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U.S. City Becomes The First To Decriminalise 'Magic' Mushrooms

Colorado's capital Denver -- long known for being at the forefront of the push for drug reform -- has just become the first city in the United States to decriminalise magic mushrooms.

The unprecedented bid to decriminalise psychedelic mushrooms was approved earlier this week as the city voted in local elections.

The reform, known as I-301 , initially looked set to fail as late as Tuesday night, but by Wednesday local time, the 'yes' vote won out --gaining 50.56 percent of the vote.

While there are still some votes yet to be counted, it's understood they would not be enough to swing the vote back to the 'no' side when votes are certified next week.

Voters check their phones as results come in at a watch party for the first bill in the U.S. that would decriminalise psilocybin mushroom. PHOTO: Getty Images.

The reform now means the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by adults 21 years and older would be at the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver.

This would prevent the city from using resources to impose penalties, and while the drug cannot be sold, it can be grown by users.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies the drug as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning the agency has deemed that it has a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical application.

Even with Denver's decision psilocybin -- the naturally occurring ingredient in magic mushrooms -- would remain illegal under both Colorado and federal law.

What Are Magic Mushrooms?

'Psilocybin mushrooms' or as they're known colloquially 'magic mushrooms' or 'shrooms' look like ordinary mushrooms, but are consumed because of their hallucinogenic effects, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

"They belong to a group of drugs known as psychedelics, because of the changes experienced to perception, mood and thought," ADF said on its website.

Mushrooms for sale. PHOTO: Getty Images

While, like all drugs, there is no 'safe amount' that can be taken, Decriminalize Denver, the group behind Denver's ballot question, said psilocybin had a wide range of medical benefits.

Some studies have shown it to reduce depression and anxiety and to help in treating tobacco, alcohol and opioid addictions, and with alleviating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the organisation.

But opponents of the ballot said they are concerned that if the reform is passed, the initiative would increase the city's image as a haven for drugs, given that Colorado was one of the first states to legalise possession and sale of marijuana for adult recreational use.

Campaign manager for the Denver Psilocybin Initiative Kevin Matthews wears a mushroom necklace at an election watch party. PHOTO: Getty Images

Denver residents first voted to decriminalise marijuana possession in 2004, years before Colorado voters ultimately approved its legalisation statewide for recreational purposes, establishing a full regulatory framework to license retail outlets and collect sales taxes on cannabis products.

Magic Mushrooms In Australia

Every state and territory in Australia has criminal laws that apply to most forms of psychedelics.

This means that individuals who wish to use psychedelics as a therapy put themselves at risk of criminal prosecution, lawyer and consultant Jarryd Bartle wrote for 10 daily earlier this year.

Every State and Territory in Australia has criminal laws that apply to most forms of psychedelics. PHOTO: Getty Images

But while Bartle said these laws also pose barriers for the approval of psychedelic therapies, it has not stopped one Melbourne hospital that recently announced it had approved a trial for the use of magic mushrooms to counter death anxiety within palliative care.

Early indicators are that psychedelic trips free up a user’s thinking to get fresh perspective on otherwise traumatic events, Bartle said.

READ MORE: Are There Health Benefits In Tripping Out Of Your Mind?

"Dying patients will be treated with psychedelic synthetic magic mushrooms under a medical trial aiming to ease the paralysing anxiety felt by palliative care patients," St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne said.

"The mind-bending drugs are hoped to give terminally ill patients a new perspective on their lives, guided by psychiatrists to remove the fear and depression which can often take over their final months."

Patients will be given a single dose of psilocybin, which is "so powerful it can unlock a section of a patient’s brains to give them an altered outlook on their situation approaching death," clinical psychologist Dr Margaret Ross told the hospital.

With CBS/AAP.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au