Mushroom legalization effort polling at 39 percent

Mushroom legalization effort polling at 39 percent

Psilocybin in Denver has more support than you might think

VicesOctober 08, 2018 By Reilly Capps

Mushroom legalization has more support than you might think, at least in one Western city.

A recent phone poll of Denverites found that 39 percent of voters would likely support the legalization of psilocybin mushrooms.   

That's a surprisingly high number. While legalization of marijuana is wildly popular, most Americans want most other drugs banned. In March 2016, Vox found only 22 percent of Americans wanted to decriminalize mushrooms. Which is still higher than any other drug. 

But the group of Denverites who are pushing to decriminalize mushrooms said the situation in Denver in 2018 is different.

The poll was conducted by the campaign of Kayvan Khalatbari, a mayoral candidate who last week dropped out of the race, citing family and health reasons. Both he and other activists were surprised and pleased shrooms polled that high.

A group called Denver for Psilocybin is about to start gathering signatures to put mushroom decriminalization on the Denver city ballot in May 2019. It got the go-ahead from the city on Friday. If the initiative passes, mushroom possession and cultivation would become city cops' "lowest law enforcement priority," and the city would be barred from spending money to prosecute the crime. This follows the pattern of how the Mile High City, and later the state, effectively legalized marijuana.

Kevin Matthews, head of Denver for Psilocybin, was excited when he heard his effort already has 39 percent support.

"They called people and got them on their landline. Who has a landline? That means these were probably older voters, and it still polled at 39 percent!" Matthews said.

Mushrooms aren't a big part of American life. They're too weird. Amsterdam and Jamaica are about the only two places on Earth where they can be casually purchased.

And psilocybin isn't a big crime problem in Denver. There were only about 40 arrests last year for mushrooms, the campaign said. (Rooster found that there were only 181 busts for all hallucinogens put together last year in Denver.)

photo - Denver for psilocybin mushroom decriminalization

[Kevin Matthews holds the Denver-approved language for mushroom decriminalization in the city, next to some of the initiative's sponsors and supporters.]

But perhaps 20 million Americans have tried mushrooms, mostly without negative effects. And many Americans have heard about research showing shrooms effective for addiction and end of life anxiety, and that a clinical trial starting soon will test whether psilocybin can treat depression.

The relatively high level of support for mushroom decriminalization might only hold for libertarian cities like Denver. But the data suggests Americans' attitudes toward drugs might be changing. A decade or two ago, the vast majority of Americans not only wanted drugs banned, they wanted users prosecuted harshly.

It is still true that most Americans want drugs criminalized. That 2016 Vox poll that found 22 percent support for mushroom decriminalization found even less support for other drugs. Only 18 percent wanted to decriminalize LSD, 17 percent ecstasy (MDMA), and 16 percent cocaine. Even fewer people wanted to decriminalize other drugs.

But as marijuana legalization rolls across the country and the world, mostly without visible disasters, public opinion on drug laws is changing so fast those numbers might have risen by now.  There's just no public data on it.

But in Denver, mushrooms are rising up.

[Cover photo of psilocybin mushrooms from Shutterstock.]