By Kathleen Foody, Associated Press.
(AP) — Last week, voters made Denver the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms.”
Decriminalization led by a slim 51%, according to preliminary figures on Tuesday’s election released by Denver’s Election Division. As many as 1,300 votes still remain to be counted, but that figure was not enough to swing the vote the other way, division spokesman Alton Dillard said.
Final election results will be released on May 16, he said.
“I think today’s outcome really demonstrates that the conversation is going to continue, and the world is ready for it,” said Cindy Sovine, chief political strategist for the campaign to decriminalize the drug. “Psychedelics are already here. Now we can start to have the conversation about using them mindfully.”
Organizers turned to the same strategy that marijuana activists used to decriminalize cannabis possession in the city in 2005. That move was followed by statewide legalization in 2012.
Organizers say their only goal in the mushroom measure 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.
“We’re not talking about legalization, we’re talking about not putting people in jail,” Sovine said.
The initiative effectively decriminalizes use or possession of psilocybin by people 21 and older, making it the lowest enforcement priority for police and prosecutors. It does not legalize psilocybin or permit its sale.
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 federally outlawed since the 1960s, when it was widely known as a recreational drug. The ban stymied medical research, but small studies in recent years have found the substance had positive effects on anxiety and depression for cancer patients.
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 get language approved by city officials for the ballot. They collected more than 8,000 signatures to qualify for Tuesday’s election.
AP Photo/Richard Vogel