Skip to main content

In Historic Come-from-Behind Victory, Denver Magic Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative Passes [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1065)
Politics & Advocacy

Hours after numerous media outlets (including us) had the Denver magic mushroom initiative going down to defeat Tuesday night, it managed a near-miraculous last-minute comeback to squeak out a victory by a margin of 50.56% to 49.44%, late Wednesday afternoon, according to unofficial Denver Election Division results.

Election officials tweeted that "the results remain unofficial" until the city certifies them on May 16. If they hold, Denver will become the first locality in the United States to effectively decriminalize the use and possession of a psychedelic substance.

Even Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the measure, had conceded defeat Tuesday night, with group leader Kevin Matthews saying "it's not a loss, it's a lesson," as the measure trailed by thousands of votes throughout the evening. But then the worm turned, and now Denver has broken new ground.

With passage of I-301, the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative, voters have told the city they want to "deprioritize, to the greatest extent possible, the imposition of criminal penalties on persons 21 years of age and older for the personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms." The measure also "prohibits the city and county of Denver from spending resources on imposing criminal penalties on persons 21 years of age and older for the personal use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms."

Personal possession is defined under the measure to include growing one's own mushrooms, but the mushrooms not be "used or displayed in public." The measure does not decriminalize sales, saying they are still subject to prosecution under state law.

Decriminalize Denver campaigned on the criminal and social justice implications of the proposal, as well as touting the potential therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms. Interest in those benefits is part of a psychedelic renaissance underway for years now that is manifested not only in significant increases in the number of young people reporting having used hallucinogens, but also an explosion of research into the therapeutic properties of psychedelics.

magic mushrooms (Greenoid/Flickr)
Denver may be the first place where the psychedelic renaissance passes an electoral test, but it won't be the last where it's tried. The Oregon Psilocybin Society is already in the signature-gathering phase of its 2020 Oregon Psilocybin Service Initiative, while just to the south, a group calling itself Decriminalize California is just beginning efforts to get on the 2020 ballot with a statewide decriminalization there. Those same activists tried but failed to get on the ballot last year.

For the Drug Policy Alliance, Wednesday's victory in Denver was only the beginning.

"No one should be arrested or incarcerated simply for using or possessing psilocybin or any other drug," said the group's Colorado state director, Art Way. "If anything, this initiative doesn't go nearly far enough. Given the scientific and public support for decriminalizing all drugs, as Portugal has done successfully, we need broader reforms that can scale back the mass criminalization of people who use drugs."

The state -- and the nation -- need to go further, Way said: "More than a million people are arrested each year in the US for drug possession, but this has done nothing to reduce the availability of drugs or the harms they can cause. More comprehensive is necessary to achieve the cost savings and public health outcomes that will maximally benefit Colorado."

But Denver's magic mushroom decriminalization is a beginning.

Drug Policy Alliance is a financial supporter of Drug War Chronicle.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Dain Bramage (not verified)

Stop the drug war!

Indeed.  Thanks and congratulations to all involved in passing I-301!

I am delighted at the results of this historic election. But, this was not "magic"; rather, it was the result of dedicated activism and motivated voters.

A couple points about the election itself:

1. There are, no doubt, a number of old-school drug warriors out there, still smarting from their recent and rapid descent from power as the floodgates of marijuana legalization have begun to open, who are going apoplectic right about now.  My point is, not everyone will be celebrating this result; our enemies in this conflict -- Attorney General William Barr, for example, who is presently being held in contempt of Congress by the House Judiciary Committee -- are not well known for respecting the rules of democracy... Let me rephrase that: they are lying, cheating, violent, criminal, fascist thugs.  There will be pushback.  The Drug Warriors will cheat (Think North Carolina Congressional House race.)  How secure do you think our elections are as we enter the 2020 election season?   Which brings me to my second point...

2.  Election security is critical to the entire panopoly of drug policy reform efforts. Speaking plainly, if our elections are rigged in such a way that the outcomes are predetermined, then all voting, lobbying, and activism is rendered pointless.

The article above, by Phillip Smith, well illustrates how, with respect to determining the will of the voters, the nail-biting difference between victory and defeat HINGES CRITICALLY ON THE CERTAINTY THAT OUR ELECTIONS ARE FAIR AND FREE.  Which brings me to my third and final point...

