[Cover photo: Decriminalize Denver campaign organizer Hope Mellinger holds the 9,000 signatures. Photos by Reilly Capps]

In a first for the nation, a city looks headed toward a vote on psychedelic mushrooms.

Surrounded by TV cameras and radio microphones and whooping supporters, folks in the city of Denver submitted more than 9,000 signatures to the elections bureau Monday afternoon. That should be more than enough to put the issue of mushroom decriminalization on the next city election, in May. About 5,000 signatures are required.

If voters approve, so-called magic mushrooms would become the "lowest law enforcement priority" for city cops, and the city would be prohibited from using any resources to prosecute them. This would not be quite the same as legalization — you couldn't legally buy or sell them — but it's not far off.

About 40 supporters of a group called Decriminalize Denver gathered on the steps of the Denver City and County building before handing in their signatures. They chanted "Free the Spores!" and clapped and cheered as campaign head Kevin Matthews hyped up mushrooms as treatments for PTSD, anxiety and cluster headaches. Matthews noted that the government has already called psilocybin, one of the active ingredients in mushrooms, a "breakthrough" treatment for depression.

This initiative could mark a breakthrough in the "resistance" side of the War on Drugs. Rarely, if ever, has a city voted on legalizing a drug besides marijuana, and this signifies that at least some parts of the country are ready to move past marijuana, and decriminalize other drugs.

"We get to be an example to Denver and Colorado and the rest of the U.S.," Matthews said. "We get to create a new story … and we get to be a beacon to the rest of the country."

Mushrooms, Decriminalize Denver says, are the next logical step for decriminalization, since — like marijuana — mushrooms are natural, non-lethal, and humans have been using them for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

Matthews introduced a man, who Rooster previously profiled here, who uses mushrooms to deal with his tumors and end-of-life anxiety, to highlight the medical benifits of the drug more commonly used at Phish shows. 

photo - magic mushrooms user at Decriminalize Denver rally

[A man who uses mushrooms for his health tells the media his story.]

Mushrooms on a ballot is sure to be a "hot topic," said local TV reporter Joe St. George.

Decriminalize Denver was an underdog to gather this many signatures. "The city kind of laughed at us when we walked out the door (with our signature packets)," said Travis Tyler Fluck, one of the campaign field organizers.

Now, Decriminalize Denver has five months to convince Denver voters that mushroom decriminalization is something they should support.

photo - Denver elections bureau workers sort through signatures for mushrooms

[Workers at the Denver Elections office sort through the signatures from Decriminalize Denver.]