“Magic” Mushroom Decriminalization Movement Afoot

Magic mushrooms in a Jar


Today, there is a growing “magic” mushroom decriminalization movement in this country. This despite being illegal and listed as a Schedule I narcotic by the federal government.

  • Three cities have minimized the laws for simple possession.
  • Its proponents are gaining traction.

Psilocybin advocacy groups, like The Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform, and Education or SPORE, have even made their way to Washington. There now is a “psychedelic caucus” in Congress pushing for more research on the drug. 

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in a specific species of mushroom known, not surprisingly, as psilocybin mushrooms. Recreational users and advocates generally refer to these organic psychedelics as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms.” For the last 30 years, they have had to turn to the underground market for their supply, but gradually that is starting to change.

In all cases, decriminalization means a city will no longer allocate funds to enforce regulations banning the psychedelic fungus or spend city resources on costly law enforcement investigations. As a result, adults aged 21 or older will be able to possess psilocybin mushrooms without fear of prosecution within those city limits.

Santa Cruz

So far, three U.S. cities have voted to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Denver, Colorado, became the first in May 2019, followed by Oakland, California, in June of the same year. Santa Cruz, California, became the most recent to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms,” but also broadened the range to “other natural psychedelics, including ayahuasca and peyote,” according to a report by CNN News

This map marks the cities who are pursuing the decriminalization of psilocybin.

Map showing cities pursuing decrimilizing mushrooms

Much of the movement behind decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms is the result of studies that show it may be helpful in treating some mental health disorders. 

“We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments,” writes Robert Carhart-Harris, lead author on a psilocybin study at Imperial College London. 

Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for regulating drugs and drug-related studies in the U.S. is paying attention. In late 2018, the FDA granted “breakthrough therapy” designation for one company, clearing the way for clinical trials using psilocybin

At the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, scientists believe there are a range of disorders that can benefit from hallucinogenic therapies with drugs like psilocybin. Some of these are treatments for disorders like the following:

  • Substance use and addiction to alcohol, nicotine and other drugs of abuse
  • Treatment-resistant depression
  • End-of-life anxiety 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Some experts worry that people will take these relaxed laws as a sign that it’s safe to use large quantities of psilocybin mushrooms. All of the scientific studies are administering tiny doses to people who are monitored by medical professionals. In a recreational setting, there are still some serious side effects of taking psilocybin. 

People using “shrooms” will generally have different experiences based on the amount they take and any tolerance they might have built. Some of the psychedelic effects of psilocybin can include:

  • Visual, tactile and auditory hallucinations
  • The sense that time and reality have been altered
  • Nausea, vomiting, a lack of coordination or drowsiness, especially if the mushrooms were not grown in a sterile setting

Not everyone has a pleasant, euphoric experience. People can have what’s called a “bad trip” while “high” psilocybin, and the effects of the drug can last anywhere from three to eight hours depending on its potency.

There may be a future where, like marijuana, many cities opt to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Certainly, though, more research is needed for effective mental health treatments and before the general public assumes that psilocybin is consequence-free.