Psilocybin decriminalization campaign organizers have said their only goal is to keep people out of jail in Denver for using or possessing the drug to cope with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other conditions.
Some researchers warn that the compound should only be used under medical supervision and can prompt paranoia and anxiety. The measure does not legalize psilocybin or permit its sale by cannabis businesses. Those same effects have appealed to recreational users dating to the 1960s counterculture movement.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies the drug as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning the agency has deemed that it has a high potential for abuse and now has no accepted medical use.
Participants in recent medical studies using psilocybin have described seeing vivid colors and geometric patterns and experiencing powerful spiritual connections and emotions. Although the Denver Police Department declined to comment, a spokeswoman for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D), who was leading in his bid for a third term on Tuesday, said he opposed the initiative, and Denver District Attorney Beth McCann (D) also voiced opposition. But small research studies have suggested it can help treat anxiety and depression in, for example, cancer patients.
Last year, a similar measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms statewide in California failed to gain enough signatures for inclusion on the ballot. OR voters may also vote on a comparable measure next year.
Supporters of the psilocybin initiative have done door-to-door canvassing, documentary screenings and leafletting at community events or outside Coors Field before Colorado Rockies' games. "Now we can start to have the conversation about using them mindfully", she added.
"We're still figuring out marijuana, and even though things are going well so far, we're still measuring the impacts on the people of Denver", McCann said.
Specifically, officials will now be barred from "spending resources to impose criminal penalties" for personal use and possession of the drug for residents over the age of 21.
Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was one of the authors of a study a year ago recommending that the Food and Drug Administration reclassify the drug to acknowledge its potential medical uses and relatively low potential for abuse.
Matthews says he's optimistic about his initiative's chances, telling Reason that the yes side's canvassing efforts have encountered few die-hard opponents.