Denver activists who successfully led a 2019 campaign to make the city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin possession have their eyes set on broader reform, with plans in the works to end the criminalization of noncommercial gifting and communal use of the psychedelic.
Kevin Matthews, who spearheaded the 2019 effort and now serves as the founder of Vote Nature, recently shared some details about the forthcoming push to get the City Council to expand decriminalization under a measure tentatively called the 2021 Denver Community Psilocybin Initiative.”
In a GoFundMe post seeking contributions to sustain his work on the local reform push, Matthews, who is also president of the city’s official Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel, said the purpose of the proposal will be to ensure that people “have the liberty to gather in private group settings to celebrate and commune with psilocybin mushrooms without worrying about law enforcement intervention.”
Further, activists will be urging legislators to adopt policies requiring first-responder training on psychedelics harm reduction, promoting public education on the responsible use of psilocybin mushrooms, creating a law enforcement and medical database on psilocybin-related interactions for “ongoing public safety monitoring” and diversifying the review panel that oversees Denver’s decriminalization ordinance.
“All of these exciting new developments and recommendations are coming off the heels of the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel’s 2021 Comprehensive Report, a 60-page document detailing the impact of decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms in Denver, which we’ll be presenting in the coming weeks,” he wrote.
“Colorado overall is among the worst states in the country in terms of adults experiencing mental health issues,” Matthews told Marijuana Moment. “Psilocybin mushrooms, clearly, have the potential to be a novel solution to these issues. It falls on the shoulders of lawmakers and policymakers to become educated, no longer deny human history and simply honor ancient traditions by expanding civil liberties and human rights to use psilocybin mushrooms in an informed and safe way.”
“The City and County of Denver now has the opportunity to take the lead nationally and finally start exploring real solutions to the mental health crisis that is plaguing our communities so that we can begin to heal,” he said.
The report from the city’s psilocybin review panel, which has been approved by the district attorney and is pending further sign-off by other officials, is expected to be released next month.
Since Denver’s first move to end criminalization for so-called magic mushrooms, there’s been a surge in interest in psychedelics reform at the local, state and federal level.
Most recently, a California Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics advanced through several Assembly committees, but it will not move further this year following a decision by the sponsor that more time is needed to build the case for the reform and solidify its chances of being enacted.
Meanwhile, California psychedelics activists recently filed a petition for the 2022 ballot to make the state the first in the nation to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for any use. Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan City Council approved the policy change last year—and recently, local lawmakers passed a resolution to officially designate September as Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month.
The governor of Connecticut recently signed legislation recently that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.
Texas also recently enacted a bill to require the state study the medical benefits of psychedelics for military veterans.
A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.
In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.
After Ann Arbor legislators passed a decriminalization resolution last year, a county prosecutor recently announced that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi—“regardless of the amount at issue.”
The Aspen, Colorado City Council discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and proposals to decriminalize such substances at a meeting in May. But members said, as it stands, enacting a reform would be more better handled at the state level while entheogens remain strictly federally controlled.
Seattle lawmakers also recently sent a letter to members of a local task force focused on the opioid overdose epidemic, imploring the group to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like ayahuasca and ibogaine in curbing addiction.
Meanwhile, Portland, Oregon activists are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.
In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.
Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support expanded marijuana studies, for example
It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.
When it comes to broader drug policy reform, Oregon voters also approved an initiative in November to decriminalize possession of all drugs. This year, the Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill, but it later died in the Senate.
In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.
Image courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.