Colorado decriminalized psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogens found in some mushrooms, for adults over 21 in a historic vote. It becomes the second state to legalize magic mushrooms after Oregon.
The Natural Medicine Health Act comes ten years after Colorado’s historic cannabis legalization. The ballot measure passed by a fragile margin, 51% of the vote, in what champions of the ballot call a “truly historic moment,” per the Colorado Sun. Natural Medicine Colorado was the organization that put Proposition 122 on the ballot gaining valid signatures and raising $4.5M in funding. In July, the Colorado Secretary of State announced that the nonprofit acquired enough signatures to make it to the ballot.
“This is a historic moment for both the people of Colorado and our country,” said Kevin Matthews, coalition director for Natural Medicine Colorado, per Colorado Public Radio. “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.”
Proposition 122, also known as Initiative 58, has two key components: personal use and statewide mental health. Per Natural Medicine Colorado, “Proposition 122 is designed to create regulated access that maximizes safety to natural psychedelic medicines for veterans struggling with PTSD, people facing a terminal illness, and adults dealing with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.”
The first is that people 21 and older can grow and share psychedelic mushrooms for personal use. The measure decriminalizes or removes criminal penalties for the possession of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and over.
Here’s the official language from DenverGov.org.
A “yes” vote on Proposition 122 requires the state to establish a regulated system for accessing psychedelic mushrooms and, if approved by the regulating state agency, additional plant-based psychedelic substances and decriminalizes the possession and use of psychedelic mushrooms and certain plant-based psychedelic substances in Colorado law for individuals aged 21 and over.
The second key measure is that the state will create a natural medicine services program. This includes “healing centers” where people over 21 may receive supervised administration of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (except peyote), psilocybin, and psilocin. These facilitators will be licensed through the Natural Medicine Advisory Board and overseen by regulatory agencies.
Proposition 122 does not include commercial sales from these healing centers, unlike Colorado’s marijuana law. Licensed facilities may not open sooner than fall 2023.
Here’s the official language from DenverGov.org.
“Creates a natural medicine services program for the supervised administration of dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, mescaline (excluding peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn; creates a framework for regulating the growth, distribution, and sale of such substances to permitted entities; creates the Natural Medicine Advisory Board.”
For many Indigenous Americans, natural medicine is an ancestral practice. Coloradan Casimiro Villa, a mix of Apache, Mexican, and other backgrounds, told CPR that natural medicine is in his roots and licensed locations are necessary. Having “something like dispensaries where [people] could have knowledgeable people giving them the correct medicines, rather than having to rely on the streets,” is vital.
This election wasn’t the first time mushrooms appeared on a Colorado ballot. In 2019, Denver voters decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms, which made “possession a low priority for law enforcement,” per the Colorado Sun. Initiative 61, also on the ballot this year, decriminalized magic mushrooms but didn’t offer a clear path to statewide therapeutic use. It’s telling that Initiative 58, or Proposition 122, won with its regulated guidance.
Colorado Governor Jard Polis has to appoint 15 members to the newly created National Medicine Advisory Board by January 31, 2023. The board will report to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Regulated access to psilocybin is expected in late 2024. By June 2026, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies could expand to the three other plant-based psychedelics: ibogaine, DMT, and mescaline.
There is currently no accepted medical use of psilocybin and similar hallucinogenic compounds under federal law because they’re still Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Experts predict that personal use will remain decriminalized with minimal law enforcement instances, linking it to the FDA’s treatment of cannabis.
CPR spoke to Sam Kamin, a drug policy expert at the University of Denver, who said, “the federal government has little ability when it comes to the decriminalization of psilocybin… The therapeutic treatment centers are probably more complicated.”
What makes psilocybin’s path different from cannabis is that cannabis is more like a commodity. With psilocybin and the future Natural Medicine Advisory Board, this drug is about treatment and therapy.
This election season saw a flurry of studies, including the most recent study showing psilocybin’s positive effect on severely depressed patients almost immediately. The study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, is just one promising clinical trial showing how effective mushrooms are for our well-being.
Colorado voters moved toward a future where natural psychedelics are available for long-term healing, not just treatment. A future where public health isn’t just a discussion about physical ailments but mental health too.