First, Marijuana. Are Magic Mushrooms Next?

By Barbara Feder Ostrov
Kaiser Health News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In Oregon and Denver, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, activists are now pushing toward a psychedelic frontier: “magic mushrooms.”

Kaiser Health News

Groups in both states are sponsoring ballot measures that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of the mushrooms whose active ingredient, psilocybin, can cause hallucinations, euphoria and changes in perception.

They point to research showing that psilocybin might be helpful for people suffering from depression or anxiety.

“We don’t want individuals to lose their freedom over something that’s natural and has health benefits,” said Kevin Matthews, the campaign director of Denver for Psilocybin, the group working to decriminalize magic mushrooms in Colorado’s capital.

The recent failure of a nationally publicized campaign to decriminalize hallucinogenic mushrooms in California may not portend well for the psilocybin advocates in Oregon and Denver, though their initiatives are more limited than California’s.

The proposal in the Golden State would have decriminalized sales and transportation of magic mushrooms, not just possession. The proposed Denver measure would apply only to that city, while in Oregon mushroom use would be allowed only with the approval of a physician and under the supervision of a registered therapist.

None of the proposed initiatives envisions fully legalizing psilocybin mushrooms, which would allow the government to regulate and tax sales in a similar fashion to medical and recreational marijuana.

In Oregon, advocates face a steep climb to qualify their measure for the ballot, because such statewide initiatives typically require hiring paid signature gatherers, said William Lunch, a political analyst for Oregon Public Broadcasting and a former political science professor at Oregon State University.

Still, familiarity with recreational marijuana may have “softened up” voters and opponents of drug decriminalization, he said. Oregon legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2015, Colorado in 2012.

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