You have to wonder about Denver’s split personality. If you believe team names—the Broncos, Nuggets, Rockies, Avalanche, Outlaws and Barbarians—the city has a rough, tough, and rugged feel. That’s pretty in your face.
Or if you believe the voters, it’s just about the coolest, most laid-back place in America, excepting perhaps Seattle.
We’re going to see most large urban cities in America decriminalize mushrooms and plant medicines in the next few years.
In 2012, when Colorado legalized recreational weed, Denver was the most prominent city to develop a whole guided tour industry dedicated to getting high on marijuana. Washington legalized recreational pot the same year but never developed quite the Wild West bring-in-the-buses party vibe that Denver did.
Now Denver has a new claim to laid back that no other city—not even Seattle—can match. Since May 2019, it’s been legal to buy and partake of magic mushrooms, or psilocybin.
Psilocybin is gaining advocates from the ranks of mental health, medicine, and fitness experts for their spiritual and psychological benefits. In a few places in America it is possible to get your ‘shrooms in conjunction with an academic research project. But in most places, this movement is happening outside the law.
Denver’s new legislation may be the first edge of a new decriminalization wave.
Natalie Ginsberg, director of policy and advocacy at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is excited about what Denver’s new law means to the rest of America.
“Denver’s move to deprioritize psilocybin arrests ignited communities across the country to mobilize to deprioritize all entheogenic plants, cacti and fungi, or ‘decriminalize nature.’”
She hopes that more cities, states, and advocacy groups will merge into a broad coalition to end the war on drugs and decriminalize all recreational psychedelics.
“In times of pandemic it’s clearer than ever that mass incarceration, and mass criminalization, are fundamentally incompatible with public health,” she says.
Nationwide mushrooms may be in the distant future, but things are starting to happen. There are statewide initiatives on the ballot in Oregon and Washington.
David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s, the soap company, is funding several psychedelics reform campaigns across the country. Bronner projects that “we’re going to see most large urban cities in America decriminalize mushrooms and plant medicines in the next few years.” He thinks the Food and Drug Administration will approve psychedelic therapies, and that will “pave the way to mainstream acceptance and widespread psychedelic healing of the people of the world by the end of the decade.”
So far, activists in more than 100 U.S. cities have projects aimed at legalizing or decriminalizing psychedelic use. In California, Oakland and Santa Cruz have followed in Denver’s wake and then gone a bit farther. Those cities have also decriminalized a range of other entheogenic substances including ayahuasca and ibogaine.