Magic mushrooms make ballot in Denver


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Colorado, election officials have verified the needed amount of signatures to qualify the Denver Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative for the city’s May 2019 ballot. Oregon petitioners are working to qualify a similar measure.

Known as “magic mushrooms,” the psychedelic fungi have personal, therapeutic and religious uses. Aldous Huxley famously mentioned them as being keys that open the “doors of perception.”

The Denver initiative makes psilocybin the lowest law enforcement priority in the city, blocks law enforcement from spending tax dollars enforcing laws against psilocybin use and possession and establishes a review panel.

Mind, medicine, magic … and felony

“Under current Colorado law, with the exception of marijuana, simple drug possession can carry felony charges leading to devastating consequences including incarceration and a lifelong criminal record,” noted  Art Way, Colorado State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“People across the state want to do things differently.” he added. “While psilocybin is behind a relatively small portion of these arrests, it’s terrific that Denver voters will have the opportunity to chip away at the drug war through this initiative.”

Felony drug filings are a substantial driver of mass criminalization and subsequent incarceration in Denver and Colorado.

Surprising amount of support

recent report highlights the broader problem and reveals community support for fundamentally changing Colorado’s approach to drug policy to focus resources on prevention and treatment instead of incarceration and punishment:

  • 63 percent of Colorado voters think the Legislature should reduce the prison population by lowering the penalty for simple drug possession;
  • 79 percent of Colorado voters agree the state should focus more on prevention and treatment and less on incarceration and punishment;
  • The number of drug felony cases filed in Colorado’s 2nd Judicial District (Denver) increased four percent in 2018. The district has experienced a 137 percent increase since 2012;
  • Statewide, annual drug felony filings have more than doubled from 2012 – 2018. This increase is correlated with significant growth in the state’s prison budget.

No panacea for Drug War harms

More comprehensive decriminalization of drug use and possession, beyond decriminalization of psilocybin and with attention to low-level drug sales, is necessary to achieve the cost savings and public health outcomes that will maximally benefit Colorado.

Advocates will look to defelonize drug use and possession statewide in the current legislative session.