Denver Has Voted To Decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms

For years, Denver has been leading the charge in reforming drug policy in the US. Laws based on fear and hatred have led to millions of unnecessary incarcerations throughout the country. In Denver, lawmakers have strived to decriminalize substances and, at the very least, not implement anachronistic policies. Decriminalizing Psilocybin, Denver is making strides!

Now, Denver is again ahead of the nation as residents of the city have voted to effectively decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. While it is still technically illegal to possess and sell psilocybin in Denver, Initiative 301 ensures that the implementation of the law is de-prioritized. Making it unlikely that anyone will be arrested or charged for the offense.

But why is Denver decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms, and can they actually be beneficial for mental health?

Psilocybin: Denver Votes

On Tuesday, May 7 2019, Denver voted to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. This is what you need to know about the campaign.

A Vote to Decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms

The legal status of psilocybin mushrooms made it onto the ballot due to a number of factors. Activists contend that decriminalization can actually decrease abuse of the substance, increase the probability of substance abusers seeking treatment without fear of legal consequences, and open up the potential for medical use.

The vote is limited to the city and county of Denver, rather than Colorado as a whole. However, once the effects of decriminalization are assessed in Denver, other cities and states may follow suit.

A Citizen-Sponsored Campaign

The campaign for decriminalization of psilocybin in Denver was headed by Kevin Matthews, a former cadet in the military, who had to leave his position due to major depression. In 2011, he tried psilocybin mushrooms for the first time, and they worked where other interventions had failed.

Matthews wants others to be able to reap the benefits of psilocybin in Denver and beyond. He led a citizen-sponsored campaign to get it on the ballot. The initiative won with a slender 51%. Matthews sees decriminalization as the first step towards medical use of psilocybin for its mental health benefits.

Popular Opinion

While activists, as well as proponents of decriminalization for non-lethal drugs in general, support the initiative, not everyone is on board. This time 49% of the public voted against it, and Michael Hancock, the Denver mayor himself, is said to oppose it. The district attorney, Beth McCann, also opposes it, at least as long as the success of decriminalization of marijuana is still up for debate. In addition, the government and the police may need a little more convincing before letting go of law enforcement entirely.

Why Do People Want to Use Hallucinogenic Mushrooms?

Many people argue that hallucinogenic mushrooms have a diverse range of benefits and few downsides.

Benefits of Psilocybin

For decades, the use of hallucinogens such as psilocybin (or magic mushrooms) has been seen as a potential route to gaining increased insight about oneself and the world around us. Aldous Huxley, for example, was a famous proponent of this.

But the benefits may go far beyond potential spiritual connections. Research has indicated that psilocybin may be effective in treating depression and anxiety. It could even help people who have been suffering from depression for years who’ve thus far been treatment resistant. The substance is administered in micro doses, and the hallucinogenic effects are limited.

High Potential for Treating Mental Health Issues

Microdosing of psilocybin has been tested in the treatment of major depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Professionals and clinics administering the substance have reported remarkable improvement in patients who had not responded to other medications and therapies.

Breakthrough Therapy Status

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sufficiently convinced of the potential medical uses of psilocybin that they have granted it “breakthrough therapy” status. Due to this, researchers and drug companies are now able to expedite the development of a drug that utilizes its properties.

Why Are Psilocybin Mushrooms Not Legal?

The legal status of psilocybin in Denver and throughout the US has been a matter of debate for decades. It is classified by the federal government as a Schedule I drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

However, since its classification was given in the 1960s, researchers have found the potential for medical use, and it is a matter of debate whether it really has a high potential for abuse.

Legal Status of Psilocybin Mushrooms

The possession, of psilocybin mushrooms is still illegal and it is also still illegal to purchase, and sell it. In fact, the latter is considered a felony. This is all due to its status as a Schedule I controlled substance.

Recreational Use

While researchers are testing micro-dosing of psilocybin as a medical intervention, most people still use magic mushrooms recreationally. Recreational users enjoy the experience as it can provide a sense of euphoria, in addition to its unpredictable and exciting hallucinogenic properties.

It is in recreational use of psychedelic mushrooms that there is potential for abuse, with treatment centers reporting cases of patients addicted to the substance. Nonetheless, since it is not dependence-causing and provides an experience rather than an immediate or sustainable high, it is neither highly addictive nor a common cause of substance abuse disorder.

The doses used for medical purposes are about a tenth of what is used for the hallucinogenic experience with magic mushrooms.

They Won: What Now?

The psilocybin Denver initiative won in the May 7 election, with the results certified on May 16. But what does this mean? Are psilocybin mushrooms legal now? What about their status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance?

The possession and trade of psilocybin mushrooms is still illegal. The vote was not to legalize the substance but to decriminalize it. Decriminalization is effectively achieved by the city advising its police force not to enforce the penalties. Instead of people getting a criminal record, fines, or jail time for the possession, sale or use of psilocybin in Denver; they can now do so with relative freedom and safety. This also allows for proponents of its mental health benefits to administer the substance to patients without having to worry about potential legal problems.

Denver Is Ahead of the Game!

Once again, Denver is ahead of the game when it comes to modern drug policy. The city recognizes more than any other the futility of enforcing anachronistic drug laws for substances which do not cause harm and have potential medical benefits.

Psilocybin in Denver may not yet be legal, but it is safe to use without having to worry about legal consequences. This is a win for anyone who wishes to use psilocybin safely, whether for medical or healthy recreational purposes.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
Scroll to Top