Denver Elections Division confirmed today, February 1, that the psilocybin decriminalization initiative has enough signatures to get on the May ballot.
"We're stoked. It's very significant that for the first time in U.S. history, citizens of a city get to vote on decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms," says Kevin Matthews, the leader of Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the initiative.
Decriminalize Denver has been trying for close to a year to get on the ballot. The group first tried to get on the November 2018 ballot, but failed to make it to the signature-gathering stage. Proponents regrouped and went all in for May 2019.
If the Denver Psilocybin Initiative passes, personal use, possession and growth of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and over would become the city's "lowest law-enforcement priority." Additionally, the initiative would "prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties" for personal use, possession, and growth. And the initiative would establish the "psilocybin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance." This panel would be similar to the already-existing panel for marijuana and would comprise eleven members, including two from city council. Psilocybin decriminalization would be similar to what Denver did in 2005 for marijuana.
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The federal government currently considers psilocybin, the psychedelic compound that occurs naturally in certain mushrooms, as a Schedule I drug. That means it has no "accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
However, scientific opinion about psilocybin is a bit more complex. A 2016 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology concluded that "psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer."
With this last obstacle out of the way, Matthews says he is optimistic. "We recognize we have a lot of work to do. But we're very excited about the support we have and about changing the hearts and minds of Denver."