Colorado voters could have the chance next year to vote on legalizing possession and personal cultivation of psychedelics, and creating a system of licensed businesses to produce psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for supervised use at “healing centers.”
A national advocacy group recently filed two separate psychedelics reform initiatives for Colorado’s 2022 ballot, both of which are titled the Natural Medicine Healing Act.
The first would legalize the possession, cultivation and an array of entheogenic substances, as well as establish a regulatory model for psychedelics therapy. The other is a similar, but somewhat more dialed-back proposal that would initially legalize psilocybin and psilocin alone for personal adult use while also allowing for their sale and administration in a therapeutic setting.
This filing comes more than two years after Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Various activists, including those involved in the 2019 campaign, have signaled interest in building upon the reform.
New Approach PAC, which has been behind a number of state marijuana legalization campaigns as well as Oregon’s medical psilocybin legalization initiative that voters approved last year, filed the new Colorado measures with the secretary of state’s office earlier this month, as Westword first reported.
Both have been revised and finalized, and activists are now awaiting approval from the state before they can launch signature gathering to qualify for next year’s ballot. It’s likely that advocates will ultimately pursue only one of the measures after doing polling and other outreach to get a sense of the relative viability of each.
Under the broader proposal, the following entheogenic plants and fungi would be legalized: ibogaine, DMT, mescaline (except when derived from peyote), psilocybin and psilocyn.”
There would be no criminal or civil penalties for “possessing, storing, using, processing, transporting, purchasing, obtaining, ingesting, or giving away natural medicine without renumeration to a person twenty-one years of age or older” as long as it’s under the allowable amount of four grams.
While some activists are taking issue with the four gram limitation, the measure does say the allowable amount “does not include the weight of any material of which the natural medicine is a part, including dried fungus or plant material” and only counts the psychoactive compounds themselves.
The state Department of Regulatory Agencies would be responsible for developing rules for a therapeutic psychedelics program where adults 21 and older could visit a licensed “healing center” to receive treatment under the guidance of a trained facilitator.
“Colorado’s current approach to mental health has failed to fulfill its promise,” the text of the measure states. “Coloradans deserve more tools to address mental health issues, including approaches, such as natural medicines, that are grounded in treatment, recovery, health, and wellness rather than criminalization, stigma, suffering, and punishment.”
“Criminalizing natural medicines has punished people for seeking access to medicines that a growing body of research shows may have efficacy as treatments for suicidality, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders,” it says.
An advisory board would be established “for the purpose of advising the department as to the implementation of the regulated access program.”
While localities could enact policies related to the “time, place, and manner of the operation of healing centers,” they could not outright ban the facilities from operating in their jurisdiction.
Further, the initiative provides a pathway for people to have their criminal records cleared for psychedelics-related activities made legal under the proposal. And it also includes protections stating that legal psychedelic activities could not be used against a person when it comes to parental rights, violating probation or parole, access to public benefits or medical care.
The second measure that New Approach PAC filed focuses on psilocybin and psilocyn—the key active ingredients in psychedelic mushrooms.
It would similarly remove criminal penalties for the personal use of the substances and create a regulatory model overseen by the Department of Regulatory Agencies to allow adults to access the medicines at a healing center.
While the ballot proposal centers around psilocybin and psilocyn, it does allow regulators to eventually “classify additional controlled substances as natural medicines under this act if consistent with the purposes of this act.”
The initiative is also distinct from the broader proposal in that it would not create an advisory board, it does allow local municipalities to ban healing centers from operating in their area, it doesn’t provide for retroactive record sealing for psychedelics-related convictions and there are no explicit parent protections.
