Denver becomes the first U.S. city to decriminalize 'magic mushrooms'

Erika Holt
May 11, 2019

Denver on Wednesday became the first USA city to decriminalise psychedelic mushrooms, as voters approved a ballot initiative by a razor thin margin.

With all precincts reporting late Tuesday night, the "no" votes for the initiative held a substantial lead over the "yes" votes, according to unofficial returns.

In January, Decriminalize Denver announced that it collected almost 9,500 signatures, and turned in paperwork with the Denver Elections Division to get the initiative placed on the ballot.

Tuesday's referendum, which was the first United States public vote on magic mushrooms, asked voters if the personal use and possession of the drug should be the city's "lowest law enforcement priority". The final results will be certified on May 16.

Denver residents first voted to decriminalize marijuana possession in 2004, years before Colorado voters ultimately approved its legalization statewide for recreational purposes, establishing a full regulatory framework to license retail outlets and collect sales taxes on cannabis products. It also calls for the creation of an 11-member psilocybin review panel to report back on the impact on public health and safety.

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For decades, magic mushrooms have been attractive in certain religious practices due to their powerful hallucinogenic effects, and the substance has since gained mass appeal in terms of recreational use. Denver's becoming the illicit drug capital of the world.

While research has reported that mushrooms actually help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, with users describing powerful and positive spiritual experiences, the federal government still classifies psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug, and considers them to have no medical goal with a high potential for abuse. The ban stymied medical research, but small studies in recent years have found the substance had positive effects on anxiety and depression for cancer patients.

The federal government classifies psilocybin as a Schedule I drug, with no medical objective and a high potential for abuse. "One arrest is too many".

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposes the initiative along with District Attorney Beth McCann, but there has been no organized campaign against decriminalization.

Some opponents worry that if passed, the initiative would increase the city's image as a haven for drugs, given that Colorado was one of the first states to legalize possession and sale of marijuana for adult recreational use.

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