Denver voters approve measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms

Denver voters approve measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms

Denver voters approved of decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms, according to the final unofficial results posted Wednesday afternoon. The margin was remarkably slim, with 89,320 votes in favor of the proposal, and 87,341 against. The Denver Elections Division will continue to accept military and overseas ballots, but those ballots are not expected to a make a significant difference, even when the difference is 1,979 votes.

If you feel like you recently read the opposite of this news, don't worry, you're not tripping on magic mushrooms. On Tuesday, the measure was losing by several percentage points, and some news outlets prematurely reported its rejection.

In addition, the thinktank Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University jumped the gun by thanking voters for opposing Initiative 301. According to The Denver Post, director Jeff Hunt boasted, "Voters took an important step back from embracing yet another illicit drug." (Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, and, of this writing, has not yet degraded into a Mad Max-style dystopian hellscape.)

trippy cartoon of a woman with magic mushrooms Credit: Getty

When are the results are certified on May 16, Denver will officially become the first in the United States to decriminalize 'magic' mushrooms. (Barring an unprecedented wave of opposing votes from the military or residents overseas, of course.)

"It’s been one hell of a 21-and-a-half hours," stated Initiative 301 campaign manager Kevin Matthews, per the Denver Post. "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."

Should the initiative pass, psychedelic mushrooms will remain illegal to buy, sell or possess. Violators will still risk getting charged with a felony, which carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine. However, possession of psychedelic mushrooms, which grow naturally in the environment and have arguable medical benefits, would be considered police's "lowest law enforcement priority."

mushrooms lying on the table Credit: Getty

No, you're not tripping on 'shrooms, you read that last sentence correctly. Despite their reputation in pop culture as a ka-raaaazy party drug, some research indicates that psychedelic mushrooms have medical benefits. Recently scientists discovered that their key ingredient, psilocybin, helps treat anxiety in people with cancer and provides a possible "miracle cure" for depression - at least, when "micro-dosing," taking gradual, incremental doses over time. (Meanwhile, critics argue there is a risk of human error causing serious harm, and worry 'shrooms could interact badly with prescribed SSRI antidepressants, like Lexapro, Prozac and Xanax.)

In a paper published in the medical journal Scientific Reports, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris broke the benefits of psilocybin:

"We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted'. Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy."

Denver voters approved to decriminalize marijuana in 2005 and 2007 - could recreational mushrooms be a thing in the next decade? Time will tell. (Currently there are efforts in Oregon and California to get psilocybin-related measures on the ballot in 2020.)