A Colorado initiative gives voters the power to legalize psychedelics and psilocybin therapy this November
It’s (almost) official! This November, American citizens living in Colorado will vote on whether their state should legalize psychedelics for both personal use and for psilocybin-assisted therapy centers.
On Monday, activists from the Natural Medicine Colorado campaign presented 222,648 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, significantly more than the 124,632 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Under Colorado law, activists who collect signatures representing at least 5% of the total votes cast in the previous Secretary of State election, will see their initiative voted on by the general public in the next election. This is slated to happen on November 8th, 2022.
Colorado’s Secretary of State still needs to verify the signatures before the Natural Medicine Health Act Initiative is officially added to the ballot, but as the campaign acquired almost double the needed signatures, this is almost certainly a formality. Barring major unforeseen events, Colorado residents WILL get the chance to vote for themselves whether they want to see a liberalized legal framework for psychedelics.
The ballot initiative, if passed, has two key pillars: it would legalize psychedelics for personal use, and legalize psilocybin “healing centers” in which an adult can receive psilocybin-assisted therapy.
Starting with the legalization for personal use, if the ballot initiative is passed, “possessing, storing, using, processing, transporting, purchasing, obtaining, or ingesting” natural psychedelics such as psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline (as long as it’s not derived from peyote), DMT and psilocin will not be “an offense under state law or the laws of any locality within the state.”
Importantly, there is no provision in the law that provides for the sale of psychedelics. This means selling the above substances would still be illegal, though buying them would not. Furthermore, the bill only applies to “natural” medicines, so synthetic psychedelics such as LSD would not be legalized.
Despite the above limitations, this legalization would be a huge step towards ending the War on Drugs, at least in the state of Colorado. Plus, individuals who had previously served a jail term for an offense that is becoming legal will be able to petition the courts to have their records sealed. Unless the District Attorney objects, the court will automatically clear that record.
Moving on to the legalization of the psilocybin “healing centers,” if the measure is passed by the general public, adults 21 years of age and older will be able to attend a licensed healing center where they will be given psilocybin-assisted therapy by a trained facilitator. Importantly, individuals receiving this treatment will not need to have been diagnosed with a mental health condition to receive treatment. Anyone who is of age will be able to access this treatment —or at least anyone who can afford it. It is likely to be quite expensive.
If Colorado voters approve this measure, they will be following the lead of Oregon, which passed a similar ballot initiative legalizing psilocybin healing centers in 2020. The first healing centers in that state are expected to open by the end of 2023.
Even if the Natural Medicine Health Act Initiative is passed in November, however, Colorado residents won’t be able to visit a psilocybin center any time soon. Once the initiative is passed, the state has until September 30th, 2024, to formulate and adopt all of the rules necessary. This means we may see the first couple of healing centers popping up at the tail end of 2024, with them beginning to scale in 2025.
The ballot initiative also allows for regulators to expand the medicines offered in the healing centers after June 1st, 2026. After seeing the effectiveness of psilocybin treatment, the Natural Medicine Advisory Board —which would be set up if this referendum passes— can add DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline (as long as it is not derived from peyote) to the list of medicines to be offered at the healing centers.
If you live in Colorado and wish to legalize psychedelics and see the Natural Medicine Health Act Initiative become law, make sure you vote on November 8th, 2022.