Denver Residents to Vote on Decriminalizing Psilocybin Mushrooms

Is Denver ready to take the plunge?
Denver Residents to Vote on Decriminalizing Psilocybin Mushrooms

Denver residents who go to the polls on Tuesday will have an opportunity to vote on the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms in the city. If the initiative is successful, Denver would become the first city in the United States to pass an ordinance effectively decriminalizing the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The ballot measure, known as I-301, would amend Denver’s municipal code to make possession of psilocybin mushrooms by adults 21 and older the city’s lowest law enforcement priority. It would also prohibit the city from spending public resources to impose criminal penalties on adults for using or possessing mushrooms and establish a city panel to determine the effects of the new ordinance.

Decriminalize Denver, the group campaigning for the passage of I-301, is led by campaign manager Kevin Matthews, who had to leave the U.S. Military Academy at West Point due to major depression. His struggle continued for years, until he tried psilocybin for the first time.

“It was one of the most profound experiences in my life,” he said. “It cleared the fog and lasted for weeks and weeks after. It enabled me to see outside the box of my own depression.”

Although there is no organized opposition to I-301, both Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and District Attorney Beth McCann have said they are against the proposed ordinance.

“At this point, I don’t think it’s a good idea,” McCann said. “We’re still figuring out marijuana, and even though things are going well so far, we’re still measuring the impacts on the people of Denver.”

Psilocybin for Mental Health

Research into the therapeutic uses of psilocybin is ongoing, according to Matthews.

“This measure is backed by strong medical data,” he said. “There is clearly a psychedelic renaissance underway, and we wanted to open a grass-roots campaign to address this issue.”

A study of terminally ill cancer patients was conducted at Johns Hopkins University in 2016 by Dr. Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology. He said that researchers found that treatment with psilocybin can result in a significant improvement in the mental well-being of patients.

“The most interesting and remarkable finding is that a single dose of psilocybin, which lasts four to six hours, produced enduring decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms, and this may represent a fascinating new model for treating some psychiatric conditions,” said Griffiths.

Six months after psilocybin treatment, 80 percent of the patients in the study showed significant decreases in anxiety and depression. Increases in well-being were reported by 83 percent of patients, while two-thirds said the treatment session was one of the five most meaningful experiences in their lives.

Griffiths said that the results of the study were even better than he anticipated.

“Before beginning the study, it wasn’t clear to me that this treatment would be helpful, since cancer patients may experience profound hopelessness in response to their diagnosis, which is often followed by multiple surgeries and prolonged chemotherapy,” he said. “I could imagine that cancer patients would receive psilocybin, look into the existential void and come out even more fearful. However, the positive changes in attitudes, moods and behavior that we documented in healthy volunteers were replicated in cancer patients.”

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