Only a few days ago, millions of American probably had never heard of psilocybin, the active agent in psychedelic mushrooms, but thanks to Denver, it is about to get its moment in the political sun. On Tuesday, the city’s voters surprised everyone by narrowly approving a ballot initiative that effectively decriminalizes psilocybin, making its possession, use or personal cultivation a low-priority crime.
The move is largely symbolic — only 11 psilocybin cases have been prosecuted in Denver in the last three years, and state and federal police may still make arrests — but it is not without significance. Psilocybin decriminalization will be on the ballot in Oregon in 2020 and a petition drive is underway in California to put it on the ballot there. For the first time since psychedelics were broadly banned under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, we’re about to have a national debate about the place of psilocybin in our society. Debate is always a good thing, but I worry that we’re not quite ready for this one.