3. If your vote doesn't count, then America is not "great."  We are now in a constitutional crisis.  Trump has now openly declared himself above the law, and accountable to no one.  (Except Putin.)  The criminal syndicate loosely known as "the Trump administration" has given Putin THE GREEN LIGHT to FUCK UP OUR ELECTIONS AT WILL!!  McConnell, Graham, the rest... They're all in on it!



Fuck Trump and the Republicans!  Vote Democratic!
Thu, 05/09/2019 - 7:11am Permalink
"Russian Collusion" (not verified)

In reply to by Dain Bramage (not verified)

If Trump cured cancer, you'd find a way to complain about it. Because saying everything the political and media establishment want you to say, against your own interests, is so "cool" and "countercultural" and "rebellious", particularly if you add a lot of shouting and swearing! Your hysterical rhetoric, and that of all the other NPCs, hasn't changed a jot in the last 4 years. Are you really going to keep it up for another 6? Because you do realise that the target of your unhealthy obsession isn't going anywhere until then? What exactly does he have to do with this story, anyway? Can't you just be happy about the win and not mention him for once? The war on drugs suffered a historic setback today and you are just playing the same tedious recording as always. Oh, and I'm afraid your anti-white counterparts in the UK have decided that if you win a referendum by under 5%, then it's null and void, and has to be run again (because the winning side "didn't know what they were voting for"). Or are you fans of democracy, but only when it goes in your favour? That...doesn't really constitute democracy at all, then, does it?
Thu, 05/09/2019 - 10:26pm Permalink
Dain Bramage (not verified)

In reply to by "Russian Collusion" (not verified)


I stand by my comments.

You are a Trump supporter.  Who gives a fuck what you say?  Not me.

I wasn't talking to you, anyway.  I was talking to those in the fact-based world.  That ain't you!

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 2:38am Permalink
Harley (not verified)

In reply to by Dain Bramage (not verified)

Personally, I hate Trump. But you sound mentally ill with the vitriol you spew regarding Republicans. Sure, almost all Republican politicians are pond scum, but so are almost all Democratic politicians. None of them are leading the charge to end the Drug War, they're jumping on the bandwagon after the fact. As are many Republicans. I hope you get some therapy and maybe some meds to help wth your condition. I also wish STDW would ban you from commenting. Reading an article and seeing your comments is like trying to sleep with a mosquito buzzing around. Really annoying.

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 3:19pm Permalink
Harley (not verified)

In reply to by Dain Bramage (not verified)

Oh well, I'll just quit scrolling down as far as the comments. No need to expose myself to emotional pollution. I hope you don't have an aneurysm when he wins again.

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 10:01pm Permalink
Merry toker (not verified)

In reply to by Dain Bramage (not verified)

Trump has done more for the US in a bit ovr 2 years than those dimocrats have done in 8... Go figure. I am pro marijauna but not stupid!

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:02pm Permalink
Dain Bramage (not verified)

In reply to by Merry toker (not verified)

Trump has made white supremacists feel good about themselves, if that counts as achievement in your book.  That was what the Republicans wanted, and that was what they got.

Don't you have a rally to plan, or a conspiracy to theorize, or something else to do, somewhere else?

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:16pm Permalink
Dain Bramage (not verified)

Dr. Jim,

Thanks.  I may have "issues," but I am not the issue... Saving our democracy from fascism (and accordingly, saving marijuana legalization from fascism) is the issue here, as I see it.



What Trump and his Putin-blowing, white supremacist Nazis want most is the one thing they can never have: legitimacy.

I won't give the Republicans the cover of common courtesy, as if they were legitimate.



RWNJ's like to "trigger the liberals"; I wouldn't waste my time engaging in such childish games.  However, I will say this: the Trumpanzees don't like to be disrespected by verbal profanity.  They are surprisingly sensitive about it, for a crowd that celebrates an evil, repugnant, walking shitpile like Donald Trump.  Profanity is the one thing, I have noticed, that wipes that shit-eating grin off of their collective face!

Sun, 05/12/2019 - 12:46am Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.