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

 

Just Posted

Make your house a home at Nanaimo spring home expo

Building renovation and decor show taking place at Beban Park till Feb. 23

‘Frankenstein’ to be adapted as silent film made in real time at Port Theatre

Production merges stories of author Mary Shelley and character Victor Frankenstein

City of Nanaimo mulling sponsorship policy

Finance and audit committee recommends approving plan to create policy around facility naming rights

Nanaimo Art Gallery requesting $200,000 to upgrade its downtown space

Councillors supportive of NAG’s plans, but no decision made on increasing financial assistance

No credible threat found during high school lockdown, say Nanaimo RCMP

Police won’t say if lockdown at Dover Bay Secondary was related to one at the school last fall

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Council approves two retail cannabis stores for Ladysmith

Their applications are now in the hands of the provincial government

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

Most Read