Denver could make history with vote on ‘magic mushrooms’

The initiative would decriminalize use or possession of psilocybin by people 21 and older

Voters on Tuesday were deciding whether to make Denver the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin — the psychoactive substance in “magic mushrooms” — and add a new chapter to the city’s role in shaping wider drug policy.

A citizen initiative on the ballot followed the same tack taken by marijuana activists to decriminalize pot possession in 2005 in the city. That move was followed by statewide legalization in 2012. A number of other states then broadly allowed marijuana use and sales by adults.

Psilocybin decriminalization campaign organizers have said their only goal is to keep people out of jail in Denver for using or possessing the drug to cope with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other conditions.

The initiative would effectively decriminalize use or possession of psilocybin by people 21 and older, making it the lowest enforcement priority for police and prosecutors. The measure does not legalize psilocybin or permit its sale by cannabis businesses.

READ MORE: World’s most poisonous mushroom spreading in B.C.

Kevin Matthews, director of the Decriminalize Denver campaign, said psilocybin has helped him deal with depression for years.

“This is not something you have to take every day,” the 33-year-old Denver native said. “It provides a lot of lasting benefits, weeks and months after one experience.”

Psilocybin has been outlawed in the U.S. since the 1960s, and some researchers warn that it should only be used under medical supervision and can prompt paranoia and anxiety.

The federal government classifies psilocybin as a Schedule I drug, with no medical purpose and a high potential for abuse.

For decades, that status has stymied research into medical uses of psilocybin, but small, closely supervised studies in recent years have found that it can help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Users have described seeing vivid colours and geometric patterns, and experiencing powerful spiritual connections and emotions.

Magic mushrooms have been used in religious practices for decades because of their powerful effect on perceptions and spiritual experiences. Those same effects have appealed to recreational users dating back to the 1960s counterculture movement.

A California effort to decriminalize psilocybin failed to qualify for the statewide ballot in 2018. Organizers in Oregon are trying to gather enough support to put an initiative to a statewide vote next year.

It took the pro-psilocybin organizers in Denver three tries to develop language approved by city officials for the ballot. They collected more than 8,000 signatures to qualify for Tuesday’s election.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposes the initiative along with District Attorney Beth McCann, but there has been no organized campaign against decriminalization.

The city’s election has largely focused on a six-way race for mayor and a heated effort to end Denver’s “urban camping” ban that affects people without housing and has pitted activists against well-financed business and development groups.

Supporters of the psilocybin initiative have done door-to-door canvassing and leafletted at community events and outside Coors Field before Colorado Rockies’ games.

The proposed ordinance also would prevent city funds from being used to pursue criminal penalties on possession or use and create a panel to study the effects of the change.

“Nobody should be penalized for this substance,” Matthews said. “One arrest is too many. No person deserves this kind of treatment for a substance this safe.”

Kathleen Foody, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Saanich police break up Canada Day gathering of nearly 200 youth in Mount Douglas Park

Officers observed underage drinking, public intoxication, lack of physical distancing

Undercover operation exposes prominent human trafficking problem in Greater Victoria

VicPD’s Operation No More took place in mid-June at a local hotel

Sooke’s homeless reflect on housing situation

Ed MacGregor Park a new temporary home for Sooke’s homeless population

Langford approves permit for 124-unit mass timber building

Tallwood 1 to be completed by late 2021

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminatates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminatates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

Ottawa jail inmates argue anti-COVID measures a breach of charter rights

The prisoners allege guards did not wear masks until April 25

Epstein pal arrested, accused of luring girls for sex abuse

Ghislaine Maxwell was in an intimate relationship with Epstein for years

B.C. repairs COVID-19 emergency order for local government

Ombudsperson shut out as his recommendations implemented

No doctor assisted death allowed at Hamlets in Duncan

Faith-based company that owns facility believes in sanctity of life

More than 50,000 Coronavirus cases reported per day in US

Coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 US states

Trump plans huge July 4 fireworks show despite DC’s concerns

Despite health concerns from D.C.’s mayor, no one apparently will be required to wear masks

Most Read