DENVER – Organizers for the group Decriminalize Denver turned in around 9,500 signatures on Monday for an initiative that would make the city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.
“I don’t think that people should be criminalized or looked upon differently because they are required to take something that can make them feel this much better,” said a 54-year-old patient currently using psilocybin mushrooms. He asked CBS4 only identify him by “Chris” in the interview.
The city requires 4,726 verified signatures from registered voters to an initiative on the ballot, staff with the group believe they have almost double that number.
“The Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative will decriminalize the adult possession, use, and propagation of ‘magic mushrooms’ in Denver,” Decriminalize Denver states on their Facebook page. “Join us at the polls on May 07, 2019!”
The initiative would make the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by adults 21 and older the lowest law-enforcement priority and prevent the city from using resources to impose penalties. It does not differentiate between the medical and recreational use of mushrooms. But it does specify the drug could not be sold, only grown by users.
Chris was one of the speakers at a rally outside the City and County Building the same day the signatures were turned into the Elections Office. He spoke to CBS4 on Tuesday explaining his condition. He was diagnosed with four spinal tumors in June 2006 and was told he only had until August 2008 to live because doctors could not operate on the tumors.
“It’s 2019 and I’m still here,” he said at his home.
But the tumors have increased in that time to 12 and reached his brain. He is considered an “end of stage” patient. He stopped working in 2006 and had to start long-term disability. He has taken opioids throughout his condition for his treatment. Recently, his doctors suggested psilocybin as a new medication.
“Patients who are not only end of stage, but we don’t know exactly when you’re going to die but it’s coming,” he explained what doctors told him at the time. “And it’s not going to be pretty.”
One of the side effects of all the other medications was depression. He tried a dozen different anti-depressants, but did not have any success with those drugs. Since starting the treatment with mushrooms 11 months ago, everyone in his life has noticed a difference.
“Anyone that you would talk to, my wife, my children, anyone I had been close to, including my psychiatrist and my pain management doctors will tell you, I’m night and day,” he said.
He says the pain is constant, often reaching a “6” or “7” on a scale of 1 to 10 and comparing it to having the flu each day.
“All I used to do was sleep, that’s all I could do, now I can at least get up and do things,” he said. “Am I 100 percent? No. Am I 50 percent? No, this is my life. I spend my life at home and going to doctors.”
The dosage he takes is made from dried mushrooms he grinds up and then places into a capsule. Each pill is .3 of a gram and he takes it daily. The pill treats his depression, pain, and end of life anxiety.
Chris says it is not a dose large enough to give the “high” or “trip” feeling many people think of when using mushrooms. He says that requires three grams at once. The dosage he takes does not alter his state anymore than a cup of coffee, Chris said.
“It simply makes me feel happier and it lasts,” he added.
He says if he stops the medication, it takes a little more than a week to leave his system and loved ones notice a difference. Chris says FDA research could lead to the agency eventually approving the drug but he supports the Denver Psilocybin Initiative because it could help others like him sooner.
“That’s why it’s important to me, people need access to this now,” he said. “It’s showing such success over your standard drugs.”
He qualifies to use mushrooms as medication under the “Right To Try Act.” The law states anyone with a terminal illness can use treatment that has not been approved by the FDA.
Chris does take a stronger dose once a month, as much as 5 grams. He says that helps him to keep the consistency he needs from the drug for his treatment.
He got sick at 38 and was diagnosed at 42, but does not know what to expect from here. He has reduced his opioid use because of the mushrooms, but still takes the drugs twice a day. He has eliminated his consumption of alcohol as well.
Chris says this drug should not be looked at like heroin and does not give people the cravings other substances can. He hopes mushrooms follow the same path as marijuana, which was eventually legalized statewide in 2012. But he knows it may not become a law in time to help him.
“I’m walking on such thin ice that they do not know what tomorrow holds,” he said.
Organizers hope to hear back from elections officials by Feb. 1 and the ballot would go before the voters in May.