Psilocybin Decriminalization Backers Submit Signatures for May 2019 Ballot

Psilocybin Decriminalization Backers Submit Signatures for May 2019 Ballot
In 2005, Denver decriminalized marijuana. In 2019, the city could do the same for psilocybin.

Today, January 7, Decriminalize Denver, previously known as Denver for Psilocybin, will submit signatures to the Denver Elections Division to get a decriminalization measure on the May 2019 ballot. As of the morning of January 4, psilocybin decriminalization advocates had gathered over 8,000 signatures; 4,726 valid signatures are required to make the ballot.

"I’m super-optimistic. I’m so excited. Everyone is feeling good," says Kevin Matthews, director of Decriminalize Denver.

Known as the Denver Psilocybin Initiative, the measure would make personal use, possession and propagation of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and over the "city's lowest law-enforcement priority." It would also "prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties" for personal use, possession and growth. The initiative would also establish the "psiloycbin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance," which would be similar to an already-existing panel for marijuana and would include eleven members, including two members of Denver City Council.

The federal government currently classifies psilocybin, the psychedelic compound that occurs naturally in certain mushrooms, as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no "accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration website. But scientific opinion about psilocybin is not as clear-cut. A 2016 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that "psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer."

Matthews says that his team members have started validating signatures themselves and have found about a 63 percent validity rate. He also says that at least twenty canvassers will be out on the streets of Denver this weekend gathering more signatures. As long as the 63 percent validity rate holds steady, the psilocybin decriminalization initiative should easily make the ballot.

The Denver Elections Division will confirm signatures in 25 days. If the psilocybin advocates fail to get the requisite number of signatures, they still can gather more to get on the November 2019 ballot.

The initiative received official endorsements from both the Denver Green Party and the Libertarian Party of Colorado.

"Most people who actually stop and listen end up signing it. We also get some who don’t necessarily support the initiative but still want it to go to a vote," Matthews says. "We present well. We're not a bunch of raggedy hippies."

Psilocybin advocates will hold a rally at 3 p.m. on the steps of the City and County Building today. After the rally, Kevin Matthews will submit the signatures to the Denver Elections Division.
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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.