Colorado Psychedelics Decriminalization Takes Effect


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Psychedelics including psilocybin are now officially decriminalized in Colorado, where voters decided last month to end criminal penalties for possessing the drugs. Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued a proclamation on Tuesday declaring that Proposition 122, also known as the Natural Medicine Health Act, had passed muster with the voters in last month’s election. 

“Coloradans voted last November and participated in our democracy,” Polis said in a statement from the governor’s office. “Officially validating the results of the citizen and referred initiatives is the next formal step in our work to follow the will of the voters and implement these voter-approved measures.”

In his proclamation, Polis noted that Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold had certified on December 12 that Proposition 122 “was approved by a majority of the votes cast.” The ballot measure received more than 53% of the vote in the midterm election, garnering the approval of nearly 1.3 million voters on November 8.

The Natural Medicine Health Act creates a state-regulated therapeutic system for adults to access natural psychedelic medicines, such as psilocybin mushrooms, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, and mescaline not derived from peyote. The measure decriminalizes the possession, cultivation, and sharing of the naturally occurring psychedelic drugs, and establishes a system for controlled distribution by licensed professionals in a therapeutic setting. 

Psychedelics will be available under the guidance of a licensed and supervised facilitator at designated healing centers and healthcare facilities such as hospice centers. The medicines are prohibited from leaving the facilities, and no retail sales are allowed in any form.

“Prop. 122 puts the wellbeing of patients and communities first, removing harsh criminal penalties for personal possession and employing a multi-phase implementation process that will allow time to develop an appropriate safety and regulatory structure,” Josh Kappel, who co-authored the proposition and led the campaign for the successful ballot measure, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Under Colorado law, ballot measures approved by the voters do not go into effect immediately. The state constitution requires the governor to issue a proclamation declaring the majority vote for the proposition no later than 30 days after the state canvasses the election results. 

Psilocybin And Mental Health

Psychedelics such as psilocybin are receiving renewed interest in the potential of the drugs to treat a wide range of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. The Food and Drug Administration has designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” but has not approved the use of the drug.

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine released a new study showing that psilocybin can quickly and significantly reduce symptoms of treatment-resistant depression. Prior research from the nation’s top medical research universities including Johns Hopkins University, the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, and New York University have shown positive patient outcomes for depression and anxiety. Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has started offering psychedelics to patients as a part of clinical trials.

With the Natural Medicine Health Act now officially Colorado state law, the governor has until January 31, 2023, to appoint 15 members to a new Natural Medicine Advisory Board, which will advise the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies on implementing the measure. The board’s first recommendations are due by September 30, 2023. Recommendations on a facilitator training program for the medical use of psilocybin mandated by the measure are due on January 1, 2023. Regulated access to psilocybin should become available from authorized therapists by late 2024.

Kappel said that with the proclamation from Polis, implementation of Proposition 122 can now begin.

“Our goals include creating an accessible and balanced facilitator training system, an effective equity program, a first-of-its-kind ESG screen, and safe access to natural psychedelic therapies,” Kappel said. “In the meantime, adults in Colorado can begin to have more open and honest conversations about these medicines with their doctors. Adults who can benefit from these substances will finally be able to engage in psychedelic therapies without fear of arrest and prosecution.”



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