The first shroom pilgrims have hit the road.
A couple months after Denver freed the "magic" mushrooms, a man in North Dakota named Sam got in his car.
Sam, 21, has struggles: ADD, insomnia. He'd read shrooms "reset your brain," as he says. He'd never tried drugs. No idea how to find them, and worried family and church would kick him to the curb.
Especially in Colorado, the Drug War is petering out. Weed laws loosened two decades ago. Recently, Colorado made possession of a single dose of most drugs a misdemeanor, not a felony.
And, thanks to voters, Denver Initiative 301 now says city cops should lay off shrooms entirely. Growing, using or possessing shrooms — without selling them — should be the cops "lowest law enforcement priority," and the city shouldn't use resources to bust them.
Sam brought a stack of medical records; proof he was desperate. He found a guy called Tobey T., who runs an online business and a monthly Meetup group for "integration": helping folks make sense of trips.
Tobey is one of a small handful of Coloradans openly offering to sit with you while you trip on shrooms. Tobey's done three so far. He works for donations; they've averaged $200 a trip. He has a website. Tobey says he operates BYOS — Bring Your Own Shrooms.
Tobey isn't a therapist or a shaman; he makes most of his money as a dog walker. But he's repeatedly volunteered for Zendo Project, which is first aid for bad trips at Burning Man and big festivals. Working for Zendo, Tobey learned how to give spunyons a cool, safe mat to lie down on, and a calm person to hold their hand while the intra-brain insanity dies down.
Before you trip with him, Tobey has you do "homework" — why are you taking drugs? Sam's reason was, "To become well."
At a Motel 6 in Denver, Sam ate a big dose of powerful shrooms. Sam reclined on a bed, put on a blindfold, and Tobey DJ'd — mostly wordless, repetitive, evocative music, like you'd hear at a Red Rocks show where nobody dances.
"Man, within 15 to 30 minutes, I found myself under circumstances that I had never seen before," Sam says by phone. "Colorful patterns I don't have the words to describe, the most beautiful things I ever dreamt of. So colorful, I couldn't identify myself anymore." Sam writhed. Lost in a trippy kaleidoscope, he landed on a common druggie thought, almost a cliche: "I am just Nature. I am Nature."
Another of Tobey's trippers, "Corrienne," says she tripped on an "heroic dose" with Tobey to detox from Xanax and alcohol. It was an "intense, somewhat miserable experience," she says, with lots of puking. Still, "I plan on going back," she says.
All of this is still semi-clandestine. Corrienne is a fake name; Tobey and Sam asked me to leave out their full names and where the shrooms came from. One of Tobey's trippers declined to share his experience at all.
Sam says the only downside to his trip was a next-day headache. And he has to stay mum at home. "I can never tell anyone," Sam says. "But my roommate has noticed a difference. I'm connecting with people more." He plans to come back to Denver again.
Recently, Oakland's city council followed Denver's lead, and today all natural psychedelics — such as shrooms, ayahuasca, peyote, DMT, salvia — are that city's lowest law enforcement priority.
In Oakland, there's been an "amazing shift" in openness about drugs, says Larry Norris, co-founder of Decriminalize Nature Oakland. "The resolution has loosened up some medical professionals to talk about the potential benefits of entheogens," Norris emails me. "I had a friend tell me his doctor suggested he look into the research on psychedelics for depression and noted the Oakland resolution passing as why he felt more comfortable sharing the information."
New chapters of Decriminalize Nature have sprung up in dozens of cities.
Time to update the outreach board! Close to 100 locations have reached out now, some already speaking with their City Councilmembers. Great job everyone! #DecriminalizeNature #yourcity #DNUSA pic.twitter.com/D7lbCpdi3c
— Decriminalize Nature (@DecrimNature) July 16, 2019
Decriminalize Denver, this city's shroom campaign, has morphed into SPORE — the Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform and Education. SPORE has a blueprint for any city to free the shrooms; Boulder might be next.
But SPORE's leader, Kevin Matthews, says they're now "laser focused" on keeping things chill in Denver, writing public service announcements about shrooms — how much to take, when — and teaching cops, medics and doctors how to handle freakouts — which are rare but scary — so cops don't tase the bejesus out of the first person who loses their mind on shrooms on the 16th Street Mall.
"We can't control what people do," Matthews says. But he's happy to hear there are at least a few space holders like Tobey. "Having people step up like that, saying, 'I have some experience, I have some Zendo training, I can walk you through it.' That's amazing. What a great thing."
In Denver, a woman calling herself Kaira Mayestra tells me she's done six psychedelic massage session with clients since shrooms were decriminalized. She's even running ads on Facebook for it. Same deal as with Tobey: Bring Your Own Shrooms.
A New York man I met told me he does body work — like chiropractics — and sometimes gives clients shrooms; he's thinking of moving to Denver to do it openly. One of the leaders of an underground shroom circle in Denver told me he was thinking of advertising openly. The manager of a ketamine clinic here told me she was investigating using shrooms. There are sitters schools. And I hear about Denverites organizing group shroom trips. Again, BYOS.
The Denver city council still has the power to nix this shroom stuff before it really starts, nullify voters' wishes, and sicc cops on shrooms. So far, they haven't.