Denver votes to decriminalize ‘magic’ mushrooms. Here’s what that means.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposed the initiative.

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposed the initiative.
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Photofusion / Contributor/GettyImages

The votes are in: Denver, Colorado, residents narrowly said “yes” to an initiative that would have decriminalized psilocybin, or psychedelic mushrooms.

On May 7, they voted on a first-of-its-kind ballot initiative called for the substance to be made “the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver” if a person 21 years old or more was found possessing it.

The unofficial final result was 50.56% in favor to 49.44% against, Reuters reported, citing Wednesday numbers on the Denver Elections Divisions website. The results will be certified on May 16.

The measure is aimed at keeping people out of prison

“Magic” mushrooms are considered a schedule 1 drug in the US, meaning they are illegal, have no medical use, and have a high potential for abuse. The Denver initiative would have kept psilocybin an illegal drug, but decreased the likelihood that anyone caught with it would go to jail.

“The main reason we are doing this is to keep people out of prison,” Kevin Matthews, the campaign director of Decriminalize Denver, the initiative that spearheaded local decriminalization efforts, previously told INSIDER. “[We] don’t want to have people lose their children, and we believe it’s the best and necessary first step to reintegrate psilocybin back into society and encourage more research as well.”

In January, Matthews’ team collected 8,000 signatures from people who who were in favor of decriminalization – enough to have the measure put on the May ballot. Matthews told the Washington Post his team collected $45,000 for the campaign through social media and posters promoting the initiative around Denver.

But Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposed the initiative, although he didn’t give a specific reason why. According to Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, the city is still “figuring out marijuana” and how it has affected residents, she told the Washington Post.

Research suggests “magic” mushrooms could help treat depression

Limited research exists on the effects of psilocybin, but preliminary studies suggest the substance could help treat anxiety and depression.

In 2016, Johns Hopkins researchers conducted a small study where they gave psilocybin to cancer patients with diagnosis-related anxiety and depression. The patients who were given the drug reported immediate relief from their symptoms.

Matthews believes the more people share their own positive experiences with psilocybin, the less stigmatized the drug will become. “There is a deep cultural misunderstanding of psilocybin and what it does,” he said.