I went to a chic fundraiser for Denver's psilocybin mushroom vote

I went to a chic fundraiser for Denver's psilocybin mushroom vote

With less than a month to go, campaign courts donors.

VicesApril 08, 2019 By Reilly Capps

At a $50-a-plate, multi-course charity dinner Saturday night in a swank party loft called The Attic in downtown Denver, plates of gnocchi and tomatoes, vanilla ice cream and blackberries were served.

But what was really on the menu — metaphorically — was psilocybin mushrooms.

On May 7, Denver will vote on freeing the shrooms. It will be the first city in America, and possibly the world, to vote to free a drug other than weed. 

"For the next month, we have the microphone," Dell Jolly, the fundraiser's host, told the crowd of about 50. "We gotta do this now. The time for psilocybin is right now."

You'll see a few "Mushrooms are Medicine" flyers and posters in bars and ice cream shops around Denver. The campaign, Decriminalize Denver, hosts fundraisers or forums every few days, raising money to get the word out with more gatherings, yard signs, flyers, online ads, t-shirts, buttons.

According to the campaign and public records,the campaign for initiative 301 had already raised tens of thousands of dollars. One person had donated 19 cents; two people gave $10,000 each. Not a bad haul for an off-year, local effort to free a drug that's not popular or lucrative and almost nobody gets arrested for.

The fundraiser had an air of excitement. Organizers asked the crowd for more big donations — a thousand or more from each person, if they could. Campaign secretary Hope Mellinger milled about with a cell phone, swiping credit cards for $100 and hugging donors.

Mushrooms are as illegal as heroin. But many donors believed they're more likely to heal your brain than fry it. What's more, donors and organizers see the War on Drugs as a worldwide disaster, one that doesn't keep us safe, wastes billions of dollars, jails nice people, and makes us sick.

The mushroom folks hope this vote on psilocybin in Denver could crack a brick in the foundation of global drug prohibition. Even if the vote doesn't pass, it could plant a seed — or a spore. After all, weed legalization grew, in large part, out of Denver, and now it's spreading worldwide. Next thing you know, other cities and states will vote to free other drugs. The momentum swings. Pretty soon, bada-bing-bada-boom, Trump is signing a Drug War surrender, ceding control over drugs to the world's stoners.

"The mushroom movement in the U.S. is mind-blowing," Bia Labate told the crowd. She's a researcher on ayahuasca, a psychedelic from the Amazon jungle, who flew in for the fundraiser. The Drug War, Labate said, is not only bad for humans, it's bad for plants: the mushrooms, who never killed anyone, massacred by the billions. If Denver votes "yes," the fungi live.

[Psychedelic mushrooms. Photo from Shutterstock. Cover photo of psychedelic mushrooms from Pretty Drugthings on Unsplash.]

"I'm stoked by how much has happened in a relatively short time," said Dr. Dan Engle, a doctor who uses ketamine, another mind-mending drug. Engle, too, talked big, reminding the crowd that mushroom spores can survive the vacuum of space; that it's possible shrooms came from another solar system. Taking psilocybin mushrooms, he said, you could literally be learning about life on other planets. For a $100 donation to a local election, one donor said, do the possibilities get any bigger than that?