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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Before I depart on magic mushroom trip, let me explain why Denver should decriminalize the drug

I don’t have much time to write this piece. I just took a psilocybin mushroom, and things are about to get beautifully twisted and wildly interesting.

In fact, Denver may be the first city in the United States to decriminalize the psychedelic, and I, for one, support this move, wholeheartedly, for several reasons.

There has been a swell of big-data research lately that has clinically demonstrated the benefits of micro-dosing psilocybin mushrooms for those who suffer from addiction, depression, PTSD and various other psychiatric maladies, and this research is ongoing at places such as Johns Hopkins, New York University, and the University of California Los Angeles as well as throughout Europe.

At the U.S. federal level, psilocybin mushrooms are currently a Schedule I drug, which means it’s categorized with LSD, heroin, bath salts and other illicit substances with no clear medicinal properties. But Paul Stamets, a mycologist and advocate for medicinal fungi, told Joe Rogan in his podcast that there’s a growing effort to correct psilocybin’s categorization.

“There’s a movement going on right now within the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to have it be recategorized because in the words of FDA researchers … they’ve never seen anything with such a strong safety profile that gives so much benefit at so little cost for such a long time,” he said. “This is a drug in a category of its own.”

Kevin Matthews, campaign director of Decriminalize Denver, the organization helming the effort to remove legal restrictions choke-holding psilocybin, said his group was inspired by the wave of clinical research on the fungus.

Last month, Decriminalize Denver submitted more than 8,500 signatures to the City and County of Denver Elections Division in hopes to see a measure on the upcoming May ballot to decriminalize psilocybin.

“This campaign,” Matthews told me, “would not exist without the sheer amount of clinical evidence that shows that psilocybin has a therapeutic value.”
He added: “We need radically effective alternatives for individuals to treat their symptoms and utilize these different tools for healing.”

Personally, I consume psilocybin because it has been demonstrably proven as a substitute for serotonin and also for the incredibly prodigious experience. Also because, as Stamets put it, “(psilocybin) activates neurogenesis, it causes new neurons to form, new pathways of knowledge.”

OK, folks, I feel the first vibrations coming on, like sitting in one of those high-priced vibrating massage chairs at the mall — a gentle hum and tingle all over the body — which means I better get this piece done, and soon.

Right. It was a little more than a year ago when I ate a mushroom and attempted to write a short story about Andrew Jackson in the American presidents’ wing of hell when, suddenly, the keys on my keyboard began to slowly gel into one another, creating a weird, indescribable alphabet — but I digress.
Reason No. 2 why psilocybin must be decriminalized: “the bail trap.”

“What is that? I haven’t even heard of that,” a friend asked me recently at a local brewpub west of downtown.

“It’s when innocent people are incarcerated for an indeterminate amount of time simply because they can’t afford to post bail,” I said.

And of course “the bail trap” impacts mostly people of color as well the poor. Imagine being incarcerated — not convicted, mind you, just incarcerated — and held in a cell for, say, a week. In this span of time, people caught within the system lose jobs and paychecks.

Along with the science supporting the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms, “the bail trap” itself should be reason enough to vote in favor of legitimizing these fungal beings.

It was also “the bail trap” that inspired Matthews and his group to call for the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms.

“We are working to keep individuals out of jail, keep families together,” he said.

Indeed. And no one should be denied clinically proven medicine merely because it’s demonized.

And as the low hum and tingle grows, as I prepare for the new pathways of knowledge, and just before the keys on this keyboard begin to gel into that weird alphabet, I wonder if Colorado and the rest of the country will in 10 or 20 years from now clear mushroom convictions, just like marijuana.
Well, I can hope — for the sake of the sick and discriminated — I can hope.

And now, the keys begin to gel.

Simon Moya-Smith is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and a Chicano. He was born and raised in Denver and is an adjunct professor of journalism. Follow him at @SimonMoyaSmith.

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