- In May, Denver, Colorado, residents will vote on whether to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic” mushrooms.
- Decriminalizing the illegal substance could help keep families together and encourage more research on psilocybin’s medical uses, Kevin Matthews, the Decriminalize Denver campaign director, told INSIDER.
- In a phone poll of 172 Denver residents, 45% said they support decriminalizing psilocybin.
Denver, Colorado, is gearing up for a municipal election that could result in the city becoming the first in the United States to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. In May, residents will vote on whether to eliminate the possibility of felony charges for people found possessing the substance.
Kevin Matthews, the campaign director of Decriminalize Denver, the initiative spearheading local decriminalization efforts, told NBC 9 in January that his team collected 8,000 signatures to advance the measure to the May ballot. In Denver, 4,279 signatures are needed to move a measure along, and the city’s elections office has 25 days to verify the signatures.
Psilocybin is currently a Schedule 1 drug in the US, meaning it is considered to have has no medical use and a high potential for abuse. As a result of this, psilocybin is largely unavailable in the country and is illegal to possess. Decriminalization of the substance in Denver means psilocybin would remain illegal, but people 21 and over who possess it would have a lower likelihood of being arrested and put in jail.
Psilocybin decriminalization could protect families and encourage research
If passed, the policy would make anyone 21 or older who possesses psilocybin the “lowest law enforcement priority,” NBC 9 reported.
According to Matthews, the measure could keep more families together. “The main reason we are doing this is to keep people out of prison,” Matthews told INSIDER. “[We] don’t want to have people lose their children, and we believe it’s the best and necessary first step to reintegrate psilocybin back into society and encourage more research as well.”
Psilocybin research has been limited in the US, but some preliminary studies have found that the psychedelic drug has the potential to treat anxiety and depression.
In one 2016 study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University gave 29 cancer patients magic mushrooms in combination with psychotherapy sessions to help with depression and anxiety they reported as a result of their diagnoses. The patients who recieved psilocybin reported immediate reductions in anxiety and depression.
Matthews told INSIDER that a vote for psilocybin decriminalization could spur more research on the drug’s potential medical uses. Through campaigning, he has spoken with many proponents of the substance who said psilocybin has helped them with depression, cluster headaches, and anxiety. Matthews also told NBC 9 that psilocybin has helped him with his own depression.
In a phone poll of 172 Denver residents that his team conducted, 45% said they were in favor of decriminalization.
“We need people to come out of the psychedelic closet and share their experiences,” Matthews said. “There is a deep cultural misunderstanding of psilocybin and what it does.”
While growing psilocybin at home will remain illegal in Denver even if decriminalization passes, residents cultivating small amounts won’t have to worry quite as much about being sent off to jail, according to Matthews.
He said that his team wants to create a “healthy relationship” with the city, so the decriminalization plan includes creating a panel of attorneys, health professionals, police, and city council members who can evaluate whether Decriminalize Denver’s efforts help keep families together and free up government funds that are typically used to prosecute people in possession of psilocybin.
Peter Kotecki contributed to a previous version of this story.