Activists Say DC Officials Have Counted Sufficient Signatures to Put Psychedelics Decriminalization on the November Ballot

Activists in Washington, D.C. have revealed that from their observations as officials counted the valid voter signatures in support of a ballot measure to put psychedelics decriminalization on this year’s ballot, the petition will succeed and DC voters will have their say on the matter later this year.

The city’s Board of Elections hasn’t officially announced that the petitioners were successful in meeting the requirements to put the matter on the ballot. However, that announcement is expected to be made on August 5 during a meeting of the board.

The campaigners needed to collect at least 24,712 valid voter signatures and they turned in about 35,000 signed petitions. The activists say that they hit the minimum required voter signatures on Thursday, and more signatures are still being verified.

As the activists wait for a formal announcement regarding the success of their campaign, they are already busy mapping out an outreach and communication strategy aimed at convincing voters to cast their ballot in favor of the measure in November. This final push isn’t going to easy given that the coronavirus crisis is still raging.

Decriminalize Nature D.C., the group behind this ballot measure, also had to overcome a number of challenges during the signature-gathering drive which appears to have beaten the odds. That same resilience and creativity will be needed during the campaign to get voters to approve the measure.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the activists would visit voters in their homes and talk to them about their initiative. Dinner parties would also be organized to conduct voter education. These options are now off the table as social distancing measures are in force and it would be risky to organize public gatherings.

Melissa Lavasani, the chair of Decriminalize Nature D.C., is confident that their experience during the signature-gathering process will prove invaluable during the voter education campaign in the next phase of their struggle.

The group intends to commission another poll to assess the current voter sentiment on psychedelics decriminalization. The first poll they organized took place in February when the signature collection drive had barely started. In that poll, 51% of voters supported their measure and the number increased to 59% once the respondents were told the pros and cons of psychedelics.

A new poll would therefore help the group to get a feel for what is prevailing on the subject of decriminalizing psychedelics, and that information will enable the activists to plan their voter education efforts appropriately.

Nevertheless, Lavasani is confident that support may have grown given the fact that the group’s interactions with voters during the final fortnight of the signature gathering process was very positive.

Not everything is predicted to be smooth sailing for the campaign, however. Congress has previously blocked drug policy reform in D.C., and a similar amendment was withdrawn by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) before the Appropriations Committee. There is no telling whether a Senator will not try to push through a similar restriction once the spending bill reaches the other legislative chamber.

Experts say psychedelics industry players like Cybin Corp. can only hope that the wave of decriminalization keeps sweeping across different cities and states until it becomes unstoppable.

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