Frequently Asked Questions
What is Decriminalize Nature DC?
Decriminalize Nature DC is a campaign organized by DC residents to change government policy and make entheogenic plants and fungi the lowest law enforcement priority. This is the first step towards ensuring safe, equitable access for all people to entheogenic plants and fungi. The organization launched in December 2019 with the formation of the Campaign the Decriminalize Nature DC with the DC Office of Campaign Finance. On December 20, 2019, Melissa Lavasani filed a voter initiative with the DC Board of Elections titled the “Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020.”
How is Decriminalize Nature DC Organized?
The campaign has numerous volunteer working groups focusing on Media and Communications, Events and Education, Operations and Petitioning, and Legislative Outreach. The campaign is a 501(c)(4) organization and has a 5-person steering committee, including the initiative proposer Melissa Lavasani.
How is Decriminalize Nature DC Funded?
Decriminalize Nature DC is a volunteer-run organization that thrives on community participation. As a 501(c)(4), we have created a campaign committee with DC’s Office of Campaign Finance and may accept donations up to no limit in size. We hope to raise at least $200,000 to compensate petitioners and place the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act on the ballot in November 2020. Donations can be made online at our ActBlue donation page.
What is an Entheogen?
An Entheogen is a natural plant or fungi substance that can generate or inspire the divine within oneself. Beyond passing the ballot initiative, the Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC seeks to educate the public about entheogenic plants, fungi, and natural sources, such as mushrooms, cacti, iboga containing plants and /or extracted combinations of plants similar to Ayahuasca; and limited to those containing the following types of compounds: indole amines, tryptamines, phenethylamines.
Does the Initiative Legalize or Reduce Penalties for Entheogens?
No. The Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC simply seeks to have the Metropolitan Police Department make entheogens their lowest law enforcement priority. Unfortunately, due to the Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) budget rider that was added to the federal budget for the District of Columbia in 2014, the DC Council and ballot initiative proposers are prohibited from passing any law, rule, or regulation that reduces penalties for any Schedule 1 substance listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act. However, our ballot initiative seeks to lessen the likelihood that police will enforce penalties for use or possession of entheogens by declaring this “lowest priority.”
Does Decriminalize Nature DC Support Use of Entheogens?
Yes, the Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC supports RESPONSIBLE use of entheogens because there is overwhelming evidence people are benefiting from it. People also should have cognitive liberty to try these natural occurring substances with which humanity has co-evolved for millions of years.
Why Are Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Prohibited?
These plants and fungi were placed on Schedule 1 of the Federal Controlled Substances Act without scientific research as part of President Nixon’s intention to arrest leaders of the African American civil rights movement and the leaders of the anti-War movements and we should correct this historic wrong. While there are no laws prohibiting the ingestion of poisonous plants and fungi, it is somehow illegal to ingest entheogenic plants and fungi that have demonstrated medicinal value in addition to the potential to improve the wellbeing of healthy individuals. This dismissive relationship to nature goes well beyond Nixon and has been a central piece of colonialism for centuries. An essential element of this platform is restoring our roots to nature and to repair our connection, which has been severed for communities worldwide based upon fear, dogma, and politics, for millennia.
Are Entheogens Addictive and Can They Kill You?
Entheogens, when used responsibly, are thought to be extremely safe. The World Health Organization even recently named Psilocybe mushrooms as the safest “recreational drug” in the world saying it had the fewest emergency room visits of any illicit controlled substance. However, there is a potential risk for those with heart conditions and the use of iboga. There are also a few isolated cases of people with existing medical conditions or people mixing entheogens with other substances such as opioids, where injury or death have occurred, but these are extremely rare. Anyone with any health concerns or preexisting conditions may consider discussing planned use with their physician. None of the substances in the Entheogenic Plants and Fungus Policy Act are known to be addictive; they are essentially self-regulating substances with little effect after use two days in a row, a property which makes them actively non-addictive. There is always the potential for abuse, as with all substances, but it is very uncommon. We believe the responsible use of entheogens is safer than the use of the over-the-counter acetaminophen (“Tylenol”), which annually kills over a hundred people and sends over 55,000 to hospitals around the United States.
Do Entheogens Help Everyone?
Every person reacts differently. When used in a culturally-relevant and responsible way, entheogens can be an amazing tool for a lot of people, but not everybody will have the same results. Like any treatment, there will be a certain segment of the population that won’t qualify as good candidates for entheogenic therapy for health reasons, and that should be a conversation to have with your physician, not law enforcement. A core value of the Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC is equitable access, with the belief that it is an inalienable right to develop our own relationship to nature, whether in a therapeutic container, or the safety and comfort of their own home and trusted community. Not everyone may wish to explore entheogenic plants and fungi, but restricting access to natural plant medicines is a fundamental human rights issue that left unaddressed limits potential wellbeing for humanity.
Are You Hippies or Do You Have Political Leanings?
The Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC is a non-partisan, issue-driven campaign. The campagin includes community members from all walks of life, political affiliations, incomes, education level, age, race, sex or ability. While the campaign does not support or oppose specific lawmakers or political parties, advocacy may include opposition to policies and actions promoted by specific lawmakers that oppose long overdue reforms or attempt to overturn the will of the voters. Although entheogens have been associated with politicized movements in American history, this campaign stems from a new, science-based period and includes supporters from all walks of life.
How Many People Per Year Are Arrested for Entheogens in DC?
The Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC does not know for sure how MPD tracks the category, but there were over 2,000 arrests in 2018 for narcotics which is how we think MPD classifies entheogens. A Freedom of Information Act request has been initiated; however, we believe arrests do occur, and the threat of arrest could lead to dangerous police encounters for citizens. People often avoid entheogens that could be providing benefits for them due to fear of arrest and their desire not to violate the law. Decriminalization is a risk reduction strategy for individuals who are already having experiences to feel safe finding the information and support systems they may need following an experience.
What About Driving Under the Influence?
There are already laws that prohibit driving under the influence and no new laws specifically for entheogens are needed. When having an entheogenic experience, one should not be driving or operating heavy machinery. One may also want to refrain from social media postings, important life decisions, gambling and a host of other activities not recommended under the influence to avoid legal issues or possible professional conflicts.
What About Public Disturbances?
The Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC believes that law enforcement does not offer the best response to an individual having a difficult experience in public. Instead, the campaign advocates for a specialized support system to provide assistance where necessary. This approach removes the potential for law enforcement to cause trauma and lessens the potential escalation of a situation. The campaign supports developing mechanisms to allow individuals to safely tell law enforcement that they are scared due to the effects of entheogens so that the proper support could be found.
What About Children?
The Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC supports responsible and ethical use of entheogens and does not endorse the use of entheogens by minors nor the provision of entheogens to minors. Until there are published studies demonstrating the benefit of entheogens to growing children, the decision to take entheogens responsibly is a personal one, and one that is best made by adults.