A new frontier in a less lock-‘em-up world: Decriminalizing magic mushrooms

A movement is afoot out west to decriminalize 'shrooms, which scientists believe may have medicinal qualities equal to weed.

A movement is afoot out west to decriminalize 'shrooms, which scientists believe may have medicinal qualities equal to weed. Seyedmostafa Raziei

Though the western states can be as conservative as the central hinterlands, they do have a singular advantage: a live-and-let-live ethos that we can only admire from afar.

They’ve been pioneers in the legalization of recreational weed, which not only saves prison costs, but can prove a bonanza to state treasuries. Now they’re moving to a new frontier: the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms.

Last week, Denver voters passed a law mandating that mushroom busts be among the city’s lowest law-enforcement priorities. While this doesn’t make them legal, it does bar the city from spending money to prosecute anyone 21 and older for possession. (Dealers can still be charged.)

Consider it the latest act of The People Doing Cooler Things Than Us. Movements are also afoot to get similar measures on ballots in California and Oregon next year.

While ‘shrooms no doubt pack a more fortified wallop than weed, there’s budding evidence they may have equally sweet therapeutic qualities. So says one of the most skittish entities in the country, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Emerging science indicates mushrooms might grant salvation for those with severe depression – especially people who don’t respond to conventional anti-depressants.

The early research is so good, in fact, that the FDA has deemed it Breakthrough Therapy, a designation that allows promising treatments to be expedited through the approval process.

Yet Minnesotans will have to watch it all unfold from afar. Five years after legalizing medicinal marijuana, we’re still struggling to even create a functionally bad weed program.

The state only grants access for 13 medical conditions. Last year, 3,400 dropped out due to prices twice what they’d pay on the street. Licensed providers have lost millions of dollars.

Yes, we’ve somehow managed to take one of the world's easiest ventures – growing a weed – and turned it into a Donald Trump casino project.

There have been steps toward enlightenment, however. A growing number of politicians are seeing the light. Hennepin County recently announced it would no longer prosecute marijuana cases under 100 grams.

Our bigger problem is that, unlike other states, Minnesota law is far more restrictive in allowing citizen petitions direct access to the ballot, which is how most lenient drug laws pass. That means Minnesotans must rely on the Legislature to find sunlight, and they’re the same people who managed to miserably fail at the simple task of growing a weed.

As it stands, a state task force supposedly overseeing the whole affair hasn’t met in two years. And with Republicans in control of the Senate, there’s little chance of new movement anyway.

Which leaves Minnesota to watch through the window as the world advances. We might take solace in knowing that others are blazing a trail we will eventually follow. The problem is that we’re showing no sign of finding the wisdom or courage to walk it.