Jun 20, 2023 - News

Psychedelics conference in Denver puts 'shrooms in the spotlight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

What's being dubbed the "largest psychedelic conference in history" is descending on downtown Denver this week.

State of play: Roughly 300 exhibitors and 10,000 attendees — from politicians and professional athletes to researchers, authors and advocates — are flooding the Colorado Convention Center from across the world for this year's Psychedelic Science conference.

  • The expo is hosted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), one of the nation's most prominent psychedelic organizations, which has major research sites in Boulder and Fort Collins.
  • Summit guests include New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, musical artist Melissa Etheridge, co-founder of Whole Foods John Mackey, and National Institute of Mental Health director Joshua Gordon.

Why it matters: Consider the conference an unofficial launch party for what's predicted to be a multi-billion-dollar industry, putting Colorado at the heart of "magic mushrooms" moving mainstream.

What they're saying: Colorado was a natural location for the event, Rick Doblin, founder and president of MAPS, told the Denver Business Journal.

  • "Denver has been a pioneer in this whole area," he said. "We felt mainly that the political environment and the facilities were ideal."

Details: The five-day event includes dozens of panels pondering everything from the possibilities of psychedelics on mental health to new business opportunities, greater community impacts and how these substances fit into religion. Some researchers will announce results from their clinical trials.

  • Concerts, including a Flaming Lips show, are popping up around town.
  • Drugs being discussed in addition to psilocybin mushrooms include MDMA, LSD, DMT, ayahuasca and ketamine.

Of note: MAPS recently partnered with the state on a $2 million grant to study the use of cannabis for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The group is also working with Denver police on training to better respond to people who have taken psychedelics.

Flashback: Denver was the first major city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019.


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