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A Closer Look at Colorado's New Psychedelic Legislation, SB23-290
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A Closer Look at Colorado's New Psychedelic Legislation, SB23-290

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
June 07, 2023
4 min

Less than a year after Colorado decriminalized psilocybin and psilocin, the state’s governor, Jared Polis, has signed a new law establishing a legal framework for the regulated use of psychedelics.

The Natural Medicine Health Act, or Prop 122, was created to allow regulated access to psychedelic medicines like psilocybin, DMT, mescaline, and peyote for those with medical conditions and for personal use. The Senate bill planned to create natural medicine services through healing centers, allowing patients to receive care from licensed facilitators. The ballot initiative appointed fifteen members to the Colorado Natural Medicine Advisory Board, who are responsible for offering recommendations and reporting to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to determine how to manufacture, test, and distribute psilocybin and psilocin.

Senate Bill 23-290 was initially introduced by Senate President Steve Fenberg and Representative Judy Amabile on April 18, 2023, to modify the regulatory framework established by the original bill. The new legislation aims to establish a more precise and streamlined approach to natural medicine substances for safe and legal use. The Division of Professions and Occupations director will be in charge of regulating facilitators, issuing licenses, and officially announcing and putting the new, necessary rules into effect. Furthermore, the director will be responsible for carrying out any duties needed for the successful execution and management of the Natural Medicine Health Act. 

Solidifying the Natural Medicine Advisory Board

A key provision in SB 23-290 is to further establish the Natural Medicine Advisory Board, which will be responsible for determining any issues related to natural medicine and making any recommendations regarding these medicines to the director of the division of professions and occupations and the executive director of the state licensing authority. The bill will also create a Division of Natural Medicine within the Department of Revenue to regulate the cultivation, licensing, storage, distribution, and manufacturing of these substances. The Department of Revenue is ideally suited to manage the regulation of natural medicine products as they already have existing resources and substantial experience in the regulation of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. They must organize with the Department of Public Health and Environment to determine the testing standards of natural medicine regulation. In addition, SB 23-290 will require a sunset review to evaluate the articles that govern the Department of Regulatory Affairs and the Department of Revenue.

The updated legislation expands on the consequences of irresponsible actions related to natural medicines. Individuals under the age of 21 are subject to a fine of no more than $100 or four hours of substance use education and counseling if they are caught with personal possession of natural medicine. Similar consequences are reserved for those who consume nature medicines in public spaces, as they will also face minimal fines and no more than 24 hours of public service. More severe penalties are reserved for unlawful cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of natural medicine, as these individuals may face heavy fines or drug felony charges. The bill emphasizes individual responsibilities and the significance of observing local laws to ensure the required legal limits are established for the new legislation. 

There are no limits established by the bill regarding personal possession limits; however, there is a 12x12 foot cultivation limit on private property which can be waived by local government authorities. Personal use of natural medicine is defined by the bill as possessing, consuming, sharing, or cultivating without remuneration of the products.

Safeguarding rights and non-discrimination policies

The new bill establishes clear protections against potential discrimination or legal penalties associated with the use of natural medicines in order to protect the rights of those who use these substances. The use of natural medicine does not constitute grounds for claims of child abuse or restricting family time, according to SB23-290. Furthermore, natural medicine use does not constitute grounds for denying health insurance coverage or insurance discrimination. The bill also states that the use of natural medicines should not impact an individual’s eligibility for public assistance programs unless the programs are mandated by federal law.

As a result of the decriminalization of natural medicines in Colorado,  SB 23-290 allows those previously convicted of any related drug offenses to have their records sealed. The defendant must file a motion with the court and have their criminal history reviewed. If approved, the defendant will have their natural medicine-related criminal records hidden from public view and most background checks, so the individual does not have to disclose it. This reconsideration of the legal consequences of natural medicine use allows those previously faced with criminal charges a chance to have more opportunities and less restrictive laws.

Indigenous protections

With the legalization and regulation of natural substances, SB 23-290 acknowledges these medicines’ deep roots in indigenous communities. The legislation aims to honor and respect indigenous communities, particularly regarding facilitators and healing centers that have little to no connection to the traditional use of natural medicine. The bill introduces various protective measures to safeguard indigenous people’s rights, traditions, and cultures regarding natural medicines to avoid the over-commodification and commercialization of these substances. To maintain an open dialogue and relationship with Indigenous communities, the bill suggests the establishment of an Indigenous Community Working Group. According to the bill text, the group “will study ways to avoid the misappropriation and exploitation of indigenous cultures, prevent excessive commercialization of natural medicine, address any conservation issues, and establish best practices to build trust between indigenous communities, the board, the division, state licensing authority, and law enforcement agencies.” Additionally, the bill calls for the avoidance of excessive commercialization of natural medicine products and services to prevent the exploitation of indigenous people and their culture. 

A new era for natural medicines in Colorado

This groundbreaking phase in Colorado’s legislative history is helping set the stage for the regulated usage of natural medicines all around the United States. Though these substances are not yet federally legal, the establishment of a comprehensive framework and revised legislation allow the safe and ethical use of these substances for all Colorado citizens. As a result, appropriate laws have been established to allow for individual freedom and personal accountability.


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legislation
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
Solidifying the Natural Medicine Advisory Board
2
Legal standards and accountability for natural medicine users
3
Safeguarding rights and non-discrimination policies
4
Indigenous protections
5
A new era for natural medicines in Colorado

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