Denver – Denver election officials have verified the needed amount of signatures to qualify the Denver Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative for the May 2019 ballot. In conjunction with establishing psilocybin as the lowest law enforcement priority in the city of Denver, the initiative also prevents law enforcement from spending tax dollars on the enforcement of psilocybin use and possession laws and establishes a review panel. The ordinance follows in the steps of advocates who established marijuana as the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver during a 2007 local election.
Statement from Art Way, Colorado State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance:
“Under current Colorado law, with the exception of marijuana, simple drug possession can carry felony charges leading to devastating consequences including incarceration and a lifelong criminal record. People across the state want to do things differently.” said Art Way, Colorado State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "While psilocybin is behind a relatively small portion of these arrests, it's terrific that Denver voters will have the opportunity to chip away at the drug war through this initiative."
Felony drug filings are a substantial driver of mass criminalization and subsequent incarceration in Denver and Colorado. A recent report highlights the broader problem and reveals community support for fundamentally changing Colorado’s approach to drug policy to focus resources on prevention and treatment instead of incarceration and punishment:
• 63% of Colorado voters think the Legislature should reduce the prison population by lowering the penalty for simple drug possession;
• 79% of Colorado voters agree the state should focus more on prevention and treatment and less on incarceration and punishment;
• The number of drug felony cases filed in Colorado’s 2nd Judicial District (Denver) increased 4% in 2018. The district has experienced a 137% increase since 2012;
• Statewide, annual drug felony filings have more than doubled from 2012 - 2018. This increase is correlated with significant growth in the state’s prison budget.
More comprehensive decriminalization of drug use and possession, beyond decriminalization of psilocybin and with attention to low-level drug sales, is necessary to achieve the cost savings and public health outcomes that will maximally benefit Colorado.
Advocates will look to defelonize drug use and possession statewide in the current legislative session.
The Drug Policy Alliance envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.