Voters in Denver, Colorado, passed an initiative making the city the first in the United States to decriminalize the use and possession of psychedelic mushrooms.
As of early Wednesday morning, Initiated Ordinance 301 trailed by several thousand votes, with 73,450 “no” votes to 68,711 “yes” votes, according to the Denver Post. But in a stunning reversal, per the Post, the final unofficial results found 50.6 percent of the vote approving the measure (89,320 votes in favor and 87,341 against), a margin of 1,979 votes.
Speaking with USA Today, Kevin Matthews, the leader of the advocacy group Decriminalize Denver seemed to concede defeat, but added, “Tonight, it was win or learn. At the very least, we’ve demonstrated that we can get psilocybin legislation on the ballot. My mindset is that it’s not a loss, it’s a lesson.”
I-301’s road to the ballot began Decriminalize Denver garnering 9,500 signatures for a petition that was approved by the Denver Elections Division in February. Had I-301 passed, the possession of mushrooms containing psilocybin would have been decriminalized for people 21-years-old or older, while it would have also prohibited the city and county of Denver from “spending resources on imposing criminal penalties… for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms.”
Supporters of I-301 touted the criminal and social justice impact of the initiative, as well as the potential medical benefits. Per NPR, there’s research to suggest that psilocybin is not addictive and, with proper supervision, could be used to treat mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, especially among cancer patients.
Efforts to decriminalize mushrooms have also been taken up in Oregon, where a statewide petition is currently circulating and could land on the ballot in time for the 2020 elections. In 2019, a similar campaign in California failed to garner the necessary signatures, though the organizers behind it are trying to get it on the ballot again next year.