The man who led the team that pushed the successful campaign to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in Denver in May wants to take the decriminalization movement national.
"What we did in Denver can be tailored to every major American city," says Kevin Matthews. "Every city has their own things that might change how we share the message, but there's the overarching theme that nobody should got to jail for using mushrooms."
With this philosophy in mind, Matthews is forming a nonprofit that will be both local and national in scope. The organization, the successor to the Decriminalize Denver campaign, will be known as SPORE, which stands for the Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform and Education. Matthews will serve as the executive director, and a psychotherapist, lawyer and marketing expert will serve in other leadership roles. And in the coming weeks, Decriminalize Denver social media accounts will be re-branded as SPORE.
SPORE will continue the work that Matthews and his fellow decriminalization advocates have done in Denver: working with city officials to make sure that law enforcement and other first responders are fully trained on the ins and outs of psilocybin and its effect on the body and mind. Matthews and his SPORE colleagues will also ensure that Denver is abiding by the language of the initiative, which decriminalizes possession, consumption and growth of psychedelic mushrooms; to that end, advocates have already met with a variety of high-ranking city officials, including Denver District Attorney Beth McCann and Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs. Matthews and his team are also crafting a network of professionals that can help with harm reduction and psilocybin education, including integration specialists who can meet with individuals after a trip and help them process the various thoughts and emotions that arose and experienced psilocybin users who can help new users.
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SPORE will assist other municipalities in Colorado, specifically ones along the Front Range and in mountain towns, push decriminalization initiatives. Matthews anticipates that most decriminalization efforts will go through city councils, since that route is cheaper for advocates than running a full ballot initiative campaign. Matthews is also in the process of getting SPORE official accreditation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Once SPORE receives that status, Matthews will apply for 501(c)(4) status, which will allow the organization to engage in lobbying efforts.
"We fully intend to go to D.C. to speak with Congress members to see what can happen on a federal level," says Matthews, pointing to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the representative from New York who wants to make studying psychedelic mushrooms easier. "We have a goal of decriminalizing psilocybin nationwide in 2026." Matthews says he's been working with Decriminalize California, a movement that's aiming to get a decriminalization question on the 2020 statewide ballot.
SPORE is reaching out to individual donors who supported the Decriminalize Denver campaign for funding. Matthews will also be working with what he refers to as "psychedelic philanthropy organizations" to receive grants.
The official SPORE unveiling will take place at a cannabis industry appreciation party on Friday, July 26, from 7 p.m. to midnight at Tetra Lounge; buy tickets here.