Denver voters will have the chance to approve a measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in May, city officials announced on Friday.
Last month, the advocacy group Decriminalize Denver said they submitted what they believed to be more than enough signatures to qualify for the May 7, 2019 city ballot.
The activists needed about 4,700 valid signatures to qualify, and the Denver Elections Division confirmed that they exceed that requirement by more than 800 signatures.
After reviewing signatures submitted by the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative it has been determined that they submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures and the question will appear on the May 7, 2019 Municipal Election ballot. #DenverVotes
— Denver Elections (@DenverElections) February 1, 2019
“This has never been done before in the history of the U.S., so the fact that we were able to turn out the signatures and make the ballot is a strong statement that there are a lot of people who support this,” Kevin Matthews, director of Decriminalize Denver, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “We’ve created a platform where we can spread the right information about psilocybin as opposed to the misinformation and, really just downright propaganda from the government, and the war on drugs for the last almost 50 years now.”
The initiative seeks to make possession, personal consumption and cultivation of the substance “the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority” for adults 21 and older. The city government would also be prohibited from using funds to impose criminal penalties against adults for low-level psilocybin offenses.
Additionally, the measure calls for the establishment of a policy review panel that would be responsible for creating reports about the impact of the psilocybin decriminalization in the city.
Matthews recognized that the success of his group’s initiative could ignite reform efforts statewide and in jurisdictions throughout the country, but for now, they’re “hyper-focused on Denver” and “hyper-focused on decriminalization.”
“We are confident that when this passes in May that it’ll open some doors to further conversation,” he said. “Our big mission here is to work on reintegrating psilocybin back into society.”
For the time being, however, Decriminalize Denver is singularly focused on rallying support for the measure ahead of May’s election.
If voters approve the proposal, it would make Denver the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin.
Next steps for Decriminalize Denver include rolling out an educational campaign that highlights the research behind psilocybin’s medical value and features personal anecdotes from individuals who’ve used the substance therapeutically. The group will “engage Denver residents and create a safe container for people to not only share their experiences but ask the important questions.”
Advocates are also working “behind the scenes” to line up endorsements ahead of the May election. Currently, the initiative is endorsed by the Colorado Libertarian Party and the Denver Green Party.
There are some notable parallels between calls for marijuana and psilocybin decriminalization—namely that both of relatively safe natural substances with therapeutic potential. Whether psilocybin reform picks up the way marijuana legalization has in the years to come is yet to be seen, but Denver isn’t the only place actively weighing the prospect.
In Oregon, a group is working to legalize psilocybin for medical purposes and otherwise reduce penalties for possession or cultivation. The Oregon Psilocybin Society is aiming to qualify their measure for the state’s 2020 ballot, and a recent poll showed that voters supports its provisions.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mädi.