People can now apply to become a member of the nation’s first government panel dedicated to studying the impact of psychedelic policy reform efforts.
Denver became the first city in the U.S. to make psilocybin offenses the lowest law enforcement priority in May, sparking a nationwide movement to reform laws governing psychedelics. As part of that voter-approved initiative, the city was required to establish a panel designed to “assess and report on the effects of the ordinance.”
On Wednesday, the city government opened an application portal for individuals interested in joining the body.
The Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel will comprised of eleven people, mostly appointed by the mayor. Two members must come from the City Council, one must be a harm reduction advocate, two must be a representatives of the local sheriff’s department and Denver Police Department, one must be a criminal defense attorney, one must be a representative of the local district attorney’s office and one must be a representative of the City Attorney’s office. Two members will be chosen by the original petitioners behind the decriminalization ballot measure.
“Our target is to have Denver set a precedent for the rest of the country and be an example for what successful implementation of a psilocybin decriminalization initiative looks like in a city,” Kevin Matthews, who led the successful Decriminalize Denver campaign, told Marijuana Moment in an interview.
While the ballot measure mandated that the review panel be formed by December 31, Matthews said that the mayor’s office is following through with the campaign’s request to move ahead sooner and have members in place by the end of October.
“In many ways implementing the review panel is the most important part of what we accomplished last May,” he said, adding that the early formation of the body “is an example of the work we’re doing here in Denver and what’s possible for the future.”
1. Elect a chairperson and meet at least quarterly or more frequently as necessary;
2. By the March 31 immediately following the adoption of the ballot measure, establish reporting criteria for the Denver Police Department, the Denver Sheriff Department and Denver City Attorney’s Office to report psilocybin mushroom arrests and prosecutions;
3. Submit a comprehensive written report with recommendations to the City Council that will include, but not be limited to, information concerning the public safety, public administration, public health and fiscal impacts of the measure. This report must be completed and presented at the first available City Council Committee Meeting for calendar year 2021.
Members will serve three-year terms and won’t be compensated.
People can apply for a position on the board via the city’s website.
Rather than take one of the two seats to be chosen by the decriminalization campaign, Matthews said he will ask the mayor to appoint him to an additional non-voting ex officio slot so that the formal spaces can go to an attorney and medical doctor with relevant expertise.
He said he hopes the panel will explore broader issues beyond the basic matter of how psilocybin-related arrests will presumably decline in the wake of the ballot measure’s passage.
The vote, he said, “sparked a broader conversation about our city’s enforcement policies when it comes to drug offenders” and that the campaign has already had conversations with the district attorney’s office and mayor’s team about “behavioral health in general.”
Calling Denver a “microcosm of the global mental health and addiction crisis,” Matthews said he wants to “utilize this panel to really start to explore what’s possible in terms of psilocybin therapy’s being an integral part of Denver’s healthcare system.”
“My hope is that we can explore some of these broader issues,” he said.
Denver’s historic decriminalization vote set off a surge of similar initiatives across the country. Following the campaign’s success, Oakland’s City Council unanimously approved a measure to decriminalize not just psilocybin but a host of psychedelics that may hold therapeutic potential in the treatment of various mental health conditions.
Decriminalize Denver, which led the city’s decriminalization initiative, has since morphed into SPORE, a national advocacy group that’s collaborating with activists across the country to reduce criminal penalties for psychedelics offenses.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.