The Slatest

Denver Becomes First U.S. City to Vote to Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms

A pair of posters reading "Decriminalize Mushrooms."
Posters in support of Ordinance 301, decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms, at an election night watch party on May 7 in Denver.
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Denver narrowly voted in favor of decriminalizing hallucinogenic mushrooms Tuesday in the first referendum of its kind in the nation. Election officials announced the result Wednesday afternoon that the ballot measure passed by a 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent margin with 176,000 votes cast. The ballot measure—known as Initiative 301—requires police to deemphasize personal possession or use of psilocybin mushrooms, which are a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, such that it is “the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver.” The initiative also calls on the city to establish a review panel to assess the impacts of decriminalization, including public safety, fiscal, and health impacts.

The language of the initiative is similar to that of the marijuana decriminalization measure passed by Denver voters ahead of a statewide vote on the matter in 2012. “Psychedelic mushrooms still would remain illegal to buy, sell or possess, with the latter crime a felony that carries a potential punishment of up to a year in prison and a fine,” the Denver Post reports. “But Initiative 301 backers hope to lower the risk users face of getting caught with mushrooms.”

“Denver’s law enforcement community was not thrilled by the prospect of more readily available hallucinogens,” the Washington Post reports. “But a number of studies have shown that psilocybin can have positive, lasting effects on depression, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and anxiety.” The voting took place over three weeks, and support for the initiative trailed until the final days when a surge in voters edged the measure past the finish line.