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US City May Be First to Decriminalize 'Magic Mushrooms'

Denver will vote Tuesday
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2019 8:07 AM CDT
Magic mushrooms are seen in a grow room at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude in the Netherlands on Aug. 3, 2007.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

(Newser) – Tuesday's a big day in Denver—a day that could end with the decriminalization of a Schedule 1 drug. The AP reports residents are headed to the polls to cast their vote on whether to decriminalize psilocybin, an illegal drug found in "magic mushrooms" that has been shown in small studies to help relieve depression and anxiety in cancer patients. Decriminalize Denver, the group behind the measure, says psilocybin could also help those with PTSD, OCD, and cluster headaches, per the BBC. If approved, the initiative would decriminalize use or possession of the drug for users 21 and over, as well as keep city funds from being used to pursue criminal penalties tied to such use or possession. One man tells the Los Angeles Times he struggled his whole life with bipolar disorder—until he tried hallucinogenic mushrooms. "It was a transformative experience," he says, adding he's now a "different guy."

Denver has long been ahead of the pack on the drug front: The Times notes it decriminalized pot seven years before Colorado made it legal to use recreationally, and the City Council gave the thumbs-up late last year to create the country's first venue where intravenous drug users could go for safe injections, though that initiative was later nixed after pushback from state and federal officials. Who's resisting the magic mushroom move: Conservatives who fear it's a stepping stone to commercialization of the drug, as well as scientists who say safety measures would be needed. "Some people may have a fantastic experience, but a minority may ... get worse," a UCLA psychiatrist says. "It would not be safe to drive a car, and you don't want people walking around unescorted having powerful internal experiences." (Read more Denver stories.)

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