Politics & Policy

Denver Should Legalize Magic Mushrooms

Psilocybin mushrooms (Wikimedia)
Not only are they medically useful, but in a free country, people should be allowed to use whatever substances they want.

The decriminalization of magic (psilocybin) mushrooms is going to be on the ballot in Denver in May, and voters should definitely go for it.

On February 1, the Denver Elections Division certified a petition from decriminalization activists, noting that it had received enough signatures for voters to decide on the issue in the municipal election. The measure would decriminalize the use of psilocybin — or “magic” — mushrooms within city limits.

It’s important to note that the measure would not legalize the drug, but simply make stopping possession of it a low priority for police, prohibiting the city and county from using any of its resources to punish people ages 21 and older for possessing the drug. The drug would still, of course, be considered illegal on the federal level.

Although mushrooms are a drug that may carry a lot of stigma, voters would be right to pass this measure in May. In fact, speaking generally, I would argue that drug decriminalization is always the right choice. After all, we are supposed to be a country that was founded on the principles of freedom and individual liberty, and locking people up for what they choose to put in their own bodies certainly seems opposite to that philosophy.

Even aside from the general philosophical argument for the decriminalization of all drugs, there is a lot of evidence that the decriminalization of mushrooms in particular could be beneficial for a lot of people. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has designated psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” for depression. According to the company working toward approval of medicinal psilocybin, this means that “preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies.” “Breakthrough” status means that the therapy can move faster along the pathway to approval. As Reason notes in a column on the issue, a study sponsored by the British life-sciences company COMPASS Pathways found that its dozen participants experienced major improvements in their depression thanks to psilocybin. After one week, their mean score on the Quick Inventory of Depressive Systems, which ranges from 0 to 27, had dropped from 19.2 to 7.4. After three months, the mean was 10.0, which was 48 percent lower than the baseline.

Another study suggests that mushrooms are also helpful for the mental health of those who are suffering with life-threatening illnesses. In 2016, a Johns Hopkins study reported that cancer patients who had received psilocybin experienced an average 78 percent reduction in depression and an 83 percent reduction in anxiety.

Psilocybin may actually be a very helpful drug that could make life easier for a lot of people, and our laws should not stop people from being able to enjoy the benefits of that help. Dealing with depression can be very difficult, and we certainly shouldn’t be taking options away from people that might be able to help them with those issues.

I do understand, of course, that this measure would decriminalize the drug for all adults, and not just people who might have a medical need for it — but, to me, that’s even better. Our bodies should belong to ourselves, not to the government. If someone wants to take magic mushrooms to help them with their mental-health issues, they should absolutely be able to do so. If someone wants to take magic mushrooms because they want to feel giggly and weird and have fun with their friends, they should be able to do that, too. At the very least, it’s not like it’s hurting anyone else — and laws that punish “crimes” without victims shouldn’t exist in a free and fair country.

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