As legal marijuana booms, Denver votes on decriminalizing hallucinogenic mushrooms

If you thought legalized marijuana truly put the “high” in the Mile High City, wait until you hear what Denver is up to now. On Tuesday, residents will vote on whether to effectively decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, the hallucinogen used by some cultures for religious purposes for centuries, and outlawed by the federal government since 1970.

The movement to “Decriminalize Denver” is the nation’s first public referendum on “magic mushrooms,” after an effort in California failed to reach the ballot last year. Initiative 301 would apply only to Denver, not the entire state of Colorado. It would place into city code the directive that enforcing laws for personal use or possession of psilocybin mushrooms “shall be the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver,” though having the mushrooms would still technically be illegal. The mushrooms would not be available in the city’s cannabis dispensaries, and sales would still be classified as a felony. They would remain classified a Schedule I drug under federal law, as is marijuana, with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”


Attorney Noah Potter, who writes a blog about “psychedelic law” and deconstructs the problems with American drug law, helped Matthews write the language that is proposed to become law in Denver.

It started with activists getting medical marijuana passed in 1996 in California, Potter said, “because the regulatory system is nonresponsive to facts. It’s a non-evidence-based regulatory system.” The government’s disdain for the growing body of reports on psilocybin, Potter said, “is one of the reasons why it’s necessary to do these end runs around government.”