Law & the Courts

Denver Becomes First U.S. City to Decriminalize ‘Magic Mushrooms’

Psilocybin mushrooms (Wikimedia)

Denver residents voted Tuesday to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms.”

Though the final results won’t be released until May 16, preliminary election totals suggest the decriminalization side won 51 percent of the vote. The victory does not legalize psilocybin but effectively ensures that adults 21 years of age and older will not be prosecuted for possessing the fungus.

“I think today’s outcome really demonstrates that the conversation is going to continue, and the world is ready for it,” Cindy Sovine, chief political strategist for the campaign to decriminalize the drug, told the Associated Press.

“Psychedelics are already here. Now we can start to have the conversation about using them mindfully,” she added.

Supporters of decriminalization point to research that indicates psilocybin can be an effective in combatting treatment-resistant depression, even when used on a very infrequent basis. Campaigns are now under way in California and Oregon to get psilocybin decriminalization on the 2020 ballot.

Opponents, meanwhile, believe the vote will hasten a cultural decline that began with the state-wide legalization of cannabis in 2014.

“We’ll continue to fight the growing drug culture. Denver’s becoming the illicit drug capital of the world. The larger issue here is not good for our city,” Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, told the Denver Post“Marijuana has brought more problems than it’s solved to our city and our state, and if we continue to go down this track, we’re going to continue to see Colorado get in worse and worse shape.”

DEA in Denver agents told NPR that they will continue treating psilocybin possession and trafficking as felonies since it remains a schedule one drug under federal law, a classification that reflects its having “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The incongruity between local and federal law widens a gap that opened with the legalization of cannabis, which adults can now legally consume for medical purposes in 33 states.

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