Health & Wellbeing

Denver voters pass historic initiative to effectively decriminalize magic mushrooms

Denver voters pass historic in...
A ballot measure to essentially decriminalize psilocybin magic mushrooms in Denver city has passed by less than 2,000 votes (Credit: Mädi (CC BY-SA 3.0))
A ballot measure to essentially decriminalize psilocybin magic mushrooms in Denver city has passed by less than 2,000 votes (Credit: Mädi (CC BY-SA 3.0))
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A ballot measure to essentially decriminalize psilocybin magic mushrooms in Denver city has passed by less than 2,000 votes (Credit: Mädi (CC BY-SA 3.0))
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A ballot measure to essentially decriminalize psilocybin magic mushrooms in Denver city has passed by less than 2,000 votes (Credit: Mädi (CC BY-SA 3.0))

After a tense 24 hours of vote counting it seems a Denver city initiative to essentially decriminalize personal use and possession of psilocybin magic mushrooms has been passed. With a margin of less than 2,000 votes Denver has become the first city in the United States to pass such a controversial measure.

The extraordinary ballot initiative has functioned effectively as the first public referendum in the United States on the public acceptability of magic mushrooms. The initiative will only cover the city and county of Denver, and while it doesn't explicitly decriminalize magic mushrooms, it does direct the police to make it a low law enforcement priority and prohibit city attorneys from expending resources to pursue criminal penalties for personal use cases.

The full ballot question that Denver voters faced stated:

"Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt an ordinance to the Denver Revised Municipal Code that would make the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older the city's lowest law-enforcement priority, prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older, and establish the psilocybin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance?"

After an amazingly close day of vote counting, leading many media outlets to prematurely announce the initiative's failure, the Denver Elections Division finally reported the closing tally as 89,320 yes votes to 87,341 no votes. A small number of absentee votes are still to be counted, however, it is suggested this should not overturn the final result. The ultimate result will not be certified until May 16.

In many ways this victory is primarily symbolic as magic mushrooms will still be essentially illegal in the city (and still considered a Schedule 1 illegal drug in the rest of the country). Practically, the initiative will not have a broad immediate effect as magic mushroom arrests in Denver have only comprised a tiny fraction of the city's total drug cases, with reports suggesting as little as 11 psilocybin cases prosecuted over the past three years.

Kevin Matthews, manager of the campaign that promoted the ballot initiative, affirms this victory is as much about starting a national conversation about the potential medical benefits of psilocybin as it is about reducing unfair drug convictions in the city.

"Our victory here is a clear signal to the rest of the country that we're ready for a broader conversation around psilocybin and its potential benefits," says Matthews to The Denver Post.

The victory follows a growing body of scientific evidence finding psilocybin to have a variety of potential medical uses, so much so that the FDA granted the drug a Breakthrough Therapy designation in 2018.

The Denver city referendum victory is also particularly symbolic as it recalls similar marijuana decriminalization measures passed in the city over a decade ago. While the state of Colorado did not officially move to legalize marijuana until 2012, it is suggested these early city ordinances, passed in ways similar to this psilocybin initiative, helped establish the progressive public discourse that years later led to the state becoming the first in America to advance recreational use laws.

11 comments
Howe
I guess marijuana is a gateway drug. lol
guzmanchinky
Excellent. I have always wanted to try it in a safe way.
Nobody
How many traffic deaths will this cause??? How many children will get a hold of these drugs and OD on them. This is a sad chapter in our current society.
riz
"How many traffic deaths will this cause??? How many children will get a hold of these drugs and OD on them. This is a sad chapter in our current society." a 60KG person would need to eat 17 kg of Musrooms to reach the LD50 of psilocybin
fb36
IMHO, psilocybin & THC & LSD legally should be treated same as alcohol!
Nobody
This isn't about LD50. It's about the dangerous things people do when under the influence. Just like alcohol, few people stop at a beer and often go on to hard liquors. I have seen too many people's lives ruined by "legal" alcohol.
Douglas E Knapp
Nobody, The difference between alcohol and shrooms is that mushrooms are NOT addictive. Alcohol is VERY addictive and leads to ruined lives. Traffic deaths? Try making driving school mandatory and hard. Then give out very hard punishments for driving under the influence of a smartphone. 30 year ago the guy swiving all over the road was drunk and you seldom saw this. Now I see it daily and it is always a guy on a phone. In the end, anyone taking ANY substance needs to do it responsibly.
jd_dunerider
Nobody - You have clearly never tried it. Yes it gets used recreationally, but the last thing you’d want to do is drive on it. This is a positive step to get a natural, powerful, and nearly harmless medicine out of the illegal drug classification it doesn’t belong in. I know many people who have used it responsibly to eliminate chronic depression and anxiety, quit drug addictions, quit smoking, etc.
Daishi
Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. It's still against the law to sell and use it's just the punishment is now a lower classification and you are fined instead of being sent to jail. The article mentioned there have been like 11 people in the last 3 years convicted so it doesn't have much impact. Law abiding people might be slightly more likely to risk trying it with a lower penalty now. Criminals never cared to begin with. In terms of driving under the influence many people in the City don't even own cars and Uber/Lyft have removed essentially any excuse people may have had to drive intoxicated. Driving under the influence remains a criminal offense. This is little more than recognition that people responsibly using low level drugs like Marijuana and Mushrooms are a waste of government resources to remove from their environment and imprison. Having grown up hanging outside in a poor neighborhood I can also say poor neighborhoods (and poor kids) are disproportionately policed. I'd see police several times a day in my old neighborhood looking for reasons to bust people and in my new neighborhood I haven't seen a police officer on my street once in the 2 years I have lived here. I'm not super political but it's a fact that police tend to shake down poor people for drugs to make their arrest numbers. The people that use things like Marijuana and go work at low paying jobs are no more criminal than people that use Marijuana and go to work at high paying jobs. I think decriminalizing mushrooms is the right call. I think LSD in very low dosage should fall into the category of decriminalization as well but my problem with it is that the high potency makes it too easy to exceed "very low dosage".
Paul Muad'Dib
Pretty soon we are going to be in a position where monetary concerns will severely limit the number of people we lock up for drugs. Personally I'd rather NOT pay for law enforcement to enforce drug laws and all the other costs associated with it. Obviously the war on drugs can't be won.