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Psychedelic Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative Still Too Close to Call

Even as early returns looked bleak, I-301 proponents stayed optimistic at their watch party.EXPAND
Even as early returns looked bleak, I-301 proponents stayed optimistic at their watch party.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh

Election day may be over in Denver, but the result of one race has yet to be determined.

The voting tally for the initiative to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms is still too close to call. According to the Denver Elections Division, ballots are still being counted and voters should know the final fate of the initiative this afternoon, May 8.

As of 1 a.m., when the most recent results were released, 48.33 percent of the 142,161 ballots counted were in favor of the initiative, and 'yes' votes for the initiative trailed 'no' votes by fewer than 5,000 ballots.

Early this morning, optimism was running high again in the Decriminalize Denver camp, after election night had started with deflating initial returns.

When first results were released at 7 p.m., only 45.43 percent of approximately 94,000 ballots were in favor of Initiative 301. Those stats sucked the air out of the room at the mushroom watch party at Invisible City, a private events space in Denver, where about 200 people had gathered.

But as the Denver Elections Division updated results every ninety minutes, the percentage of 'yes' votes inched toward 50 percent.

Now the initiative has a real shot at crossing that threshold. While the Denver Elections Division says that there was heavy turnout for all races on May 7, supporters at the watch party characterized the weak early results and the upward trend as the result of stoners waiting until the last minute to vote.

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Toward the end of the party, Kevin Matthews, the initiative's campaign director, spoke about how proud he was of his team, win or lose. "This campaign started as an idea. It was an idea. And look at what happens when a group of dedicated, passionate people, most of whom had no activism skills whatsoever, put faith in themselves and the process to make something happen," he told the crowd.

If it does pass, the initiative would decriminalize the use, possession and growth of psychedelic mushrooms. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in these mushrooms, is currently classified by the federal government as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it's considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

But proponents of the substance say it can have profound therapeutic effects when used responsibly. Research has shown that psilocybin can be useful in helping terminally ill individuals become comfortable with their own mortality. Additionally, the FDA has fast-tracked research into the use of psilocybin for treating depression.

The initiative would create a policy review panel that would be comprised of city officials, campaign representatives and other stakeholders that would be charged with ensuring that the decriminalization mandate is implemented smoothly.

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