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360° Perspective: Decriminalizing “magic” mushrooms

Posted: 9:55 PM, May 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-15 14:31:16-04

Denver is the first American city to vote in favor of decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms.

Initiative 301 barely passed with a 50.6 percent majority and is set to go in effect this week. We’re breaking down the specifics of the initiative and talking about how this unprecedented move could play out in this 360° Perspective.

Here are some basic facts about so-called “magic mushrooms” from drugpolicy.org :

  • They are non-addictive, naturally occurring organisms that have been used for thousands of years for ceremonial and medicinal purposes around the world.
  • There are several types of psycho-active mushrooms and all of them have the main ingredient called psilocybin.
  • The effects are difficult to categorize and can depend on a number of factors- such as each person, the environment, what kind of mushrooms are consumed and how much you take.
  • The effects can be anything from mild relaxation to hallucinations, studies have shown it’s neurologically similar to dreaming.
  • Users could also experience extended periods of anxiety, paranoia, and nervousness.
  • It is possible to overdose on mushrooms which can have negative physical and mental effects, but deaths are extremely rare.
  • The danger in consuming mushrooms mostly lies in mistakingly ingesting a poisonous kind as opposed to a psycho-active one.

Here’s what Initiative 301 does:

  • It directs Denver law enforcement to treat psilocybin mushrooms as their lowest priority.
  • People 21 and older with mushrooms for personal use won’t be arrested.
  • It prohibits the use of city money or resources to enforce criminal penalties for people caught with these mushrooms.
  • The mayor has to establish a panel to review the effects of the new policy by the end of the year.
  • The election results will be certified May 16th and with that, it instantly goes into effect.

To clear up some confusion it will still be illegal to sell and distribute mushrooms.

  • We won’t see mushroom stores popping up around our state capitol. It also won’t help anyone with past criminal convictions for mushroom-related charges.
  • Supporters are hoping the city will later pass measures similar to the one expunging low-level marijuana offenses.
  • Another major change with the initiative- as part of relaxing punishment for possession, people will be able to grow them in their homes without fear of getting busted.

As far as crime trends in Denver the impact of decriminalization will be relatively low.

According to the police department and DA’s office in the last three years, Denver has averaged 52 mushroom-related arrests. They prosecuted 9,200 drug cases and only 11 involved psilocybin- of those only three were for “intent to distribute.”

Things could change.

Denver City Council has the power to intervene by changing the way the initiative works or by slowing its implementation.

That’s what happened in 2016 when voters approved business licenses for public consumption of marijuana in the city. Council implemented more restrictions than what voters passed and today there is only one officially licensed social consumption business. The city’s DA and the mayor had opposed the initiative before the vote.

Much like the movement to decriminalize and eventually legalize marijuana the group “ Decriminalize Denver ” has cited medical reasons as their motivation for change.

The mushroom advocacy group “ Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies ” website has links to several ongoing and fully published scientific studies on psilocybin and its effects.

Advocates in Colorado hope this is the first big step toward full legalization of psilocybin mushrooms.

There are those against this movement as well.

Jeff Hunt is the Director of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, he says , Denver is quickly becoming the illicit drug capital of the world. He worries we have no idea the long term health effects of these drugs.

And a reminder psilocybin mushrooms are federally classified as an illegal drug by the DEA.

This report was produced by Logan McCrary.
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