Decriminalization vs. Legalization: Magical Mushrooms and Colorado

Decriminalization vs. Legalization: Magical Mushrooms and Colorado

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In 2019, Denver voters made history by being the first city to approve Initiative 301, which decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms (also known as “magic mushrooms” or “psilocybin”).

Despite the change in policy, possession of mushrooms is still not legal. In May 2019, the Denver Post wrote, “The measure essentially tells police to look the other way on adult psilocybin use.”

So, what exactly is the difference between “decriminalization” and “legalization”? And what’s the point of decriminalizing something if it’s still not legal? Let’s dive in.


In this situation, decriminalization means that if you’re caught in possession of psychedelic mushrooms, jail, prison and probation are generally off the table. There won’t be a felony or misdemeanor charge on your record going forward. To many people in Denver who use magic mushrooms, that may have come as a relief.

However, because the fungi have not been legalized—only decriminalized—if you are caught with mushrooms, you can still receive a ticket and obtain fines. Think about what happens when you get a photo radar speeding ticket: it’s illegal, and it’s expensive, but it’s not jail-worthy. It may still show up on your record for a period of time, but in a much less impactful way than if it were a criminal offense. If you apply for a job and your future employer runs a background check, it may show up… which could potentially affect hiring decisions one way or another.

The Denver Post’s statement that “the measure essentially tells police to look the other way on adult psilocybin use” now makes more sense, doesn’t it?


While police may consider psilocybin a very low priority at this point, it has still has not been legalized. This means that possession, manufacture and use are still illegal. Shops selling mushrooms will not pop up in Denver (as they did with marijuana when it became legal).

It is worth pointing out that since the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms in 2019, there hasn’t been much movement to expand legal access. Unlike marijuana, which was legalized at the state level for medical use in 2000 and recreational use in 2012, psilocybin is only decriminalized in Denver County—not state-wide.

What if I Have Other Drug Charges?

If you have drug charges, including possession, cultivation, manufacture, or something else, they can remain on your record for years to come, potentially impacting your eligibility for employment, travel, and even the outcome of important court cases (for instance, if you are going through a divorce and/or custody battle).

Though some marijuana charges may now be eligible to be expunged, every case is different, and it is advisable to meet with legal counsel to determine if your situation is eligible.

If you have drug charges on your record, or you are dealing with an upcoming DWAI or other drug charge, call our office today at 303-449-1873 to set up a complimentary consultation.

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