Denver, Colorado could pave the way for the decriminalization of magic mushrooms in the US.
On May 7, voters in Denver have the potential to make US history when they vote on Initiative 301. If passed, the ballot initiative would make Denver the first place in the country to formally decriminalize use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms (a.k.a. magic mushrooms) for people 21 or older. This means individuals won't serve jail time for getting caught with a few 'shrooms, but will instead receive a simple fine. Policing regulation around manufacturing and distributing psilocybin mushrooms would stay the same.
The Decriminalize Denver group has been the main leader in the campaign on a yes vote for the initiative. Both the Denver Green Party and the Libertarian Party of Colorado have also voiced support for the initiative.
"No one should go to jail, lose their children, lose their job, and lose their citizen’s rights for using a mushroom," reads a statement on Decriminalize Denver's website. "One arrest is too many for something with such low and manageable risks for most people, relative to its potential benefits."
Colorado, of course, has a history of enacting progressive drug-reform policies. Back in 2012, the Centennial State became the first to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults, kicking off a trend that has gradually been taken up in states across the US.
Those in favor of decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms say doing so would let law enforcement officers focus on more pressing issues than pursuing non-violent offenders caught with what is a relatively safe drug. There is even growing research to suggest that psilocybin mushrooms may have legitimate medicinal applications as well.
Similar arguments were key aspects of legalizing cannabis in Colorado, so it's possible that Denver's move could reverberate throughout the state.
However, the proposed policy does have its detractors. Opponents claim decriminalizing the drug will lead to increased consumption and abuse of mushrooms, which could endanger the public if, for instance, people drop mushrooms and drive. And some people have pointed to potential risks associated with consuming psilocybin mushrooms, such as accidental harm and psychological trauma. Others fear decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms will cause Denver to ear the reputation of a drug-friendly city.
"Denver is quickly becoming the illicit drug capital of the world," James Hunt, vice president of public policy for Colorado Christian University told The Denver Channel. "The truth is we have no idea what the long-term health effects of these drugs are going to do to the people of Colorado."
To date, however, there is no official, registered opposition to the initiative.
Colorado has not seen an increase in cannabis use since legalization, so drug reform doesn't necessarily lead to a spike in drug use. There are also a number of studies showing that cannabis legalization doesn't cause more car crashes. So it's reasonable to suggest that the same would be true of decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms.
While Denver has the opportunity to become the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms when the measure goes up for a vote next week, other jurisdictions aren't far behind. Voters in Oregon could have their say on decriminalizing the substance on a statewide level come next year.
So who knows, as the age of federal cannabis legalization appears to be approaching, maybe psilocybin mushrooms will be the next federally banned substance to see a new age of liberalized regulations.