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Ballot measure would make Colorado second state in the country to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms

Ballot measure would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in Colorado
Ballot measure would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in Colorado 04:22

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says he is opposed to a ballot measure that would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms statewide.

Denver was the first city in the country to decriminalize mushrooms almost three years ago.  While Hancock says the impact has been minimal so far, he says, there's little information about the health and safety impacts and, he says, the state already has a problem with drug misuse.

Opponents worry many voters will underestimate the potency of mushrooms just as they did marijuana.

Proponents argue mushrooms can help treat mental health conditions. The FDA has labeled psychedelic mushrooms "breakthrough therapy," fast-tracking research, but Kevin Matthews says it's not fast enough. He says his dream of joining the military was shattered when he was diagnosed with major depression. He left West Point, he says and for two years struggled with suicidal ideations until a friend introduced him to psychedelic mushrooms, "It was a revelation. Life changing."

Matthews is part of a group pushing Proposition 122 on Colorado's November ballot. It would create state-licensed and regulated facilities where psychedelic mushrooms could be used by those 21 and older under the supervision of so-called facilitators, who would also be licensed and regulated by the state.

"We know that combining medications with therapy can have the most impact on people's lives," says Matthews.    

Those who want to grow, use or share mushrooms at home could also do so under the measure, which doesn't allow mushrooms to be sold but it does allow them to be "gifted" for a donation. It decriminalizes personal use of an amount "necessary for sharing". What that amount is, isn't defined. 

Matthew Duffy with SPORE -- the Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform and Education -- says that is one reason he is opposing the measure, "This vague definition is going to have to be determined and interpreted and likely worked through the court system."

Duffy also worries corporations will control the mushroom market, making it cost-prohibitive. The measure has been largely bankrolled by out-of-state interests. Others like Dawn Reinfeld worry mushrooms will be too accessible, especially for kids. The measure makes underage possession a petty offense.

"My biggest concern would be once we legalize things it makes kids and young adults think it's safe," says Reinfeld, who is Executive Director of Blue Rising Together. The non-profit has taken on the marijuana industry over the impact of high-potency pot.

Reinfeld says mushrooms may be worse. One big difference between the legalization of mushrooms and marijuana is that local governments couldn't block mushroom facilities from opening like they do dispensaries.

"If there is medicinal purposes let's let science determine that, let's do trials, let's do research," says Reinfeld.

Matthews says some people can't wait, "There are people who are suffering today who don't necessarily have access to these medicines and they deserve that choice."

Under Proposition 122, mushrooms would be decriminalized right away but it would take two years before a mushroom facility could open. A Natural Medicine Advisory Board would have to come up with recommendations for a regulatory framework and the Department of Regulatory Affairs would have to approve and implement it.  

If it passes, Colorado would be only the second state in the country, after Oregon, to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. 

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