Here’s the ballot title language of the first initiative that was approved by the state’s Ballot Title Setting Board on Wednesday:
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning legal regulated access to natural medicine for persons 21 years of age or older, and, in connection therewith, defining natural medicine as certain plants or fungi that affect a person’s mental health and are controlled substances under state law; establishing a natural medicine regulated access program and requiring the department of regulatory agencies to implement the program and regulate the manufacture, cultivation, testing, storage, transport, delivery, sale, and purchase of natural medicine; creating an advisory board to advise the department as to the implementation of the program; granting a local government limited authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of providing natural medicine services; allowing limited personal possession or use of natural medicine; providing specified protections under state law, including criminal and civil immunity, for authorized providers and users of natural medicine; and, in limited circumstances, allowing the retroactive removal and reduction of criminal penalties related to the possession, use, and sale of natural medicine?”
And here’s the psilocybin-focused initiative’s ballot title:
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning legal regulated access to natural medicine for persons 21 years of age or older, and, in connection therewith, defining natural medicine as certain plants or fungi that affect a person’s mental health and are controlled substances under state law; establishing a natural medicine regulated access program and requiring the department of regulatory agencies to implement the program and regulate the manufacture, cultivation, testing, storage, transport, delivery, sale, and purchase of natural medicine; granting a local government authority to regulate or ban the provision of natural medicine services; allowing limited personal possession or use of natural medicine; and providing specified protections under state law, including criminal and civil immunity, for authorized providers and users of natural medicine?”
While there are growing calls for expanded psychedelics reform—and specifically regulated, legal access to entheogenic substances—there are some local Colorado activists who are concerned about the language of the two New Approach proposals, as Westword reported.
“They’re looking to create these top-down, restrictive policies in places where grassroots community has been the strongest and where policy has been passed by grassroots community,” Decriminalize Nature Boulder County’s Nicole Foerster argued at a virtual meeting on Thursday.
Meanwhile, activists in the state are also targeting a number of jurisdictions for separate psychedelics reform efforts.
The Colorado initiatives seek to accomplish something similar to what California activists are actively pursuing. California advocates are in the process of collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state.
Virginia activists have also launched a push to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics in the Commonwealth, and two state lawmakers recently touted the therapeutic potential of entheogenic substances like psilocybin mushrooms.
Last month, Detroit voters approved a ballot initiative to widely decriminalize psychedelics, making it the latest in a growing number of jurisdictions to enact the reform.
In October, lawmakers in a fourth Massachusetts city, Easthampton, voted in favor of a resolution urging the decriminalization of certain entheogenic substances and other drugs.
The action comes months after the neighboring Northampton City Council passed a resolution stipulating that no government or police funds should be used to enforce laws criminalizing people for using or possessing entheogenic plants and fungi. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Somerville and Cambridge have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics.
The local measures also express support for two bills introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature this year. One would remove criminal penalties for possession of all currently illicit drugs and the other would establish a task force to study entheogenic substances with the eventual goal of legalizing and regulating the them.
Separately, Seattle’s City Council approved a resolution in October to decriminalize noncommercial activity around a wide range of psychedelic substances, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline.
A bill to legalize psychedelics in California advanced through the Senate and two Assembly committees this year before being pulled by the sponsor to buy more time to generate support among lawmakers. The plan is to take up the reform during next year’s second half of the legislative session, and the senator behind the measure says he’s confident it will pass.
In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics. Activists in the city are also hoping to expand upon the local decriminalization ordinance by creating a community-based model through which people could legally purchase entheogenic substances from local producers.
Earlier this year, Texas enacted a law directing state officials to study psychedelics’ medical value.
The governor of Connecticut signed a bill in June that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.
Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives last November to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. On the local level, activists in Portland are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.
The top Democrat in the Florida Senate filed a bill in September that would require the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.
A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.
In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.
Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.
There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee in September.
NIDA also recently announced it’s funding a study into whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking cigarettes.
An official with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also said at a recent congressional hearing that the agency is “very closely” following research into the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics like MDMA for military veterans.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a longstanding champion of marijuana reform in Congress, said in October that he intends to help bring the psychedelics reform movement to Capitol Hill, and he reiterated that point in response to a question from Marijuana Moment on Thursday. The congressman is also circulating a letter to get his colleagues to demand that the Drug Enforcement Administration stop preventing terminal patients from accessing psilocybin as a right-to-try investigational drug.
In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.