By Cailey Rizzo
May 07, 2019
Magic Mushrooms
Credit: Photofusion/Getty Images

Denver could become the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize the recreational use of magic mushrooms, cementing its reputation as a bellwether for other cities’ drug policies.

The vote was included in a ballot on Tuesday, although it wouldn’t legalize mushrooms containing psilocybin, the psychoactive compound that naturally occurs in these “magic” edibles. That would require changes at the state and federal levels. If passed, the ballot would “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.” It would also require that the city establish a panel to “assess and report” on the impact of decriminalization.

Psilocybin has been banned at the federal level for almost 50 years. It is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Department of Justice, which means it is considered to have no medicinal value. But in 2018, researchers from Johns Hopkins University said that psilocybin’s “associated harms are low compared to prototypical abused drugs” and that it “may provide therapeutic benefits supporting its development as a new drug.” Advocates of the drug say that it is particularly beneficial in treating anxiety and depression.

A similar vote failed to gain traction in California last year. But next year, voters in Oregon may head to the polls for a similar ballot.

Denver has a reputation for being an early adopter of decriminalized drug laws for American cities. In 2005, Denver became the first major U.S. city to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults aged 21 or older.