In a city known for its progressive drug policies, Denver has yet to decide if it wants to decriminalize magic mushrooms. If marijuana is acceptable, why not psychedelics?
Supporters of the Denver for Psilocybin campaign, which includes cannabis doctors, can’t seem to catch their footing since announcing their push for decriminalization earlier this year. And here’s why.
The as-yet-unnumbered, fungus-facilitating bill has gone through various iterations of its language to make sure it is affording the kind of protection its backers want for the public in Denver.
The bill’s two previous attempts for recognition were rejected, the most recent one in My.
All bets are now on refining the language of its latest draft petition. Devin Alvarez, CEO of Denver-based Straight Hemp and his colleague Kevin Matthews, Director of the Denver for Psilocybin campaign (Dev & Kev as they are known about town) are working with some of the top attorneys in the field, refining the language to resubmit the bill to the Denver elections next week.
“We want to make sure there aren’t any loopholes, or paradoxes, as well as understanding that this can work as a model for future space,” said Alvarez, the first signer of the original petition to attempt decriminalization of the funky fungus.
A prominent law firm is currently reviewing it for a May, 2019 vote, which will give Alvarez and his cohorts an appropriate amount of time to further their campaign. New York City-based attorney Noah Potter is the principal legal consultant working together with the campaign to draft the revised language of the bill.
Alvarez supports the bill on moral, as well as personal, grounds. He experienced trauma related to drugs and alcohol. “I’ve lost family members and friends, and it has been painful,” he confesses. “I knew there was a better way to help them heal.”
Alvarez used mushrooms to treat his college alcoholism. “People should have access to natural therapies that promote health, happiness, and harmony. Hemp is one of those things. I’ve always supported plant medicine. It is ancient technology. We are meeting a growing number of challenges in our world that require something better. I am supporting this initiative for my family and loved ones,” he says.
Whether it is an all-out medical model, or a natural rights model, Denver is a place where decriminalization could likely occur, so it is an excellent place to start.
The campaign’s third attempt to get approval to start collecting signatures is underway. Approximately 5,000 signatures are needed by May, 2019; it’s not the group’s initial goal of November, however, they remain cautiously optimistic.
The Denver Elections Division will review the bill for legal efficacy, and ensure the language is not confusing and is transparent to voters. The previous two submissions were rejected because the bill might cause voter confusion.
“We could have made a few small tweaks, but we started over from the ground up. We want to make sure that the DED will approve it, and it will be understandable and accessible to the general population,” says Matthews.
If and when the Denver Elections Division approves, the campaigners will have six months to collect the necessary signatures. If their submission is supported by the end of July, or early August, they will have until February, 2019 at the latest to collect the signatures.
“We anticipate being able to collect the required signatures in a few months, by let us say October. That is our target,” said Matthews.
Once the signatures are collected and validated by the city of Denver’s Elections Division, the bill will be assigned a number and will appear as a question on the May 2019 ballot.
Alvarez points out that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs (also known as “antidepressants”), are losing functionality in the population, and treating trauma and depression is “an important piece to the human puzzle.”
Matthews wholeheartedly concurs. “In many ways, we have a mental health crisis in our country. Traditional therapy models SSRIs or SSNIs, for some reason, don’t seem to be working when you look at the data over a 50-year period. The rates of anxiety and depression are increasing annually. There has been a rash of high-profile suicides. We need alternatives to pharmaceutical interventions,” he says.
The FDA is currently considering a phase 3 clinical trial for Psilocybin, to explore its efficacy as a treatment for major depression in the US. When a drug is being examined for therapeutic use, it is a 3-phase process for FDA approval. Phase 1 examines the safety of the drug for human consumption. Phase 2 uses a small population with a specific set of symptoms and a control group in double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, at major research institutions and universities. Phase 3 opens the clinical investigation to a broader portion of the population to test its efficacy.
The Phase 3 MDMA studies, for example, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, were tested primarily on veterans with PTSD. Phase 3 studies are now open to the public.
MAPS’ mission is to develop medical, legal, and cultural contexts for the careful and beneficial use of psychedelics. In these contexts, no one would be criminalized for the possession or use of psychedelics, or any drugs.
“We support ballot initiatives decriminalizing psychedelics and other drugs in principle. However, MAPS believes that, in this political climate, resources would be better spent on FDA-regulated research aimed at medicalizing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies, science-based education campaigns, or other harm reduction interventions aimed at improving the safety of vulnerable psychedelic users,” said Rick Doblin, PhD, Executive Director of MAPS.
Criminal data and risk assessment to public health and safety
In addition to clinical trials, gathering anecdotal evidence of positive experiences while on magic mushrooms is essential research. “It is time for people to come out of the psychedelic closet,” says Matthews.
While the clinical and medical data are relevant to the campaign for decriminalization, risk assessment, public health & safety are also a concern.
Related Story: Magic Mushrooms Could Help Treatment-Resistant Depression
The campaigners are also examining the relationships of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior in the United States adult population.
Concerning arrests and seizures for drug-related offenses, Psilocybin is identified in 1 in 400 occurrences in metropolitan areas nationwide, according to data analyzed in 2017, by the National Forensic Laboratory. The same process demonstrated 1.3% of drug arrests in Denver, specifically, were Psilocybin-related in 2011.
The group is actively compiling research behind the scenes, while dealing with the bureaucracy of seeing their campaign come to fruition. During the tedious revision process, they want to keep their campaign to decriminalize a mind-expanding mushroom at the forefront of public consciousness.