First Comes Vote, Now Comes Implementation
Denver de-prioritized enforcing psilocybin laws. Now it’s time to figure out how to put the initiative in motion

by Julia Cardi

By a sliver of a margin, Denver voted in May to make enforcement of laws prohibiting magic mushrooms, or psilocybin, law enforcement’s lowest priority and prohibited the use of public resources in enforcing the laws against them. Now it’s up to the Denver district attorney, city attorney and Denver Police Department to figure out its practical implementation. While the ballot initiative itself was short, some of its key terms will likely need legal interpretation for putting the initiative into practice.

First, an important clarification: De-prioritizing enforcement of a law is not the same thing as decriminalization. Decriminalization can take a few different forms: Lawmakers can reduce something to a civil infraction so it doesn’t carry criminal penalties. They can also cut an offense out of statute so it isn’t defined anymore. By contrast, moving enforcement of laws against psilocybin to the bottom of law enforcement’s priority list doesn’t actually change its legal status.

“That’s the nuance that I don’t know the general public gets, the difference between those two things,” said Marley Bordovsky, the director of prosecution and code enforcement in the Denver city attorney’s office. Mason Tvert, a partner at Vicente Sederberg public affairs affiliate VS Strategies, said decriminalizing psilocybin would be tricky because before Initiative 301, he doesn’t believe there was a city ordinance addressing the substance that mirrored state law. Vicente Sederberg played a role in drafting Initiative 301.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the June 10, 2019 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.