D.C. Voters Consider Initiative 81
To Decriminalize Psychedelic Drugs

     Absentee voters in the District of Columbia are seeing a controversial proposal on the ballot to decriminalize consumption of “magic mushrooms.”
     The proposal is contained in Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020.
     It would allow plants and fungi with psychedelic drug characteristics to be grown and consumed in the nation’s capital with minimal risk of prosecution. They contain the chemicals ibogaine, mescaline and the hallucinogen psilocybin, which help some people overcome post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.
     Critics of the proposal say Initiative 81 would tolerate recreational drug use that ultimately leads to other kinds of drug abuse and the societal problems it causes.
     The initiative was placed on the back of the ballot by the D.C. Board of Elections after public hearings last February.
     The campaign was spearheaded by the advocacy group Decriminalize Nature D.C. They submitted a recommendation to the Board of Elections that said, “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 improved. Citizens of the District of Columbia seeking to improve their health and well-being through the use of entheogenic plants and fungi currently use them in fear of arrest and prosecution.”
     The initiative does not legalize the psychedelic drugs but says prosecution for growing, possessing or selling them would become “among the Metropolitan Police Department’s lowest law enforcement priorities.”
     Decriminalize Nature D.C. collected about 25,000 signatures to get Initiative 81 on the ballot. Part of the roughly $700,000 funding for the campaign came from Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps company.

Hackers Tap Fairfax School Computers
To Collect Ransom for Private Data

     Hackers are being investigated again after tapping into computer systems of the Fairfax County Public Schools.
     They have published private information of hundreds of employees on the dark web in an attempt to extort money from the school system.
     The dark web refers to Internet-based networks that can be accessed only with specific software, configurations or authorizations. It often is used to hide criminal activity, including publishing private financial information that can be exploited by identity thieves.
     The information from Fairfax County Public Schools computers includes employees’ names, Social Security numbers and details about their health insurance. The hackers also published letters discussing disciplinary actions against students.
     The hackers notified school officials that they have much more sensitive information and threatened to publish it if they are not paid a ransom.
     Fairfax County Public Schools has hired a cybersecurity expert to counter the hackers. School officials also said the FBI is investigating.
     The first hack attack was in September, followed by a second one last week.
     Fairfax County Public Schools issued a statement saying, “We are working around the clock to identify the information that was taken and will notify impacted individuals as appropriate. We have implemented several cybersecurity-related enhancements and are continuing to evaluate additional steps that may be taken to harden our defenses.”



D.C. in Brief

Legal Briefs

Senate Sets Vote Date to Confirm
Judge Barrett to Supreme Court

     The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote next Thursday on whether to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
     The Senate Judiciary Committee set the date this week on the fourth day of contentious confirmation hearings in which Republicans and Democrats split along party lines on whether to support the conservative federal judge.
     Republicans are rushing the vote only days before a presidential election in which Democratic candidate Joe Biden is a double-digit frontrunner.
     “You’re just trying to ram through this justice,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat.
     Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., added, “It’s going to create a lot of bad will that doesn’t need to be created.”​

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We Could Use Your Help

     Thousands of DC residents need a lawyer, but can’t afford one. They could be illegally evicted from their homes, lose custody of their children, experience domestic violence, and more, all because they lack legal representation. 
      You could make a difference. By making a donation to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, you will provide free, high-quality, zealous legal representation to low-income DC residents. Click the photo above to make a donation today. 
      Your support could prevent homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, or family separation. In fact, if just 10 people who see this ad give $28 to Legal Aid, it will be enough to staff an experienced attorney at the courthouse for a day.
      That way, DC residents like Keith King (pictured above) can get the legal representation they need to win their cases. As Mr. King put it, if it wasn’t for his Legal Aid lawyer, “I would have been homeless again.”
     Here is the link to the Legal Aid website for donations: https://www.legalaiddc.org/donate-to-legal-aid/

     For more information, contact Rob Pergament at Legal Aid at rpergament@legalaiddc.org

Power the Civil Rights Work of Our Time

     Each day members of our community are experiencing wage theft, the effects of gentrification, discriminatory policing, collateral consequences, marginalization in schools, and barriers to public accommodations. 
     We fight alongside people facing the effects of gentrification like Amira Moore. Our work empowers the people and communities who need it most, “We can do more than we think. There’s a path to equity, we just have to step to it.” –Ms. Moore
     For more than 50 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights in our community. We deploy the best legal talent, we tackle the tough cases, we fight, and we win. 
     Our work is as important today as it has ever been. Through your support, you can play a role in creating justice for thousands of marginalized members of our community. Together, we will dismantle injustice and pursue lasting change.
     Join us! Donate & subscribe: https://www.washlaw.org/support-us
     Volunteer with us: https://www.washlaw.org/get-involved/
     For more information, contact Gregg Kelley at Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org​

Child Advocacy Organization Accused
Of Inflating Annual Report Figures

     A nonprofit group that provides counseling and medical services for abused children in Montgomery County is defending itself against financial impropriety allegations.
     The county pays the organization, called the Tree House, nearly $1 million a year.
     Its contract is in jeopardy after whistleblower employees accused the Tree House of exaggerating the number of its patients and failing to protect their personal information.
     The accusations started with three psychologists and a social worker, all of whom were fired shortly afterward.
     They said the Tree House’s 2019 annual report showed it served 693 family advocacy clients. The annual report is used in grant applications and reviewed by potential donors.​

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Long Court Procedure Likely 
For “Beatles” Terrorism Suspects

     Attorneys handling the criminal prosecution in Alexandria, Va. of two accused Islamic State terrorists predict a long procedure before the case concludes.
     U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis said during a first appearance hearing last week that the case is “complex and unusual.”
     “Time is required in order to achieve the ends of justice in this case,” Ellis said. He set the next hearing for January 15.
     The suspects, El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, and Alexanda Kotey, 36, face a long list of charges associated with the kidnappings, torture and murder of ISIS captives.
     They included American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and relief workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. British and Japanese citizens also were among the victims. Some were beheaded.
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