Although Colorado has legalized cannabis, and its capital is known for being extremely welcoming of the plant, for those behind , there is still work to be done, and their sites aren’t set on cannabis, but something of the more fungal variety.
“We’re talking about a psychedelic substance with years of lack of education and misinformation,” says Kevin Matthews, campaign director for Decriminalize Denver. “Since [cannabis] prohibition happened, in terms of our campaign, we want to make sure no one goes to jail, faces incarceration or heavy fines, no one loses their family or their jobs. It’s frankly unacceptable that people are being incarcerated for this. This is a movement for the people, by the people and we want to protect individual rights.”
The end goal for Decriminalize Denver is to ensure psilocybin offenses are not punishable by jail time, and that they are the lowest possible priority of the Denver police force. Like the early days of cannabis prohibition coming to an end, this would not create a full-on, legalized mushroom industry, but it would be a solid start for acceptance of the substance and a gateway to more research. Through this, Matthews and his team also hope to learn more about the fungus.
“We really want to work with the city to start to gather the data that shows that psilocybin can be an effective tool for things like depression or anxiety,” Matthews explains. “Throughout the life cycle of this campaign, we’ve gathered a lot of really good data and hope to continue this work in other states or look at other models in Colorado.”
“It’s frankly unacceptable that people are being incarcerated for this. This is a movement for the people, by the people and we want to protect individual rights.” – Kevin Matthews, Decriminalize Denver campaign director
The appeal behind the campaign for those who aren’t psilocybin connoisseurs is the positive data that has already been gathered from research and legal tests. According to the existing medical studies, which have been carried out by places like Johns Hopkins University, New York University and the Imperial College of London, mushrooms have been shown to reduce psychological stress and suicidality, lessen opioid use and dependence. In addition, psilocybin is a non-addictive substance.
“I think it will probably be inevitable that the popularity and the general public’s awareness of mushrooms will eventually start to rise more and more with decriminalization,” says Richard Guerra, publisher with Sensi Magazine and local advocate and supporter of Decriminalize Denver. “My heart has taken me to a place where I’m an advocate, and I’m such an opponent of really just pharmaceutical drugs and what Western medicine has decided healing is about, so I think it’s just another step in all plant medicine and something we can really integrate in the way we think about healing.”
“Right now, according to a 2016 study, one in six Americans are taking some sort of psychiatric medication,” Matthews adds. “At the top of that list are depression meds and then anxiety meds; people are using pharmaceutical medications, potentially with undesirable side effects. From my own personal experience, when I was on SSRIs for my depression, it really kind of just muted out the world.”
With decriminalization, the hope is that more studies will continue to shed light on how psilocybin can impact those with depression, anxiety, trauma issues or PTSD. Studies have shown that, when combined with therapy, the substance can be a powerful tool. Whether Denver will ever develop a full-fledged legal mushroom industry remains to be seen, but for now, mushroom enthusiasts are hopeful for less persecution and more medical potential.