Denver Becomes First City To Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms

By Kelly Burch 05/10/19

The enforcement of laws around psilocybin will now be the lowest priority for Denver police.

Magic Mushrooms in Denver

Voters in Denver, Colorado, one of the first areas in the country to push for legalized cannabis, have voted to decriminalize the possession of psychedelic mushrooms in a move some people believe could set the stage for the next major drug policy change after the widespread legalization of marijuana.

"Our victory today is a clear signal to the rest of the country that Americans are ready for a conversation around psilocybin," Kevin Matthews, director of the "Decriminalize Denver" campaign, told NPR

Although initial reports said that city voters had rejected decriminalization, an unofficial tally released by the city found that the measure passed with fewer that 2,000 votes. In the end, 50.56% of voters wanted mushrooms decriminalized. 

The measure will not change the legality of psychedelic mushrooms, which will remain a Schedule I substance that is illegal under state law in Colorado. However, it will make the enforcement of laws around psilocybin the lowest priority for Denver police, as long as the person in possession of the psychedelic is 21 or older.

People can even grow the mushrooms for personal use without becoming a target for law enforcement, according to the measure. 

Proponents of magic mushrooms claim that, like cannabis, the substance has medical benefits and is extremely low risk. Matthews has said that so-called magic mushrooms helped him overcome debilitating depression.

“Because psilocybin has such tremendous medical potential, there’s no reason individuals should be criminalized for using something that grows naturally,” Matthews said, according to The New York Times

One 2016 study found that “Participants attributed to the high-dose [psilocybin] experience positive changes in attitudes about life, self, mood, relationships and spirituality, with over 80% endorsing moderately or higher increased well-being or life satisfaction.”

However, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Colorado reported that it would still enforce a ban on mushrooms. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann also opposed the measure, according to her spokesperson Carolyn A. Tyler.  

“We’re still in the very early stages of marijuana legalization, and we are still learning the impact of that substance on our city,” Tyler said. “And [District Attorney McCann] is not in favor of Denver being the only city that doesn’t enforce the law.”

Denver isn’t the only municipality changing its stance on magic mushrooms. In Iowa a lawmaker proposed a measure that would remove psychedelic mushrooms from the list of controlled substances in the state. California and Oregon also have organizations trying to get voters to consider decriminalizing mushrooms in 2020. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.