On Feb. 1, the Denver Elections Division formally announced that Decriminalize Denver, a group dedicated to crafting a state-level framework for psilocybin cubensis, gathered enough signatures to get their initiative on the ballot for the May 7 municipal election. Although the campaign is just about to launch, the city is currently forging the path of the psychedelic movement.
The state required 4,726 signatures for the measure to advance to the next stage. But according to Kevin Matthews, the leader of Decriminalize Denver, the group collected 8,524; and Denver Elections verified 5,559. If voters pass the initiative–a possibility well within reach– Colorado will become the first jurisdiction in the country to decriminalize adult possession, use, and propagation of psychoactive mushrooms.
“I’m extremely optimistic,” Matthews tells High Times. “Just from speaking with people on the street while collecting signatures, a majority of them pretty much went down one of two avenues. It was either: ‘psilocybin’s been the only thing that’s helped with my depression, my cluster headaches, [or] it saved my relationship.’ Then there were others who said, ‘I don’t believe anybody should be criminalized for something that grows naturally. So, of course I’ll sign this.’”
Despite being thrilled, Matthews says it’s not time to celebrate. Decriminalize Denver has a hectic road ahead, considering the group has four months to fundraise, execute a multi-faceted education campaign, and solidify endorsements and organizational collaborations.
The grass-roots, volunteer-based group has over 50 people on the team. Their campaign committee, Matthews explains, is comprised of professionals–both men and women–in a number of different industries, including technology, cannabis, and drug policy reform. “It’s really exciting because everyone is unified under being ecstatic to share psilocybin and being able to spread the good word about it. Everyone is doing their part, which has made this campaign so humbling–everyone has a place in it.”
The mushroom movement in Denver is coming at a pivotal time–not just in history, but also in the collective consciousness. The resurgence of psychedelics (and research) is taking place while a massive portion of the world’s population is heavily addicted to pharmaceuticals and opioids.
According to a study by Jama International Medicine, 1 in 6 Americans are taking psychiatric medication. The report found that over 80 percent of those taking these meds (predominantly antidepressants, anxiolytics, sedatives, hypnotics, and antipsychotics) have used them long term. This is alarming, according to experts, because most of these drugs are recommended for shorter use, as they carry a number of serious risks if taken over an extended period of time. The psychedelic renaissance, however, is giving people permission to seek out alternative forms of medicine.
“Where we’re inserting [the initiative’s legal] language goes in the human rights portion of the Denver code, which is intentional,” says Matthews. “We have an opportunity to create something radically positive for our society…there’s a potential for something great here, and I think it’s why there’s so much support behind the movement. People understand that we need not criminalize for something that can really help.”
If the Denver Psilocybin Initiative is approved, personal use, possession, and growth of magic mushrooms for adults age 21 and over would become the city’s “lowest law enforcement priority” and “prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties.” The initiative would also initiate a psilocybin policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the new ordinance. This panel would function similarly to an already-existing panel for cannabis and would be comprised of eleven members, including two from the city council. Mushroom decriminalization similarly mirrors what Denver did with cannabis in 2005.
Like pot, psilocybin is considered a Schedule I substance. But over the past half-decade, an array of studies have collectively revealed a long-known truth: shrooms are a catalyst for acceptance and healing–all of which humanity desperately needs. And, as a leading city of drug policy reform, there might not be a better place than Denver to successfully ignite this type of mass-transformation.