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Magic mushrooms officially decriminalized in DC

Initiative 81 passed with overwhelming support in November.

WASHINGTON — D.C.'s Initiative 81, which passed with 76% of the vote in November, officially goes into effect on Monday, March 15.

Initiative 81, formally known as the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, does not make it legal to use mushrooms or other psychedelics, but it makes policing and prosecution of them a low priority.

The battle to get Initiative 81 on D.C. ballots was spearheaded by spokesperson Melissa Lavasani, who said she knows firsthand how much of a difference access to these mushrooms can make. She suffered with depression after both of her pregnancies. After she had her son in 2017, she said she tried every home remedy, and nothing worked.

"I wasn’t feeling the things that new moms should feel," Lavasani said. "So, I developed anxiety, I had panic attacks once a week, I was hearing voices…I was desperate for a solution, and I would have tried anything, because it was life or death for me."

Then, she said she listened to a Joe Rogan podcast where renowned mycologist Paul Stamets was discussing the benefits and uses of psilocybin mushrooms, and this career-focused, mother-of-two, who had never before tried psychedelics, decided to sample a mushroom.

It made all the difference. But Lavasani feared what would happen if it became known she was taking an illegal substance.

Now that Initiative has become law, Lavasani's Plant Medicine Coalition, a non-profit "working to create, protect, and promote safe, equitable access to natural and synthetic plant medicines." will soon begin offering grants to D.C.-based community organizations that promotes training and education about natural pyschedelics. 

As is the case with any drugs, magic mushrooms affect individuals differently. While Lavasani said it stopped her from hearing voices and feeling severely depressed, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation lists the following as possible side-effects: 

  • euphoria and wellbeing
  • change in consciousness, mood, thought and perception (commonly called a trip)
  • dilation of pupils
  • perceptual changes, such as visual and auditory hallucinations
  • stomach discomfort and nausea
  • headaches
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • increased body temperature
  • breathing quickly
  • vomiting
  • facial flushes, sweating and chills.

Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Ann Arbor have all also passed some form of decriminalized psychedelic plants.

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