It’s already legal to use marijuana for recreational purposes in Oregon and Denver. But now, there is another push — this time, for “magic mushrooms.”
Activists in both locations are working to decriminalize the psychedelics, which contain an active ingredient called psilocybin, which can cause hallucinations, among other things. Their main talking point is that this compound could perhaps be helpful in combating depression and/or anxiety.
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Speaking to Kaiser Health News, Kevin Matthews, the campaign director for the group working to legalize the mushrooms in Denver, said, “We don’t want individuals to lose their freedom over something that’s natural and has health benefits.”
Oregon backers will likely have a tough time with their cause, as they’ll likely need to hire signature gatherers, just like other statewide initiatives. That’s according to William Lunch, a political analyst for Oregon Public Broadcasting, who spoke to KHN.
Paul Hutson, professor of pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, who has specifically researched psilocybin, says he’s skeptical of decriminalizing magic mushrooms because their powerful active ingredient isn’t safe for everyone. He told KHN that he rejects the idea that “this is a natural progression from medical marijuana,” adding that mushrooms “are very, very potent medicines that are affecting your mind. In the proper setting, they’re safe, but in an uncontrolled fashion, I have grave concerns.”
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As KHN reports:
These efforts to legitimize hallucinogenic mushrooms come at a time of renewed interest in the potential mental health benefits of psychedelics, including mushrooms, LSD and MDMA (known as ecstasy). Two small studies published in 2016 by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and New York University found that a single large dose of psilocybin, combined with psychotherapy, helped relieve depression and anxiety in cancer patients.
Matthews tells KHN that Denver would be a good testing ground for this initiative nationwide and that just getting it on the ballot would be a “huge victory.”