Feb 7, 2024 - News

Federally funded study says magic mushroom busts on the rise

Psilocybin mushroom of AJNA BioSciences' cultivation facility.

Psilocybin mushroom grown in a cultivation facility in Littleton. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Magic mushroom seizures by law enforcement skyrocketed in Colorado and across the country from 2017 to 2022, according to a federally funded study released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The surge shows that despite increasing efforts to decriminalize psychedelic fungi, they remain the target of police enforcement because they're illegal under federal law.

By the numbers: Colorado ranked fifth among states with confiscations, with 221 during that stretch — far below Ohio, which had the highest amount at 395.

  • The study's time frame includes periods before Denver became the first city to decriminalize mushrooms in 2019, and right as Colorado voters decided in 2022 to legalize them.

Yes, but: Magic mushrooms are garnering an increasingly positive mainstream appeal in Colorado.

Zoom out: Nationally, law enforcement recorded 1,396 psilocybin mushroom seizures in 2022, up from 402 in 2017, the study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found.

  • The total weight of magic mushrooms seized by law enforcement rose from 498 pounds in 2017 to 1,861 in 2022. By volume, Colorado ranked seventh
  • States in the Midwest and West accounted for the most confiscations in the country, 36% and 34% respectively.

Of note: The states and regions where seizures are reported don't necessarily reflect the fungi's intended destinations, according to the study's authors.

The intrigue: The findings could signal more people are using psilocybin for non-medical or recreational use, writes Axios' Adriel Bettelheim.

Be smart: Joseph J. Palamar, lead author on the study and an associate professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, in a statement said people who use magic mushrooms without medical supervision need to learn about potential risks.

  • That can include so-called "bad trips," which can include distorted thinking, perceptual changes, and intense fear, anxiety and confusion.

What's next: The first licenses for clinics for supervised psilocybin use, called healing centers, are expected to be issued in Colorado later this year.

Go deeper: Magic mushrooms go mainstream in Colorado

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