Colorado voters passed a ballot initiative onfor people 21 and older and to create state-regulated “treatment centers” where participants can try the drug under supervision.
Colorado becomes the second state, after Oregon, to vote to create a regulated system for substances like psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogens found in certain mushrooms. The initiative, which will take effect in 2024, will also allow an advisory board to add other plant-based psychedelic drugs to the program in 2026.
Advocates 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 imprisoning people for the non-violent offense of using physical substances costs taxpayers money.
Natural Medicine Colorado, the group that promoted the measure, called its passage “a truly historic moment.”
“Colorado voters have seen the benefit of regulated access to natural medicines, including psilocybin, so that people with PTSD, terminal illnesses, depression, anxiety and other mental health problems can be treated,” the group said in a prepared statement. .
But critics warned that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the substances as drugs. They also argued that allowing “treatment centers” and private personal use of the drug would endanger public safety and send the wrong message to children and adults that substances are healthy.
“This opens up a very large national debate about the FDA’s role in prescribing drugs in this country,” said Luke Niforatos, head of the opposition ballot committee, Protect Colorado’s Kids. “Because now, for the second time in a row, we’ve had states put medicine to a vote and bypass science and the FDA.”
Niforatos said his group is calling on the FDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Colorado US Attorney to step in because the drugs are still federally illegal.
“Are we going to ditch the FDA — the only agency responsible for protecting the health and safety of patients — and just say we’re okay with nationwide trials on whatever startup comes up with a drug?” asked.
The passage of the ballot initiative comes a decade after Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana after initially allowing its use for medical purposes, leading to a multibillion-dollar industry with hundreds of dispensaries popping up across the state.
Critics of the latest ballot initiative say the same players who have pushed for the legalization of 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 votersapproved recreational marijuana in Maryland and Missouri but rejected it in two other states, signaling a gradual increase in support for legalization even in conservative parts of the country.
The results mean that 21 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
Under Colorado’s latest measure, the psychedelics to be decriminalized are listed as schedule 1 controlled substances under state and federal law, 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” for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Characterization can speed up the research, development and review of a drug if it can offer substantial improvements over existing treatments.
Colorado’s initiative would allow people 21 and older to grow, possess and share psychedelics, but not to sell them for personal use. It will also allow people convicted of substance-related offenses to have their criminal records sealed.
Those who want to use mushrooms would not need a doctor’s approval. In addition to being able to grow and use their own mushrooms, those who want to try the treatment could do so through the newly established “treatment centers,” which will be allowed to supply customers with mushrooms but not sell them. Instead, clients would pay for the services of the “facilitator” at the center.
Supporters have repeatedly stressed 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 therapeutic, supervised 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 for you to do so.
In Colorado, counties and municipalities will be able to regulate treatment centers, but not ban them.
The Oregon initiative is expected to take effect early next year.
Washington, D.C. and Denver have partially decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms by requiring law enforcement officers to treat them as their lowest priority.