Denver Votes: Would It Become The First U.S. City to Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms?

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Denver could become the first American city to halt prosecution of people caught with psychedelic mushrooms, the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative said.

In May this year, the Denver voters will decide whether to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance contained in the so-called magic mushrooms. Earlier this week, the proposal, initiated by the locals, managed to gather the necessary amount  of signatures to be on the Denver's municipal ballot. 

It is worth mentioning that the referendum does not aim to legalize the magic mushrooms but to make them a low priority for law enforcement and criminal prosecution, the campaigners explained. The voters would have a say whether to approve the possession of the drug, regardless of its weight, for people above 21 years of age. However, the campaigners highlighted that the proposed law would not legalize the retail sales which heavily contributed to the international image of Denver as a cannabis-friendly city.

Kevin Matthews, the director of the initiative campaign, commented it would be the first of ballot question of its kind for the U.S. voters. Matthews also pointed out that the long-term goals of the campaign are to raise awareness about the medical benefits of the drug, citing its stress relief effects and reducing opioid dependency. 

Matthews also emphasized that Denver and the state of Colorado in general, have been among the pioneers in the U.S. regarding changing the drug policy. He specifically referred to the mid-2000s referendum in Denver about the marijuana decriminalization and the legal sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. As a result, the marijuana sales in Colorado have surpassed $1 billion as of August 2018, with tax revenue of $200 million, estimated a report by the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue. In a way, commented Matthews, marijuana opened the door to new drug policies in Colorado. What do the scientists say?

Asked to comment on the proposed legislative change in Denver, Matthew W. Johnson, a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who has been using psilocybin to treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, he expressed concerns about its potential public exposure in Colorado. According to Prof. Johnson, the easier access to the drug may increase the risks of psychotic disorders.

His colleague, the UCLA psychiatry professor Charles Grob, who has also researched the drug shared his view, pointing out that if the drug is available to the masses, there should be a robust and widespread education campaign about its proper use.

Do you think Denver would become the first U.S. city to legalize magic mushrooms?