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Denver’s Psilocybin Initiative Moves Forward to Signature Gathering Phase

Could psilocybin mushrooms actually be legalized in Denver?

A.J. Herrington

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An initiative that would legalize psilocybin mushrooms in Denver has received approval from city election officials to begin gathering signatures. Proponents of the measure hope to obtain enough signatures to qualify the measure for the May 2019 ballot.

Kevin Matthews, the campaign manager for Denver for Psilocybin, said the action by the Denver Elections Division is a historic achievement in drug policy reform.

“This is a landmark moment for Denver, for Colorado, and for the country. We have an opportunity here to make some real impact and change in people’s lives,” Matthews said.

If the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative passes, it would make the possession, use, and propagation of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and older the “city’s lowest law-enforcement priority.” The measure also will “prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties” on those who possess or cultivate psilocybin mushrooms for personal use. The measure also creates a city “psilocybin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance.”

Denver for Psilocybin submitted the initiative to city officials for review on September 10. After certification by the city, the initiative was sent to the Denver Elections Division on October 2. On October 5 the division said signature gathering could begin. To qualify for the ballot for the citywide election to be held in May 2019, backers of the initiative must gather signatures of at least 4,726 registered Denver voters by January 7.

Matthews said that he believes with this step behind them, his group will succeed in getting the measure qualified for the ballot.

“We just needed to get approved,” said Matthews. “I’m very optimistic we’re going to get the signatures.”

Activists Gearing Up For Campaign

Kayvan Khalatbari, a cannabis consultant and dispensary owner and Denver mayoral candidate, said this his campaign has conducted polling on the psilocybin issue.

“It is not showing as likely to pass at this point,” Khalatbari says. “But we have to keep in mind that this is prior to an educational campaign. This is prior to us, as a Denver community, having a conversation.”

Matthews said that his team at Denver for Psilocybin was ready for the campaign.

“We’ve brought together a really robust team to work on this,” Matthews said.

Despite fears that including the growing of psilocybin mushrooms in the measure might be going too far for many voters, Matthews said that cultivation is an important part of the initiative.

“It’s a natural right. It’s a human right. This one is our Hail Mary victory shot,” Matthews said. “It’s more a matter of public opinion. Are people ready to accept that people are already propagating?”

Previous Attempt Unsuccessful

Denver for Psilocybin first announced its intention to put a psilocybin initiative on the ballot in March of this year, hoping to qualify for this year’s election in November. However, the group’s first attempt was not successful, due to language technicalities and other factors. Matthews said that an effort in the original initiative to exempt Denver residents from federal and state drug laws had gone too far.

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