Voters in the Mile High City appeared to have voted down a first-in-the nation plan to decriminalize the use and possession of “magic mushrooms” known for sending users on psychedelic journeys.
The measure was sponsored by a group of citizen activists, including a former cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who had touted the drug’s role in dramatically alleviating the symptoms of major depression.
Late Tuesday night, the measure appeared headed for defeat, with 52 percent of voters rejecting it.
Initiative 301, as it was known locally, would have changed city code to say that enforcing laws for possession of psilocybin mushrooms by people 21 or older “shall be the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver.”
But there were caveats. It would have still been illegal to possess “magic mushrooms,” and sales of the drug would still have been considered a felony. The federal government, which outlawed psilocybin in 1968, classifies it as a Schedule I drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
And yet a small body of research has found that the substance helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in cancer patients, and other advocates have said it helped treat post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
The substance, most commonly associated with the “hippie” culture of the 1960s, has been used in religious settings for decades, and it is known to radically alter perceptions — users have reported seeing vivid geometric patterns, shapes and colors — or inspire mystical experiences.
The city’s district attorney, Beth McCann, also opposed the initiative, partly because the city is still trying to understand the effects of marijuana decriminalization, both at the local and statewide local, according to her spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler.
Denver – the first major city to vote for decriminalizing a drug
Denver was the first major city to hold a public vote on decriminalizing such substances. Before the results were tallied, Decriminalize Denver campaign director Kevin Matthews, 33, said the measure had already proven to be a victory. The group collected more than 9,000 signatures to place the question before voters, mostly outside grocery stores and music venues.
“A lot of people who signed our petition said they are tired of seeing people going to jail over what they choose to put in their body,”Matthews said.
Matthews said making the drug legal could have helped with mental health and addiction problems.
“Potentially the American people are ready for a new conversation around our nation’s drug priorities. It’s a signal to the rest of the country that at least here in Denver we are ready to start removing some of these substances off the controlled substances list.”Matthews added.
Psilocybin has been classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance since 1970 by the federal government. That means it is considered a drug with with high abuse potential and no “accepted” medical value. It also means that university research and possession of the drug are prohibited under federal law. Marijuana, which is already legal across Colorado, is also a Schedule 1 drug.
Rock groups such as the Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band frequently used images of mushrooms in their logos, T-shirts and other merchandise.
The initiative would not have allowed the mushrooms to be sold under Denver’s cannabis businesses. Colorado, along with Washington, became the first states to allow recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21 in November 2012.