Colorado has become the second US state, after Oregon, to legalize facilitated psilocybin services. On November 8, voters passed Proposition 122, the Natural Medicine Health Act, in a close race. The proposition passed 51.4 to 48.6 with 89 percent reporting, according to New York Times on Thursday. The legislation opens the door to treatments with other psychedelics and decriminalizes the personal use and possession—although with some limits—of most entheogens.
Psilocybin services must rollout by late 2024, although the measure could be expanded to include facilitated sessions with ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), and natural DMT, such as the type contained within ayahuasca, by mid-2026.
“This is a historic moment for both the people of Colorado and our country,” Kevin Matthews, coalition director for Natural Medicine Colorado, told local media. “I think this demonstrates that voters here in Colorado are ready for new options and another choice for healing, especially when it comes to their mental and behavioral health.”
Attention will now move toward the implementation phase, which will be steered by a governor-appointed Natural Medicine Advisory Board.
“This is exciting news, especially when it comes to moving the needle on the federal conversation regarding psychedelic drug policy,” said Jaz Cadoch, a community activist and anthropologist who sits on the Natural Medicine Health Act steering committee.
“We certainly have our work cut out. First and foremost, it is critical that we focus on empowering community-led organizations over the next 18 months while we wait for the laws of the regulated program to come through so that we can adequately educate the influx of inquiries that will come in under the personal use model.”
Selections for the 15-member board will be closely monitored by activists who supported a countermeasure to Proposition 122. They hope to ensure diverse representation within the group. Their countermeasure—Initiative 61—did not make it onto the ballot this election season, and it had originally proposed a decriminalization model without possession limits or a regulated system for facilitated psychedelic sessions.
The measure, put forth by New Approach PAC, was opposed by a contingent of grassroots activists in the state and drug policy reform circles more broadly due to concerns of inadequate community engagement and fears that the resultant treatment ecosystem would not be equitable. Supporters say that there are inclusion measures written into the bill, however, much will need to be figured out by the advisory board about what those will look like and how they will be implemented.
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Selling psychedelic medicines for recreational or therapeutic use will remain illegal outside of licensed “natural healing centers,” but gifting will be permitted as well as community cultivation, according to the language voters cast their ballot upon. Any one individual will not be permitted more than five such centers, although there has been criticism over vague language that some activists believe could be exploited by big business.
According to The Denver Post, New Approach spent more than $4m through the campaign in support of the Natural Medicine Health Act. The funding was mostly raised through donors in the state, where Denver became the first US city to decriminalize magic mushrooms in 2019—spurring a national psychedelic reform movement.
“Many of us who voted no support decriminalization but believe the measure should have stopped there rather than prioritizing regulated access,” said Nicole Foerster, co-proponent of the rival measure. “It is important to ensure that no one is incarcerated while the few who are able to enter the market are able to legally profit.”
Ramzy Abueita, Decriminalize Nature Boulder co-director, added: “Even though this measure wasn’t our first choice, we can set our differences aside to celebrate the historic fact that Colorado has become the first state to pass a comprehensive psychedelic reform measure.”
Political attention in the state also focuses on another 10 ballot measures this election season, including the provision of “healthy school meals for all” and allowing convenience stores to sell wine, as well as the congressional midterms.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) had previously indicated his support for psychedelics decriminalization, but last month amid mixed polling on the likelihood of the measure passing, he said he was undecided on how he would vote. In June, he signed a bill to legalize MDMA prescriptions upon federal approval.