2022 ballot

Colorado Has Two Opportunities To Decriminalize Entheogenic Substances

Colorado Has Two Opportunities To Decriminalize Entheogenic Substances - Marijuana Packaging

For Colorado’s 2022 ballot, New Approach PAC has filed two different psychedelics reform initiatives. Both are titled the Natural Medicine Healing Act. 

The first initiative proposes establishing a regulatory model for psychedelics therapy and legalizing the possession and cultivation of an array of entheogenic substances. 

The second proposal would legalize only psilocybin and psilocin for sale and administration in a therapeutic setting and personal adult use.

This filing builds on previous Colorado-based drug reforms. In 2019, Denver became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.

New Approach PAC was behind Oregon’s medical psilocybin legalization initiative approved by voters last year. They have also been instrumental in several other state marijuana legalization campaigns.

Both initiatives have been finalized and are now awaiting approval from the state before advocates can gather signatures to qualify for next year’s ballot. Only one of the measures will likely receive their full support after polling, and other outreaches provide a sense of the viability of each.

The first, broader proposal legalizes psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, DMT, and mescaline (unless derived from peyote. There would be no civil or criminal penalties for ingesting, obtaining, processing, purchasing, possessing, storing, transporting, using, or giving away natural medicine without remuneration to a person twenty-one years of age or older. The allowable amount is 4 grams and only counts the psychoactive compounds themselves.

It would designate Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies to be responsible for developing rules for therapeutic psychedelics programs where adults 21 and older could visit a licensed “healing center” to receive treatment under the guidance of a trained facilitator.

Under the first proposal, local governments could enact policies related to the “time, place, and manner of the operation of healing centers,” but they could not ban the facilities from operating in their jurisdiction. The initiative also provides a pathway to clear psychedelics-related convictions. 

It also includes protections stating that governing bodies could not use legal psychedelic activities against a person regarding parental rights, access to public benefits, medical care, or violating probation or parole medical care.

“Coloradans deserve more tools to address mental health issues, including approaches, such as natural medicines that are grounded in treatment, recovery, health, and wellness rather than criminalization, stigma, suffering, and punishment,” the first measure states

“Criminalizing natural medicines has punished people for seeking access to medicines that a growing body of research shows may have efficacy as treatments for suicidality, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.”

New Approach PAC’s second measure focuses on psilocybin and psilocyn – the active ingredients in psychedelic mushrooms. Similarly, it creates a regulatory model overseen by the Department of Regulatory Agencies to allow adults access to the medicines at a healing center and removes criminal penalties for the personal use of the substances. 

The ballot proposal will enable regulators to eventually classify other controlled substances as natural medicines “if consistent with the purposes of this act.”

The second initiative would not create an advisory board, allow local municipalities to ban healing centers from operating in their area, do not provide retroactive record sealing for psychedelics-related convictions, and have no parent protections.

Some Colorado activists are concerned about the language of the two proposals. At a virtual meeting last week, Decriminalize Nature Boulder County’s Nicole Foerster argued, 

“They’re looking to create these top-down, restrictive policies in places where grassroots community has been the strongest and where policy has been passed by grassroots community,” Nicole Foerster from Decriminalize Nature Boulder County said in a virtual meeting last week.

Many states are pursuing similar reforms for entheogenic substances:

  • California advocates are collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms. 
  • Virginia activists are pushing to decriminalize psychedelics. Two state lawmakers recently supported the therapeutic potential of entheogenic substances. 
  • In Michigan, Detroit voters approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize psychedelics. 
  • Four cities in Massachusetts – Easthampton, Northampton, Somerville, and Cambridge – have decriminalized entheogenic substances and plants. 
  • Seattle approved a resolution to decriminalize noncommercial cultivation, and sharing, of ayahuasca, ibogaine, psilocybin mushrooms, and non-peyote-derived mescaline.
  • A new Texas law directs state officials to study psychedelics’ medical value. 
  • A recently signed Connecticut bill includes language requiring the state to study the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. 
  • Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. 
  • A bill was filed in Florida requiring the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.

The pendulum appears to be swinging toward research and decriminalization. Provisions in separate House bills have addressed the need for expanded psychedelic and cannabis research. There is renewed interest in studies ranging from whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking to the therapeutic potential of psychedelics in treating veterans struggling with various mental health conditions.

These entheogenic substances will likely be sold in child-resistant and tamper-evident packaging if approved. 

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