Zero Psilocybin Arrests in Denver First Month After Decriminalization

Zero Psilocybin Arrests in Denver First Month After Decriminalization
Anthony Camera
The City of Denver appears to be abiding by the will of the voters. Between May 16 and June 18, or the month or so after magic mushrooms were decriminalized, the Denver Police Department made zero psilocybin-related arrests.

"That’s great news. That’s exactly the number I was hoping they would say," says Kevin Matthews, who led Decriminalize Denver, the campaign to make possession, consumption and growth of psychedelic mushrooms a low law enforcement priority.

From 2016 to 2018, the DPD arrested about fifty people per year for psilocybin-related offenses. And of the 9,000-plus drug cases filed in Denver between 2016 and 2018, only three led to charges for possession of psilocybin with intent to manufacture or distribute.

The Denver City Attorney's Office is still analyzing the ballot language and will present its findings to law enforcement and the mayor's office. "We're set to hear expert input in coming weeks to understand what 'personal use' and 'possession with intent to distribute' should possibly mean under the law," wrote Ryan Luby, spokesman for the city attorney's office, in an email to Westword.

But Matthews says that voters passed an initiative that specifically does not quantify "personal use."

"We have no right to say what an amount for personal use looks like. And the city shouldn’t set those limits," Matthews says. "We’re prepared to litigate if necessary. We don’t want it to go there."

Matthews and other campaign representatives have been working with the city, including the DPD and city attorney and district attorney's offices, to implement the initiative. In July, campaign members will deliver a presentation to city officials on harm reduction and responsible use of psilocybin.

Matthews says his team is also interested in working with the city to co-sponsor public-service announcements about psilocybin in the coming months to address what's not covered by the initiative.

"We really want to make it clear that sales and distribution are not allowed," says Matthews.

The initiative also creates a review panel that will analyze and report on the effects of psilocybin decriminalization. By the end of this year, Mayor Michael Hancock must appoint eleven people to the panel, including two city council members, Decriminalize Denver campaign representatives, law enforcement officials and other stakeholders.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.