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Colorado Voters Approve Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure

Colorado’s voters approved Tuesday’s ballot measure decriminalizing the therapeutic use and possession of natural psychedelics, including psilocybin (the psychoactive component in magic mushrooms). Proposition 122 the Natural Medicine Health Act had received more than one million votes by Wednesday evening. This represents 51.4%.

“This is a historic moment for both the people of Colorado and our country,” Kevin Matthews, coalition director for Natural Medicine Colorado, said in a statement after the approval of Prop 122 became apparent on Wednesday. “I think this demonstrates that voters here in Colorado are ready for new options and another choice for healing, especially when it comes to their mental and behavioral health.”

Natural Medicine Health Act provides a state-regulated system that allows adults to have access to natural psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, and dimethyltryptamine. The licensed facilitator will provide access to the psychedelics at designated healthcare facilities and healing centers, including hospice centers. It is forbidden for the medicines to leave these facilities and it is prohibited that they be sold in any way. 

The Use of Psychedelics in Therapy

The potential for psychedelics, including psilocybin to treat many mental conditions has seen an increase in interest. The Food and Drug Administration has designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” but has not approved the use of the drug.

New research published by the New England Journal of Medicine last week showed that psilocybin is able to reduce treatment-resistant symptoms of 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. In clinical trials, VA has also begun to offer psychedelics as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Native American cultures have used psychedelics like mescaline and psilocybin for spiritual and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. Matthew X. Lowe Ph.D., research director at psychedelic research nonprofit Unlimited Sciences, says that there are numerous health and wellness benefits “that come from consuming psilocybin.”

“Preindustrial Mesoamerican cultures have consumed psilocybin for thousands of years in ritualized contexts to enhance psychotherapeutic healing, religious insight, and self-exploration,” he told Forbes. “In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the therapeutic potential of psilocybin in treating a range of different psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance use disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others.”

“Psilocybin consumption has now been consistently associated with antidepressant and anxiolytic effects and is being considered for the treatment of depression and anxiety,” Lowe continued. “In fact, a recent study determined that decreased brain modularity following psilocybin therapy was correlated with improvements in depressive symptomatology and outcomes when compared with a commonly prescribed” anti-depressant.

Natural Medicines Advisory Board To Be Named

With the passage of Prop 122, Colorado Governor Jared Polis 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. On January 1, 2023, the committee will submit its first recommendations regarding a program to train facilitators in the medical usage of psilocybin. In late 2024, regulated access would be made to psilocybin.

“Colorado voters saw the benefit of regulated access to natural medicines, including psilocybin, so people with PTSD, terminal illness, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can heal,” Matthews and Veronica Lightening Horse Perez, the measure’s co-proponents, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to working with the regulatory and medical experts and other stakeholders to implement this new law.”

Joshua Kappel, chair of Natural Medicine Colorado and a founding partner of the psychedelics and cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLC, said “it’s a relief to know that the people of Colorado believe in Prop 122 and the hope of healing these natural psychedelics can provide for those with PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, trauma and other mental conditions.” 

“History has been made this week. We proved to the world it’s possible to pass a ballot measure that not only provides access to natural psychedelic-assisted therapy in a responsible state-regulated setting but also protects individual and community-based healing modalities from arrest and many civil offenses,” Kappel, the author of Prop 122, said in an email to Chronic News. “Many told us that this dual approach was not wise or possible. Tonight, we showed that inclusive and equitable policies are not only necessary but politically viable.”