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Denver Is Pushing To Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have previously called for magic mushrooms to be re-categorized. Jaletan/Shutterstock

Denver is taking steps towards the decriminalization of magic mushrooms.

A petition by the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative has reached the required number of signatures to mandate a city-wide vote. As a result, citizens of the Colorado capital will be able to vote on the question of psilocybin decriminalization on the May 7, 2019 Municipal Election ballot. 


The Denver proposal will not directly make magic mushrooms legal, like a cup of coffee or a beer, per se. Instead, it seeks to make the drug a “lowest law-enforcement priority” by prohibiting the city from imposing criminal penalties on people over 21 for the use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms.

“An estimated 1 in 6 Americans are taking psychiatric medication, and there is a rampant epidemic of prescription drug abuse across the country,” Decriminalize Denver say on their website. “The need for powerful, medically-effective alternatives in addition to traditional pharmaceutical interventions is clear to all.”

“The bottom line is that no one should face severe criminal penalties for possessing, using, or cultivating a naturally occurring substance.”

Oregon is also making similar moves with a ballot initiative that could be voted on in 2020.


Inevitably, not everyone is happy with the idea. Conservative Christian think-tank director Jeff Hunt said: “Denver is quickly becoming the illicit drug capital of the world,” according to Reuters.

On the other hand, there is a growing field of scientific evidence to back up some of the initiative's ideas.

A 2010 study, published in The Lancet, rated a number of recreational drugs on how harmful they were, both to others and the user. Magic mushrooms were rated the least harmful of all the drugs in the study, posing zero risk of harm to others and minimal risk of harm to the user. Alcohol, however, was rated the most harmful, even above heroin and crack. Numerous later studies have mirrored these results regarding the relative safety of psilocybin.

Researchers have explored the idea of using magic mushrooms in a clinical setting, either to treat mental health problems or substance addiction, with some success. If this proposal is passed, it’s also hoped it could open the doors to more biomedical clinical trials involving psychedelics. 


Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have previously called for magic mushrooms to be re-categorized from a schedule I drug – one with no known medical potential, to a schedule IV drug – one with accepted medical use and a low potential for abuse. 

Of course, like any drug, the use of psilocybin does come with risks. The main concern is emotional distress from having a “bad trip” and potentially putting yourself in a dangerous position while you're vulnerable. That said, it’s also noted that the biggest danger to your health when taking magic mushrooms is eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake.


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