Denver DA drops psilocybin charges against rabbi Ben Gorelick

The Denver District Attorney’s Office on Thursday dismissed a felony drug case against a rabbi charged with manufacturing psilocybin, citing the voter-approved Proposition 122, which legalized psychedelics, including psilocybin, for medicinal use.

At an arraignment hearing, a representative of the Denver District Attorney’s Office said the case was being dismissed against Ben Gorelick “in the interest of justice.” Carolyn Tyler, a spokesperson for the DA’s office, said the dismissal came about “in light of the voters’ decision” on Proposition 122.

Gorelick was arrested in February after police raided a warehouse in north Denver where he was growing more than 30 different types of psychedelic mushrooms. He had been charged with possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance, a first-degree felony.

The case against a chemist who was arrested during the January raid also was dismissed Thursday, Tyler said.

Gorelick is the founder of The Sacred Tribe, a Denver-based religious group that used psilocybin ceremoniously until the police raid last winter. Several members of the group were in the courtroom Thursday and celebrated when the dismissal was announced.

“I don’t know what everything got dismissed on or for,” Gorelick told The Denver Post. “At this point in time, what I can tell you is I’m very, very, very grateful to the DA’s office for dropping the case. It’s been a long year for the community, it’s been a long year for us, and we look forward to getting back to practicing our religion, which is what the whole point of this is.”

  • Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Rabbi Ben Gorelick, measures out a precise amount of sacrament, psilocybin mushrooms, during The Sacred Tribe's ceremony on Nov. 6, 2021.

  • Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Rabbi Ben Gorelick, right, talks to participants at a Sacred Tribe community dinner at the Synagogue, his home, Nov. 5, 2021.

  • Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    A Sacred Tribe attendee, center, sits on a vibration healing table while others wait to try it out on Nov. 06, 2021.

  • Rabbi Ben Gorelick, measures out a precise amount Sacrament, psilocybin mushrooms, during Sacred Tribe Sacrament ceremony at the Synagogue, his home, November 05, 2021. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

  • Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Sacred Tribe participants during a breathwork exercise in the Synagogue on Nov. 06, 2021.

After the police raid, The Sacred Tribe temporarily suspended gatherings but has since convened for Shabbat dinners and other events — sans psychedelic substances. Elle Logan, who has been a member since 2021, said the case “broke the community in a lot of ways,” but that she wasn’t surprised the charges were dismissed.

“The psychedelic movement, the plant medicine movement, and with Prop 122 passing, there’s amazing momentum going into a brand new future that looks really different for a lot of people in terms of mental health and spiritual wellness,” Logan said. “Ben’s heart has been in that place from the get-go… I’ve known his heart the whole time, that’s never been in question and I’m glad the court saw it too.”

Public enthusiasm around psychedelics has been growing in recent years, as clinical research has yielded promising results in their ability to treat ailments like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. In November, Colorado voters approved Proposition 122, which legalized psilocybin and psilocin for medicinal use.

Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin in 2019. Last year, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann was on a panel that recommended the city loosen laws further after studying the effects and concluding it “has not since presented any significant public health or safety risk in the city.”

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