UPDATE - May, 9: Despite early reports indicating a measure to decriminalize magic mushrooms in Denver appeared to fail, The Denver Post reported Wednesday that voters actually approved it by a small margin. The city will officially become the first in the nation to decriminalize the psychedelic 'shrooms.
Colorado is known for being a chill state. It was one of the first to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2012, giving new meaning to the phrase “Rocky Mountain High.” Some parts of Colorado are, naturally, more progressive than others. Take Denver, for example, which has been testing the state’s overall status as a forerunner on drug reform policies since legalizing marijuana possession in 2005. Now, the city has attempted to become the first in the United States to decriminalize recreational use of magic mushrooms.
The vote to decriminalize -- not legalize -- the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms took place on Tuesday, according to a report by CNN. It appeared on the ballot as Ordinance 301, or the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative, which sought to “deprioritize, to the greatest extent possible,” criminal penalties imposed by the City of Denver “for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms.” The ordinance wouldn’t legalize the mushrooms, but would “prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties” on those using, or in possession of them.
It would still be illegal to possess magic mushrooms in Denver under the initiative. The sale of the substance would also remain a felony, NBC News noted.
However, voters appeared to reject the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative as of Wednesday morning, with 52% not in favor despite little organized opposition in the city, according to NBC News. But pro-psilocybin advocates remain hopeful for the future.
There are a range of mushroom species that naturally contain the compound psilocybin, which possesses hallucinogenic properties. The US Department of Justice -- currently headed up by Attorney General William Barr, touted as “less openly hostile” on substances like marijuana by Marijuana Moment -- currently lists shrooms has a Schedule I controlled substance. This means federal policy states that the substance has no medicinal properties. Psilocybin has been banned for almost 50 years.
Avid users, and some medical researchers and mental health professionals, refute this claim, however. As noted by outlets like Wired and Allure, psilocybin has been used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions. Medical professionals recommend microdosing, or taking small amounts of the hallucinogenic substance, to lessen the negative feelings and symptoms associated with the aforementioned conditions, and cut back on the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other prescription drugs. This method has been used with other substances, such as LSD and MDMA for similar reasons.
Denver isn’t the first city to advocate for the decriminalization of magic mushrooms. California initiated a similar push in 2018, but the ordinance never appeared on the ballot, according to Ballotpedia. Voters in Oregon, the first US state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, may take a similar initiative to the polls in 2020.
Research is still being done to prove the merits of psilocybin use in treating serious mental health disorders, and symptoms caused by serious ailments such as cancer. As more positive effects are uncovered, the push for decriminalization -- and maybe even on day legalization -- may gain more traction across the US. In the meantime, ‘shrooms remain highly illegal.