Colorado voters passed a ballot initiative forfor people 21 and older, and to create state-regulated “healing centers” where participants can experiment with drugs under supervision.
Colorado becomes the second state, after Oregon, to vote to establish a regulated system for substances like psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogens found in certain mushrooms. The initiative, which would come into effect in 2024, will also allow an advisory board to add other herbal psychedelic drugs to the program in 2026.
Proponents have argued that the state’s current approach to mental health has failed and that natural psychedelics, which have been used for hundreds of years,, PTSD, anxiety, addiction and other conditions. They also said that jailing people for the non-violent offense of using natural substances costs taxpayers money.
Natural Medicine Colorado, the group that promoted the measure, called its adoption a “truly historic moment.”
“Voters in Colorado saw the benefit of regulated access to natural medicines, including psilocybin, so that people with PTSD, terminal illness, depression, anxiety and other health issues mental health can heal,” the group said in a prepared statement.
But critics have warned that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the substances as drugs. They also argued that allowing “healing centers” to operate and allowing private personal use of the drugs would jeopardize public safety and send the wrong message to children and adults that the substances are safe.
“This opens up a very big national conversation about the role of the FDA in determining drugs in this country,” said Luke Niforatos, the head of the opposition voting committee, Protect Colorado’s Kids. “Because now, for the second time in a row, states have put medicine on the ballot and bypassed science and the FDA.”
Niforatos said his group is calling on the FDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the US Attorney in Colorado to intervene because the drugs are still federally illegal.
“Are we going to skip the FDA — the only institution charged with protecting patient health and safety — and just say we’re okay with statewide and nationwide experiments? about any drug startup?” He asked.
The ballot initiative’s passage comes a decade after Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana, after initially allowing its use for medical reasons, leading to a multi-billion dollar industry. with hundreds of dispensaries popping up across the state.
Critics of the latest ballot initiative say the same deep-pocketed players who lobbied to legalize recreational marijuana in various states are using a similar playbook to create a commercial market, and eventually recreational dispensaries, for dangerous substances.
This week’s votersendorsed recreational marijuana in Maryland and Missouri, but rejected it in two other states, signaling growing support for legalization even in conservative parts of the country.
The results mean that 21 states have approved the recreational use of marijuana.
According to Colorado’s latest measure, psychedelics that would be decriminalized are listed as Schedule 1 controlled substances under state and federal law and are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use with a high potential for abuse.
Even so, the FDA has designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” to treat major depressive disorder. Designation can expedite the research, development and review of a drug if it can offer substantial improvements over existing treatments.
Colorado’s ballot initiative would allow people 21 and older to grow, own and share psychedelics, but not sell them for personal use. It would also allow people who have been convicted of offenses related to these substances to have their criminal records sealed.
Those who want to use mushrooms would not need a doctor’s approval. As well as being able to grow and use their own mushrooms, those who want to try the therapy could do so through the newly created “healing centers”, which would be allowed to supply mushrooms to customers but not sell them. Instead, clients would pay for the services of the centre’s “facilitator”.
Proponents have repeatedly pointed out that the measure does not allow dispensaries like those that sell recreational and medical marijuana.
In 2020, Oregon became the first state in the nation to legalize the supervised therapeutic use of psilocybin after 56% of voters approved Ballot Measure 109. But unlike Colorado’s measure, Oregon allows counties to opt out of the program if their constituents vote to do so.
In Colorado, counties and municipalities could regulate healing centers, but not ban them.
Oregon’s initiative is expected to go into effect early next year.
Washington, DC and Denver have partially decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms by requiring law enforcement to treat them as their lowest priority.