Denver made history in May 2019 by becoming the first place in America to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. After that, the dominoes started to fall. Oakland was next, and then came Santa Cruz, California.
Now it's Boulder's turn.
"Boulder makes sense just because it seems like the path of least resistance," says Matthew Duffy, a Boulder resident who was part of the Denver decriminalization campaign.
On Tuesday, February 11, around twenty advocates of psychedelic mushrooms, including Duffy, gathered at an office building in Boulder for the first meeting of Decriminalize Nature Boulder County.
The group, which has already registered as a lobbying organization, is aiming to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms — as Denver did in May, when voters approved Ordinance 301, the Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative — while also decriminalizing other natural psychedelics, such as peyote and ayahuasca, throughout Boulder County.
Beyond including more substances, the decriminalization efforts in Boulder will differ from Denver's in other ways. In Denver, proponents launched a signature-gathering campaign to get their proposal on the city's ballot. In Boulder, advocates plan to skip the petition path and instead lobby elected officials in municipalities throughout Boulder County to decriminalize the natural substances.
"It’s my perspective that the law should be applied fairly and equally throughout the county, and that the criminal law should not depend on where you’re standing," says Boulder Country District Attorney Michael Dougherty. "I don’t think it’s fair if someone gets picked up with a substance in Longmont and gets treated differently than if they’re picked up on Pearl Street in Boulder."
Dougherty has met with decriminalization advocates, and describes their meeting as "really productive and positive."
But Kailee Foerster, who is heading up the Boulder decriminalization efforts, notes that the meeting focused on psychedelic mushrooms, and that the Decriminalize Nature Boulder County group hadn't been formed at that point. Based on their conversation with Dougherty, advocates expanded their efforts from just the city of Boulder to the entire county.
"There is a strong community of people in Boulder County who support the mission," Foerster says.
But that mission will be complicated, since the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners has limited authority over county law enforcement agencies.
"The sheriff does not work for the county commissioners. Neither does the DA," says Michelle Krezek, the Boulder commissioners' deputy. Additionally, each municipality in the county has its own police department, which operates under the laws of those municipalities.
So Decriminalize Nature Boulder County plans to push elected officials in every Boulder County municipality to pass decriminalization measures. "I kind of see that as being the way forward," says Duffy. "There’s some kind of constituency in all of these places. They just need to be activated."
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When pitching their case throughout Boulder County, decriminalization advocates will be able to point to Denver as a role model. So far, there have been no major negative effects from psychedelic mushroom decriminalization in the Mile High City, according to local law enforcement officials.
After Boulder County, Duffy and other decriminalization advocates are eying efforts in Fort Collins and Jefferson County, the home of Red Rocks.
And after that?
"We're exploring the possibility for statewide reform," Duffy says.