Media Report: From veterans to mushroom growers, Denver psychedelics conference attracts thousands

Thousands of conference-goers are gathering in downtown Denver this week to learn about the future of psychedelics like magic mushrooms and MDMA. The five-day Psychedelic Science 2023 event covers a wide variety of subjects from the business of psychedelics to therapeutic uses for these substances.

“We are facing very difficult challenges in mental and behavioral health and we’re very excited about the opportunities that psychedelics offer to break cycles of addictions for opioids, to deal with severe depression and anxiety,” said Gov. Jared Polis during his opening address on Wednesday.

Hosted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit with operations in Boulder, over 11,000 people have registered for the event which the organization describes as “the largest psychedelic conference in history.” This conference is the fourth of its kind—the last gathering took place in 2017 in Oakland, California.

Events include sessions for veterans struggling with PTSD and scientists discussing emerging research. High-profile speakers like musician Melissa Etheridge and football player Aaron Rodgers are talking publicly about their experiences with psychedelics.

“It’s really exciting to see just how lively the showing is here in Denver for the Psychedelic Science conference,” Ramzy Abueita of Decriminalize Nature Boulder County said. “The fact that…we are freely walking around in the city being ourselves shows just how much the zeitgeist has shifted and how much psychedelic culture has become normalized and de-stigmatized in our society.”

The conference represents increasing cultural awareness and acceptance of plant medicine, following recent efforts to bring psychedelics into the mainstream.

In 2019, Denver residents voted to decriminalize mushrooms that contain psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound. The following year Oregon became the first state in the nation to allow psilocybin-assisted therapy. Last fall, Colorado voters approved Proposition 122, which decriminalizes growing and possessing some natural psychedelics. The measure also creates a framework for these substances to be used in therapeutic settings.

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