for religious purposes, on that topic, see this excellent article by my colleague, Griffen Thorne.

We at the Canna Law Blog support Initiative 81, as we do Measure 109, and encourage our D.C.-based readers to vote Yes!  For more reading on psilocybin see: