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How Denver's Vote To Decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms Could Help Similar Efforts In Oregon

Richard Vogel
A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a pop-up cannabis market in Los Angeles on May 6, 2019. Voters decided this week that Denver will become the first U.S. city to decriminalize the use of psilocybin, the psychedelic substance in "magic mushrooms."

This week, Denver voters approved a measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. The decriminalization allows adults 21 or older to possess the mushrooms without fear of arrest. It does not authorize the sale of the drug. 

Husband and wife Tom and Sheri Eckert are behind a proposed ballot initiative in Oregon also focused on the hallucinogenic mushrooms — though it’s looking to do more than reduce the penalties of possession.

“We’re developing a full regulatory framework to allow access to psilocybin-assisted therapy, which includes the creation of licensed facilities and facilitators who work under best practice standards,” Tom Eckert said. “That’s what we’re hoping to move through in 2020.”

Through the Eckerts' Psilocybin Service Initiative, psilocybin therapy could be offered to people suffering from psychological problems such as severe depression, addiction and anxiety.  

Although the two have many differences, Tom Eckert said the results of Denver’s measure could affect the way people in Oregon think about the attempt. 

“I think Denver reflects the sea change in attitude that has been triggered in the renaissance of research in this area,” he said.  

“The landscape in our country is definitely changing, and the Denver vote is a reflection of that,” Sheri Eckert added.  

The Eckerts reassure that their proposed initiative, like Denver’s measure, would not allow the casual sale of psilocybin mushrooms.

“The key aspect is, none of this will be in the community, not dispensaries of psilocybin, not in your neighborhood,” Tom said. “These are licensed facilities where you would access these services.” 

Trying to quell fears in the perception of the mushrooms has been a focus for the couple.  

“We’ve taken into great consideration safety and education,” Sheri said. “There’s a lot of thought that has gone into this framework to make sure that we’ve covered all aspects of safety and reduce as much as possible any fear that is out there.”  

The Eckerts have only recently begun the process of gathering signatures for their initiative petition. Tom Eckert said they are raising money to hire volunteers in order to get a bulk of signatures this summer.  

The initiative petition needs more than 100,000 signatures for a chance to land on the 2020 ballot.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.