Activists Reportedly Gathered 8,000 Signatures to Decriminalize Psilocybin in Denver

Activists in Denver plan to submit more than 8,000 signatures to city officials on Monday in an effort to put a psilocybin decriminalization initiative on the ballot. Organizers with the group Decriminalize Denver will gather for a rally and news conference at 3:00 pm Monday on the steps of the Denver City and County Building, according to media reports.

Monday is the deadline to submit petitions for initiatives to be included on the May 2019 ballot. At least 4,726 valid signatures from registered voters are needed for the Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative to qualify for this spring’s election.

Kevin Matthews, the campaign director for the initiative, said that the measure is seeking a change in enforcement policy for psychedelic mushrooms.

“We’re not legalizing here,” Matthews said. “Essentially, what we’re doing is keeping people out of prison for what is essentially a non-violent crime offense.”

If the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative passes, it would make the possession, use, and propagation of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and older the “city’s lowest law-enforcement priority.” The measure would “prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties” on those who possess or cultivate psilocybin mushrooms for personal use. The measure also creates a city “psilocybin mushroom policy review panel to assess and report on the effects of the ordinance.”

Denver for Psilocybin began gathering signatures for the initiative effort in October. Matthews predicted success at the time.

“I’m very optimistic we’re going to get the signatures,” he said.

Medicinal Use of Mushrooms Shows Promise

Tyler Williams of the group Denver for Psilocybin said last year that there are legitimate medical uses for psilocybin.

“There’s a lot of research for all sorts of mental health issues. Everything from anxiety to depression to cluster headaches, addiction,” said Williams.

“I had a suicide attempt November 12th of 2015 and I think it helped me get out of my depression, and it’s helped me with my PTSD,” Williams added.

Kathy Hawkins is a licensed professional counselor who treats a few patients who use psilocybin therapeutically. While she doesn’t supervise these therapy sessions, she is available before and after to assist the patients.

“So, I’m a place where they can come and talk about it. So they can make sure they’re being safe about how they’re using, what they’re using, why they’re using,” she said.

Hawkins noted that a John Hopkins study showed that psilocybin could have a positive effect on cancer patients that lasted up to a year.

“They’re so desperate for help, they’re willing to try. So they’ve had big breakthroughs, relief from trauma, from anxiety, from depression so anything that’s going to help. I think is worth investigating,” said Hawkins.

Denver for Psilocybin first announced its intention to put a psilocybin initiative on the ballot in March of 2018, hoping to qualify for the midterm elections in November. However, the group’s first attempt was not successful, due to language technicalities and other factors. Matthews said that an effort in the original initiative to exempt Denver residents from federal and state drug laws may have gone too far.

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