DENVER, Colo. (May 9, 2019) – On Tuesday, Denver residents voted to decriminalize psilocybin despite federal prohibition. Passage of the ordinance takes a first step toward nullifying federal prohibition in practice and effect.

Initiative 301 initiates changes to Denver city ordinances that effectively decriminalize the possession and personal use of psilocybin mushrooms by people age 21 or over. Under the new ordinance, “The enforcement of any laws imposing criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms as those terms are defined herein shall be the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver.”

The ordinance passed by 50.6 to 49.4 percent margin.

The ordinance bans the use of city funds to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms by adults. This includes the enforcement of federal laws. The new ordinance also creates a Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel to report on the effects of the new law. The sale of mushrooms containing psilocybin will remain illegal in Denver.

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms. A number of studies have shown psilocybin to be effective in the treatment of depression, PTSD, chronic pain and addiction. For instance, a Johns Hopkins study found that “psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”

Kevin Matthews heads up Decriminalize Denver, the organization the led the fight to get the Initiative 301 passed. He said the passage of ordinance sends “a clear signal to the rest of the country.”

“America is ready to talk about psilocybin. We have work to do, we’re ready for it and we couldn’t be happier.”

Michael Heise, the founder of the libertarian Mises PAC, helped push for passage of Initiative 301. He that grassroots activism was a huge factor in pushing the effort over the top. He also said the win in Denver would serve as a launching pad for similar initiatives across the country.

“This is a major win for freedom of consciousness and a blow to the credibility of prohibition. The process is now underway that will ultimately show people that yet another natural substance they outlawed has profound medical benefits. It’s just a matter of time before they are shown to be wrong about the entire concept of the war on drugs.”

Despite the move to decriminalize psilocybin and its promising medical uses, the federal government maintains a total ban on the substance.


Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of psilocybin. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate such substances within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Passage of Initiative 301 will effectively end city enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of psilocybin in Denver. As we’ve seen with marijuana and hemp, when states and localities stop enforcing laws banning a substance, the federal government finds it virtually impossible to maintain prohibition. For instance, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing or ending state prohibition, states sweep part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state and local assistance, and the same will likely hold true with psilocybin.

Passage of Initiative 301 in Denver takes the very first step toward nullifying psilocybin prohibition in practice and effect.

Mike Maharrey

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