HEROIC DOSE: Denver Just Decriminalized Psilocybin but is the Rest of America Ready?

Unless you’ve been consuming five dried grams in silent darkness under a rock somewhere for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably seen the news that Denver, Colorado just ever-so-narrowly passed a voter-approved ordinance to effectively decriminalize the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms in the Mile High City.

For many Americans, the idea of loosening the laws around psychedelic mushrooms might seem like the ravings of an old hippie or a satirical article from The Onion, but Colorado has been leading the counter-culture charge for years now and legal shrooms are just the latest leap forward for this nature-loving state.

The win did not come easily, however, with some local media outlets reporting on the doom of Denver Initiated Ordinance 301, Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative on Tuesday night after the majority of votes appeared to insurmountably lean 55-44 toward the defeat of the ambitious initiative.

But votes continued to be counted into the night, and on Wednesday morning no official announcement one way or the other had been made.

By the slimmest of margins, Ordinance 301 did come out victorious yesterday with 50.56% of voters in favor of decriminalizing the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms, and 49.44% opposed.

Here is how the initiative was billed on the ballot:

“Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt an ordinance to the Denver Revised Municipal Code that would make the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority, prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older, and establish the psilocybin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance?”

Ultimately, with more than 177,000 votes cast on the matter, the result was decided by less than 2,000 ballots.

This result also makes Denver the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin and sets an important precedent for other cities and states looking to follow suit.

Similar efforts are already underway in progressive states like California & Oregon which is inevitably drawing early comparisons to the establishment of legal recreational cannabis that sparked in Colorado and Washington back in 2014 and has rapidly spread to ten states and counting.

Now, just half a decade later, we are hearing very real talk at the highest levels of our government of nationwide federal legalization of cannabis in America sooner than later… but is America ready for legal shrooms so soon?

NATURE’S GIFTS

At the end of 2013 and into 2014, we saw majority support for the first time in the decades of prior national polling on the topic of potential cannabis legalization. Just between 2010 and 2013, coast-to-coast support for legal weed jumped 11% to tip the scales at just over 52% approval.

Riding that wave of newfound majority support, Colorado and Washington became the country’s first two states to implement regulated markets for the cultivation, manufacturing, sales, and adult recreational use of cannabis regardless of the user’s medical condition after voters in the two states approved these measures two years earlier in 2012.

The most recent national poll on the subject revealed a new high of 66% of Americans in favor of legalizing cannabis, but what about psychedelic mushrooms?

There are no substantial nationwide polls asking this question – yet.

But the momentum behind the mushroom movement is sure to continue growing in the wake of the woke. The crossover between cannabis and psilocybin advocates is unshockingly large, but honestly, aside from that and the fact that they both like to grow in the dirt, the similarities between the two require a bit of a stretch to connect.

First of all, Ordinance 301 does not establish a legal marketplace for psychedelic mushrooms. It does not create or extend any protections for the people who cultivate or sell the mushrooms. It really does not legalize anything… it merely instructs its law enforcement machine not to prioritize such cases.

This is a monumental piece of news, for sure, but cannabis reform has advanced so far, so fast, that now opponents of legal weed are offering decriminalization as one of their bargaining chips and cannabis advocates are rightfully demanding more.

Another major influence on public opinion about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana has been the fact that for many, many years, states like California demonstrated highly lucrative and relatively peaceful renditions of medical marijuana markets, while mushrooms do not have such a documented history, or proven ability to rake in cash.

TAKE TWO CAPS & CALL ME IN THE MORNING

As it takes on new controversial infamy of its own these days, the mainstream discovery of the CBD compound in cannabis and the multitude of medicinal and quality of life benefits it delivers has undoubtedly played a major role in the growing acceptance of the cannabis plant as a whole.

Through just a few degrees of separation or less, most Americans know of a story of someone being healed of a physical affliction by using some form of the cannabis plant.

Mushrooms, however, have no CBD-like superhero to swoop in and woo the skeptics & soccer moms.

To most of those who have never ingested “magic” mushrooms, but only have a Hollywood-fueled knowledge of the experience, the idea of doing so quite literally seems crazy, and certainly not in any way medicinal.

Even for many of us who have dabbled in anything from a sprinkle on some toast to a heroic fuckin’ dose, the trip whether good or bad or in between most often leaves us feeling cleansed from the inside out, and almost “reset” mentally. But those are hardly medical terms and it’s always hard to put your finger on any exact thought or feeling during, or in the aftermath of, a powerful trip.

But as society becomes more in tune with itself, and age-old stigmas dissolve almost overnight, research into psilocybin is showing that its use can, in fact, be mentally therapeutic and aid with depression, anxiety, and addiction.

“Microdosing”, or consuming a very small amount of finely ground psilocybin mushrooms daily or at least several times each week, has become a popular regimen even for straight-laced business types who report heightened mental acuity and lower stress levels as a result.

In 2018, researchers from Johns Hopkins University even inked a paper lobbying to have psilocybin reclassified on the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act from Schedule I where it resides now, to Schedule IV where it would enjoy far less restriction when it comes to studying the fascinating fungi.

If you need further proof that mushrooms can indeed be medicine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has greenlit trials to attempt to create lab-made Frankenstein psilocybin since, ya know, they can’t just have us growing our own. How would Uncle Sam tax us properly then? If shrooms had no benefit, they’d just let us have them. The involvement of the Feds confirms the potential usefulness of psychedelic mushrooms.

STONED APE THEORY

I don’t think that it is going too far out on a limb to predict that we will not be seeing psychedelic mushroom dispensaries, or weekend expos judging various psilocybin strains, or washed-up ‘90s rappers’ collaborations anytime soon.

But just as cannabis shifted from being associated only with shiftless stoners to a more mainstream appeal, so too will shrooms.

And just as many of us spent many years concealing our cannabis use to avoid confronting the stigma society had assigned to it, so too are many people hesitant to discuss their newfound form of fungus therapy. What may further slow the march of mushrooms to the mainstream is the fact that it is such a deeply personal experience especially compared to the much more social scene of passing a joint or bong around even among strangers.

Joe Rogan likes to posit that a defining moment in human evolution was when ancient apes came down from the trees to forage for food and discovered psilocybin-laced mushrooms growing under the excrement of undulates.

These early apes, he raves, ate those shrooms and hyper-accelerated the evolution of their brains, kickstarting the transition from primates to people much faster than the universal timeline may have taken otherwise.

Whether this is historical fact or just one stoned ape theorizing over others we may never know, but one thing that we do know is that if everyone in this country spent just one weekend in the woods with an 8th of caps and stems and a hammock in the trees, the entire world would be a different place before we knew it.

Post by Jack Riordan

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