This account turned up in the Politics section of the Denver paper– fitting because it’s really more about the politics of drug use than science or health.

As you may have read, a measure on the most recent ballot proposed to decriminalize psilocybin, the active component of so-called “magic mushrooms”. Decriminalization differs from legalization; possession may remain an offense but one of very low priority. Nonetheless, in the past decriminalization has served as a preliminary step towards legalization, which came later.

So is the use of magic mushrooms legal in Denver, like cannabis? No. Has this result moved it a few steps closer to that status? Arguably, yes.

Anyway, this election was the sort that generates controversy and even suspicion. Several media outlets had already declared the initiative dead in the water when an unexpected late surge carried it to a narrow victory.  I suppose it’s inevitable that tampering came up. This is 2019, after all.

What actually happened to alter the result? Sounds like no one is entirely certain. One theory involves a big push on social media that brought younger voters to the polls at the last minute. Although psilocybin doesn’t have the large existing fan base of cannabis, the young do tend to vote in favor of such measures, on the grounds that the fewer controls on drug use, the better.

There was a time when I held to such views, but I was younger then, too.

One advocate characterized the recent vote as an example of what can happen when “a small team of dedicated and passionate people unite under a single idea to create change.” I suppose that’s true, but is this a good change? Will the people of Denver look back twenty years from now and see themselves as having benefited from greater access to magic mushrooms? Or are there potential problems we haven’t anticipated?

The answers aren’t in yet. Once again, we’ll have to wait and see.

Curiously, around the same time, this appeared, from the world of archaeology. It suggests that the trade in psychoactive substances is at least a thousand years old. The drugs involved were cocaine and ayahuasca. Was their value based on religious, medicinal, or recreational interest? Or on all three?

Now I’m wondering if the descendants of those early capitalists are still at it…


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