Colorado Becomes Second State to Approve Natural Psychedelic Reforms [FEATURE]

Three years after voters in Denver opened the door to psychedelic reform by approving a municipal initiative that made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, voters statewide have approved an initiative that decriminalizes plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics and creates a program for the therapeutic administration of such substances.

Magic mushrooms and other natural entheogens are now decriminalized in Colorado. (Creative Commons)
On Election Day, voters approved Proposition 122, the Natural Medicine Health Act, with 53.55 percent of the vote. To win, the initiative organizers, Natural Medicine Colorado had to overcome opposition not only from prohibitionists but also from sectors of the state's contentious psychedelic community, such as Decriminalize Nature Colorado, whose competing initiative failed to qualify for the ballot.

Last week's victory makes Colorado the second state to enact reforms decriminalizing a natural psychedelic and setting up a program for therapeutic use. Oregon voters led the way on that by approving Measure 109 in 2020.

Proposition 122 has two main prongs: First, it decriminalizes the personal use, possession, and cultivation by people 21 and over of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn, as well as providing for the sealing of conviction records of people who have completed sentences for the use or possession of those substances. The measure sets no personal possession limits.

Second, it creates a "natural medicine services" program for the therapeutic administration of the specified psychedelics and creates a rubric for regulated growth, distribution, and sales of those substances to entities within the program. Only psilocybin and psilocin would be okayed for therapeutic use until 2026. Then regulators could decide on whether to allow the therapeutic use of DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline.

As part of the "natural medicine services" program, Proposition 122 will also create the Natural Medicine Advisory Board to craft rules and regulations for implementing the program. The board can also make recommendations to the Department of Regulatory Agencies on adding additional substances.

With the help of more than $3.825 million in funding from the New Approach PAC, which has bankrolled numerous drug reform initiatives across the country, Natural Health Colorado zipped through signature-gathering in a quick three months and qualified for the ballot back in June.

That irked groups such as Decriminalize Colorado and the Society for Psychedelic Outreach Reform and Education (SPORE).

"I do not personally align with I-58 [Proposition 122] and the heavy out-of-state influence calling the shots in Colorado," said Melanie Rose Rodgers, co-proponent of the Decriminalize Nature initiative. "What happened with cannabis is happening with mushrooms. Folks from marginalized communities, People of Color are being left out -- once again. With all the inequality and rolling back of freedoms that exist today, let us not create new industries that will cater and serve the rich and wealthy while opening the floodgates for anyone able to buy Colorado 'healing center' licenses. I am opposed to the corporate takeover of sacred earth medicines and psychedelics written in I-58 [Proposition 122]."

"While this may sound like a good thing to people who want to see increased access to psychedelics, this initiative is designed for corporate control, largely restricting access to corporate-owned healing centers Frankly, the NMHA is not a step in the right direction. It is a leap in the wrong direction," said Matthew Duffy, cofounder of SPORE. "The NMHA is a corporate power grab, setting a corrupt foundation for the future of medicine stewardship in Colorado."

But Natural Health Colorado and its backers beg to differ, and they are emphasizing the therapeutic aspects of the measure as they bask in the glow of victory.

"This is a truly historic moment. Colorado voters saw the benefit of regulated access to natural medicines, including psilocybin, so people with PTSD, terminal illness, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can heal," Natural Medicine Colorado said in a post-election statement. "We look forward to working with the regulatory and medical experts and other stakeholders to implement this new law."

"The Natural Medicine Health Act puts the well-being of patients and communities first," added Josh Kappel, chair of the Natural Medicine Colorado campaign. "It was purposefully designed, with a multi-phase implementation process that sets clear safety rules, while allowing the details of the regulatory structure to be developed by the community and regulators working together."

For David Bronner, CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) of Dr. Bronner's soaps, which endorsed the initiative, it combines two important means of access to the mind-altering substances. "I see what [Proposition 122] does as one seamless policy: making natural medicines -- psychedelic plant and fungal medicines containing psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine or mescaline (peyote) -- available to all adult Coloradans in two powerful healing modalities: via a regulated access model in a therapeutic context; and the self-regulating community healing model in a decriminalized context," Bronner said.

Now that the voters have spoken, it is time to begin ensuring that Proposition 122 in practice more resembles the vision of its proponents than its opponents.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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