Whether it’s jealous psychonauts in other states and cities or conservatives who were already judging Denver for its plethora of legal cannabis users, the whole country is buzzing about Denver’s recent decriminalization of so-called magic mushrooms. Oakland recently followed suit, and many are wondering what’s next in a city where consuming psychedelic fungi has been decriminalized.
According to those who worked to pass decriminalization, education comes next. People need to understand what mushrooms are and are not, what is allowed, and that decriminalization will not necessarily lead to a legal, monetized industry any time soon.
“One question that has been posed so far has been: how do you actually define personal use?” says Kevin Matthews, campaign director for Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the now-passed decriminalization initiative. “Questions have come up about if there should be limits in terms of the amount possessed. I firmly believe that there should not be. Law enforcement can use their discretion if they come upon a situation where somebody has a massive growing operation, and there’s other paraphernalia around that may indicate that they’re distributing. We’re really working to make sure that no limits are actually introduced to this.”
“We are now partnered, directly with Johns Hopkins for research on psilocybin,” adds Richard Guerra, associate publisher of Sensi Magazine and local advocate and supporter of Decriminalize Denver. “We’ve really learned that what is needed is more research. Johns Hopkins is providing anecdotal data on use and harm and information and data about set and setting. Publishing information like this should help spread information and help with people’s fears.”
The ultimate goals are first, to make sure the public is informed about the science behind mushrooms as medicine, and also to set ground rules for the substance. A panel will exist to keep an eye on legal mushrooms to ensure the rights of consumers are being respected. Those who enforce laws are being encouraged to do nothing when it comes to mushrooms unless distribution is suspected in the meantime.
“We expected that Mayor Hancock [would] come to the table,” Matthews says. “We had a meeting with the DEA on Monday, along with the chief of police and city attorney’s office and other members of the government. The main question we got was, how do we handle this? We’re excited because the city attorney’s office has indicated that they’re willing to push the timeline forward on the implementation of the review panel for psilocybin, which is also a priority for us. In the language of the bill, the mayor’s office has until December 31 to get the review panel going, but we’d like to have that happen sooner rather than later.”
Decriminalize Denver emphasize that they want to get the message out to the public, but they hope to do so in a way that also taps into the personal nature of psilocybin mushrooms.
“Educating really starts with educating myself,” Guerra adds. “I’m continually educating myself on where this is headed and what it’s about; that way, I can feel good about being a word-of-mouth educator. And I think how we got here was largely by word-of-mouth. I’m communicating to my friends here and in other cities about what we’ve done, and I think that will start to make a big difference. I definitely think this movement will spread.”
Although mushrooms were decriminalized in Denver effectively overnight, the people behind the movement don’t expect a cultural shift surrounding psychedelics to happen as quickly. Years of education and spreading knowledge will be necessary before Decriminalize Denver becomes an accepted reality, but things are already set in motion for a brighter — and more magical — future.