Denver Psilocybin Panel Talks Expanded Decriminalization

Denver’s Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel met March 16 to discuss how the city’s decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms will evolve in the coming months.

The 11-person panel was established last year. Denver became the first U.S. city to decriminalize the personal possession, use, and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms by residents 21 and older in 2019. A ballot measure, Initiative 301, made psilocybin the lowest enforcement priority for police and prosecutors. It did not legalize psilocybin or permit its sale.

The Denver panel is made up of representatives from the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office, city attorney’s office, and the harm reduction community. The meeting was led by Kevin Matthews, former Campaign Director of the Denver Psilocybin Initiative, and covered recent scientific, medical, and legal updates in psychedelic space. 

Matthews raised the question of whether the decriminalization of psilocybin has “presented a significant public health or safety risk.”

“The research I’ve done about psilocybin is generally in the context of the therapeutic or guided situation. I don’t feel like I have enough information to say that it would never be a public safety risk,” said Beth McCann, Denver District Attorney.

“I could state that since it’s been enacted, there has not been anything that has stood out to us in any specific incident that would indicate that the changing of this law caused any significant issues to the community to this point,” added Joe Montoya, investigations division chief of the Denver Police Department.

During the three-hour meeting, panellists also addressed responsible and safe adult use of psilocybin, therapeutic dosing and microdosing, and discussed a series of recommendations to the Denver City Council.

The working list of recommendations included:

  • Establishing a research site to explore clinical treatments for first responders and military veterans suffering from PTSD and substance abuse
  • Asking council to clarify or decriminalize sharing without profit or non-commercial sharing 
  • Allowing for a group or community facilitation, making that a law enforcement priority
  • Co-branded educational public service announcements
  • Safe use sites
  • Tolerating religious or spiritual use
  • Training Denver City County first responders and how to effectively respond to psilocybin related crises
  • Promoting the public safety of citizens and first responders while minimizing potential liability to the City and County of Denver
  • Expanding the scope of the panel to include exploring the therapeutic application of psilocybin and how the city and county of Denver may incorporate this treatment into its existing healthcare infrastructure
  • Adding additional members to the panel, specifically, representatives of the African American, Hispanic, Latinx and Indigenous communities as voting members

“At the end of the day, what I want to see is for Denver to continue being a leader in this conversation. What that means is that we’re really taking care of how we’re addressing all these issues and making sure the folks have the right information,” said Matthews.

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