Denver mayor indicates he'll rain on the mushroom parade

Denver mayor indicates he'll rain on the mushroom parade

Michael Hancock worries city seen as drug capital

VicesJune 04, 2019 By Reilly Capps

(UPDATE June 4, 10 p.m.: Michael Hancock has won re-election. The headline of this story has been changed to reflect that fact.)

Could shrooms be doomed in Denver? 

Two-term incumbent mayor Michael Hancock said in a debate he doesn't want Denver known as the drug capital of North America, the home of marijuana legalization and magic mushroom decriminalization.

Hancock is in a runoff with Jamie Giellis, a city planner, with results announced this evening, June 4. Neither got 50 percent of the vote in the May election.

The two take a different view of mushrooms, a drug popular at concerts and on camping trips that has also been declared by the FDA a "breakthrough treatment" for depression, when used with therapy.

Giellis said she'd like to respect voters' will and leave the fun-guys alone.

Hancock, on the other hand, indicated he'd like to pour a metaphorical fungicide on magic mushrooms.

Hancock's stance instantly worried drug reformers; they've watched Hancock thwart the will of the voters before when it comes to drugs (besides alcohol). After voters okayed "social use" of marijuana, Hancock helped put up roadblocks that meant only two marijuana-vaping joints have opened so far. 

The campaign behind the mushroom initiative, called 301, quickly voted to endorse Giellis.

The background to all this, of course, is a historic vote in May, in which the Mile High City put mushrooms at the bottom of the cops' naughty list, right down next to jaywalking and spitting on the sidewalk.

It marked the first time a locality, anywhere in the world, voted to decriminalize a psychedelic. (Dozens of cities and states have voted to free cannabis; Denver was pretty much the first there, too.)

At this moment, the law stands: local cops are to lay off personal growth and use of mushrooms. (Selling or buying is still a no-go.) 

But the city council can modify voter initiatives. And it seems Hancock would like to Hancock-block shrooms.

[Denver mayor Michael Hancock rides the light rail. Photo from HancockForDenver.com. Cover photo of the mayor with a mushroom supporter by DJ Reetz.]

Hancock said in a debate he worries Denver will be seen as a drug hub, the Amsterdam of North America. Hancock said he traveled to Amsterdam and spoke with the mayor of that famously libertarian city.

Amsterdam now tolerates truffles, a type of hallucinogenic fungus. But Amsterdam officially banned magic mushrooms in 2007, after a teen girl killed herself while tripping.

Hancock heard from the Amsterdam mayor that "Drug Capital of a Continent" is not a good look.

"The mayor said to me, fight like hell to protect your image as a city," Hancock said. "[The mayor told me], you can implement these [drug] laws, but if you become known as the drug or marijuana or mushroom capital of the country or the world, that's an image that you'll never get back, in terms of who Denver truly is."

Here's the video clip:

Mayoral Runoff June-01-2019 from Cindy Sovine on Vimeo

This statement seemed to contradict Hancock's last words on shrooms. After Initiative 301 passed, his campaign said in a single-sentence statement: “Mayor Hancock respects the decision of the voters and the Denver Police Department will enforce the law accordingly.”

Giellis, on the other hand, was clear about supporting mushroom decriminalization.

"Clearly the voters have voted in the magic mushrooms initiative," Giellis said. "It's going to be our responsibility to work with police and the community to implement the voters will. … I believe there is more work to do than worrying about magic mushrooms."

[Hancock's challenger for mayor, Jamie Giellis, said she'll work to respect the will of voters and have the cops leave shrooms alone. Photo from JamieForDenver.com]