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It’s Official: Denver to Vote on Whether to Decriminalize “Magic Mushrooms”
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It’s Official: Denver to Vote on Whether to Decriminalize “Magic Mushrooms”

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Activists in Denver have been making an unprecedented push for the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms. The measure would do away with felony charges for people caught in possession of them.

A group of activists called the Denver Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative has collected 5,559 signatures – well above the 4,726 signatures (5% of the total votes from the most recent mayoral election) – on a petition to put the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms to vote, which means the measure will appear on the May 7 ballot, according to CBS Denver.

“After reviewing signatures submitted by the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative it has been determined that they submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures and the question will appear on the 7 May municipal election ballot,” the city’s Elections Division said in a statement.

“Nationally, Denver and the state of Colorado have represented the first movers in a revised understanding of the potential benefits of naturally-occurring psychoactive medicines,” the group said on its website.

Mushrooms – which, according to the group behind the ballot, have medical benefits that could reduce psychological stress and opioid dependence – were made illegal in the U.S. under President Richard Nixon’s 1970 Controlled Substances Act.

Since then, John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy advisor, has openly admitted that the criminalization of various narcotics, stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens under the act was an overt attempt to vilify hippies and black people. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? “Of course we did,” said Ehrlichman in a 1994 interview.

The city will not be the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushroom, though. It has been legal to grow and consume fresh mushrooms (but not dried mushrooms) in New Mexico since 2005, following a ruling by the state’s court of appeals.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State in Oregon has approved language for a 2020 ballot measure on mushrooms; if the proposal gets 117,578 signatures, then the state’s citizens will also vote on whether to decriminalize the drug.

Kevin Matthews of Decriminalize Denver with his petition / Facebook

Kevin Matthews, 33, campaign director for Decriminalize Denver, said worries about expanded drug use under the measure are unwarranted.

“Nothing on our ballot question would do anything to increase access – it does not allow for distribution and sale,” Matthews told Reuters in a phone interview, adding that mushrooms have helped treat his depression. Though Matthews’ claims haven’t been independently verified, they aren’t implausible.

Matthews said that even if psilocybin wasn’t decriminalized as a result of the poll, he hoped the resulting debate would educate people about the drug and reduce the number of users going to prison.

“I think it’s going to be pretty big,” the 33-year-old, who says he use mushrooms for depression, told The Denver Post. “There are a lot of people throughout our country that want to see the drug policy laws change around psychedelics and psilocybin in particular.”

He added that this change in policy “would not increase access at all” but merely prevent average users from being prosecuted.

“There’s a lot of support, and now that we’re on the ballot and this is official, we have a real chance here to have this national conversation.”

There’s a growing body of research on using psychedelic drugs to treat mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

In October 2018, a trial on using psilocybin, the key ingredient in psychedelic “magic mushrooms,” to treat depression was given “breakthrough therapy designation” by the FDA, which means it will be fast-tracked through the drug-development process.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University also argued last year in a review of the research published in the November issue of Neuropharmacology that the drug should be reclassified from its current status as a schedule I drug (a dangerous substance with high potential for abuse and no known medical potential), to a schedule IV drug (a prescription medication with low potential for abuse or dependency, such as Valium and Xanax) in order to better study its medicinal uses.

A Quartz investigation showed that a startup called Compass Pathways had received approval from the FDA to develop treatments for depression – and possibly even pharmaceuticals with psilocybin – and had taken steps to create a monopoly on medicinal applications of the chemical. If the fungi that produce the drug were legal to grow and use, it would be far more difficult for any organization to raise prices and restrict patient access to psilocybin as treatment.

According to a recent study from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, psychedelic mushrooms tend to make people “more resistant to authority.” They also found the psychedelic experience induced by these mushrooms also cause people to be more “connected with nature.”

But, though studies suggest mushrooms can have beneficial uses, the very scientists behind this research are wary of decriminalizing the drug outright.

Matthew W. Johnson, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told NBC in June that he was concerned about the risk of bad trips and how mushrooms could affect people with psychotic disorders.

In the meantime, in his 2014 report, Johnson suggested that psilocybin mushrooms could help long-time smokers kick their habit. Six months after the study, 80% of the test subjects who smoked, on average, 19 cigarettes a day for 31 years had quit smoking and showed no signs of turning back. This success rate is far better than many other methods with success rates of 30 or 35% which are said to help people quit smoking.

“Quitting smoking isn’t a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, as with other medications that directly affect nicotine receptors. When administered after careful preparation and in a therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change,” Johnson said.

Charles Grob, psychiatry professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, agreed that mushrooms “should not be treated in a trivial manner,” and said that, if they ever were widely available, citizens should be educated on the drugs’ effects.

If the measure passes, that doesn’t necessarily mean locals and weed tourists will just be able to grab a bag of mushrooms with their other edibles.

Instead, “The initiative would make the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by adults 21 and older the lowest law-enforcement priority and prevent the city from using resources to impose penalties.” And although there would be no distinction between recreational and medical mushroom use, only growing mushrooms would be decriminalized, not selling.

Some opponents worry that if passed, the ordinance would further tarnish the city’s image, given that recreational marijuana is already allowed under Colorado law, and another proposal by the city to create the country’s first safe injection site for intravenous drug users was approved by the city council in November.

“This is a serious problem, Denver is quickly becoming the illicit drug capital of the world. When you look at all the things that we’re dealing with, you have high potency pot, you have proposals for supervised needle infection sights,” Jeff Hunt, vice president of public policy at Colorado Christian University and Director the Centennial Institute, said in a statement. “High potency pot, proposed needle injection sites, and now an effort to decriminalize mushrooms.”

Mayor Michael Hancock also indicated he would be against any such move.

“He will not be supporting this ballot measure,” his office said.

Author: USA Really