Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms

Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms
Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms
Peter Dejong, The Associated Press

Psychedelic mushrooms are seen at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands, in this 2007 file photo.

Denver is poised to become the first city in the nation to effectively decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

After trailing in results postings Tuesday night and early Wednesday, final unofficial results just posted showed a reversal of fortune — with Initiative 301 set to pass with nearly 50.6 percent of the vote. The total stands at 89,320 votes in favor and 87,341 against — a margin of 1,979 votes.

The Denver Elections Division expects to continue accepting military and overseas ballots, but typically those numbers are small. Results will be certified May 16.

“It’s been one hell of a 21-and-a-half hours,” Initiative 301 campaign manager Kevin Matthews said. “If these results hold, this is an example of the absurd comedy of the great metaphor. Against all odds, we prevailed. This is what happens when a small team of dedicated and passionate people unite under a single idea to create change.”

As written, I-301 directs police via ordinance to treat enforcement of laws against possession of psilocybin mushrooms as their lowest priority.

It’s similar to decriminalization measures approved by Denver voters for marijuana years before Colorado’s Amendment 64 legalized the possession and sale of that drug.

While efforts are afoot to get psilocybin-related measures on the ballot in Oregon and California in 2020, Denver hosted the first-ever U.S. popular vote on the matter, according to organizers. An earlier effort in California last year failed to qualify for the ballot.

No organized opposition had formed to I-301. But Tuesday night, based on a losing margin of several percentage points at the time, the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University applauded Denver voters “for opposing the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms.” Director Jeff Hunt added: “Voters took an important step back from embracing yet another illicit drug.”

Turns out, he jumped the gun.

The gap tightened throughout the night, and by 1 a.m. Wednesday, when Denver Elections put out its last release before pausing counting for the night, the measure still was losing by a 3.4-percentage-point margin. It overcame that margin by the end of the main count, just after 4 p.m.

Matthews was “on pins and needles” waiting for the final results, he said earlier Wednesday, but noted: “We’re thrilled that we made it even this far.”

Psychedelic mushrooms still would remain illegal to buy, sell or possess, with the latter crime a felony that carries a potential punishment of up to a year in prison and a fine. Initiative 301 backers hope to lower the risk users face of getting caught with mushrooms.

The past marijuana efforts are instructive, though. Denver voters signed off on decriminalization measures in 2005 and 2007, but that didn’t stop police from enforcing the law — though drug law-liberalization advocates say the public discussion prompted by the ballot initiatives helped pave the way for statewide legalization in 2012.

Initiative 301 calls for Denver to create a panel to monitor the effects of the ordinance.

This story will be updated.

This content was originally published here.

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