Op Ed: Kicking Down the Doors of Perception Regarding Psilocybin

On January 1, 2014, Colorado made history when the first state-sanctioned retail marijuana stores opened their doors for business. A new era in the United States began!

In the words of the late Hunter S. Thompson: “I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits — and millions of Americans agree with me.” Now, I don’t know about the beer, ice or grapefruit, but marijuana is a big part of many people’s lives these days. Marijuana sales hit $1.5 billion in Colorado in 2017.

In addition to legalizing something that many people have been using for years, the birth of recreational marijuana sales has blown the door wide open on the potential health benefits of cannabis and its various compounds. For the first time, we are seeing the medical industry considering an “illegal drug” beneficial, and actual scientific research is being done on the medical applications of marijuana and its many compounds. For example, CBD has shown promise for treatment of everything from arthritis pain to cancer. Recently CBD was approved as a medical marijuana treatment for PTSD here in Colorado.

Hemp is another amazing resource now being legitimized and taking off in production, thanks to the legalization of recreational marijuana. In fact, last year Colorado accounted for more than half of the country's hemp production. Yes, the cannabis industry in Colorado has become a powerhouse because the people made their voices heard by reducing government and increasing individual freedom. Now we have wonderful cannabis products available to anyone over the age of 20 who wishes to buy them without fear of breaking outdated laws.

This year Colorado once again has the opportunity to make history in the chronicles of individual freedom. The group Denver for Psilocybin has crafted a piece of legislation it hopes to bring to voters in May 2019. “We anticipate being able to collect the required signatures in a few months, by, let's say, October. That is our target,” said Kevin Matthews, director of the Denver for Psilocybin campaign. The goal of this bill will be decriminalizing psilocybin, or ”magic mushrooms.” Decriminalizing means that arresting citizens for possessing mushrooms will be the lowest-level priority of law enforcement. If this passes next May, the police will ignore anyone with up to one ounce of dried mushrooms. If you have more than one ounce, they will take away any amount over an ounce. Growing and cultivating at home will also be allowed.

Millions of citizens in the United States have grown up and lived in the heart of the War on Drugs. In the ’80s and ’90s, we were all told to "Just Say No!" The attitude of that era was that drugs are bad and only bad people use drugs. Remember the egg in the frying pan with the dire warning, “This is your brain on drugs"? But as the old adage goes, "The times, they are a-changin’!” Why? Because the nation is following Colorado’s lead, and marijuana legalization is spreading across the country. This year Colorado again finds itself at the forefront of true progressive thinking by attempting to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms within the city of Denver.

Plenty of people will be adamantly opposed to this, of course: Drugs are bad, remember?!  I wonder how many of these same people — these supporters of the War on Drugs — swallow a handful of pills every day just to function. One pill for depression, one pill for anxiety, maybe another for blood pressure, cholesterol or allergies. Yes, those are all drugs. Just because they are approved by the FDA and promoted by the medical industry doesn’t make them anything other than drugs.

Psilocybin, the compound or “drug” in magic mushrooms, has already shown promise as a treatment for a number of different conditions. A single dose of psilocybin can lift anxiety and depression in cancer patients for six months. This natural, plant-based ingredient has been shown to be more effective than the manmade chemical antidepressants that 13 percent of Americans currently take daily. Psilocybin also shows promise for treatment of alcohol and tobacco addictions. The research on this natural miracle compound is cutting-edge, but the potential for it to cure is proving to be immense. With decriminalization and the possibility of legalization, the opportunity for expanded research is tremendous. President Donald Trump recently signed the "Right to Try" bill, giving patients the right to try experimental drug treatments. This should open the door to a plethora of potential treatment options for all types of health conditions. Why not give people the right to try one more? Psilocybin, a completely natural plant compound.

It’s time to shake off the lingering effects of the War on Drugs, let go of that image of the egg in the frying pan and open our minds to new possibilities. Stop letting the government decide what you can or can’t put into your own body. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should not be limited to only those things approved and sanctioned by the state. If this legislation appears on the ballots in Denver next May, do your part to kick down those doors of perception, giving everyone the right to try without fear of persecution.

Bonnie Pyle grew up in Teller County, where she currently lives. She is a passionate animal rescuer, outdoor adventurer and Libertarian. If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Lance Cayko at 303-775-7406 or email CommunicationsDirector@LPColorado.org.

Westword occasionally runs essays about issues of interest to metro Denver readers. If you have an op-ed you'd like to submit, send it to editorial@westword.com.

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