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National Group Submits Colorado Psychedelics Decriminalization Ballot Measures

A national advocacy group has submitted two separate proposals that would decriminalize psychedelics in Colorado in an effort to put the issue before voters in next year’s general election. Media reports claim that New Approach PAC (a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group) filed the Colorado Secretary’s decriminalization proposal on December 3.

With a maximum of 4 grams, this proposal would remove the criminalization of the psychedelic drug ibogaine and DMT for those aged 21 or older. A Natural Medicine Advisory Board would be appointed by the governor under the proposed measure. It would have the responsibility of implementing decriminalization. To supply and help clients who use psychedelic substances, healing centers would be licensed by the state.

The second measure is similar to the first, but would decriminalize only psilocybin and psilocin, the psychedelic compounds found in “magic mushrooms.” Under the proposal, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies would implement decriminalization in a fashion similar to the one outlined in the first initiative.

If one or both of the proposals is approved by the Secretary of State’s office, organizers would then need to collect the required signatures to qualify the measures for the ballot in 2022.

“Our goal is to make the healing benefits of these natural medicines available to people they can help, including veterans with PTSD, survivors of domestic or sexual abuse, people with treatment-resistant depression and others for whom our typical mental-health treatments just aren’t working,” Ben Unger, psychedelic program director for New Approach PAC, told Westword.

Psychedelics to Improve Health and Well-being

Research continues to explore the medicinal potential of psilocybin, and other natural psychoedelic drugs. These are also known as entheogenic plants or fungi. The journal Science published a study last year. JAMA Psychiatry Psilocybin assisted psychotherapy proved to be a fast-acting, effective therapy for 24 patients with major depressive disorder. A separate 2016 study found that patients with terminal cancer experienced significant and sustained declines in anxiety and depression after psilocybin therapy.

Denver became the first municipality to make psychedelics illegal in 2019. Similar measures were also passed by Oakland, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Seattle was the first major U.S. municipality to pass such legislation in October. Oregon’s voters also approved a measure on the ballot that would have decriminalized and made psilocybin legal for therapeutic purposes.

Kevin Matthews, the leader of the group that campaigned for Denver’s psychedelics decriminalization measure, is now lobbying for the statewide effort advanced by national advocates.

“We’re glad to have New Approach as a partner who can help us bring this level of change to the entire state, because we’re going to create more opportunities for so many people to receive the help they need to deal with mental health conditions that are otherwise devastating,” Matthews said. “Creating new opportunities for people to heal is what drives us, and we look forward to engaging with Colorado residents on this issue.”

Activists Are Not in Agreement on Which Path is Best for Psychedelics Deccriminalization

Not all Colorado psychedelics advocates agree with New Approach. Nicole Foerster of Decriminalize Nature Boulder County said she was concerned by some language used in potential ballot measures.

“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,” Foerster said at a virtual meeting of the group held on December 16.

Foerster acknowledged that no local activists had been involved in the New Approach proposal drafting, but stated they were now working with the National Group.

“We are trying to push and influence them to only include psilocybin and psilocin, because they said they’re unwilling to do anything that”s not going to set up a regulatory framework,” she added.

Unger explained that New Approach initiative include regulatory frameworks so that psychedelics may be used safely to help as many people possible.

“We believe more people will be served and treated by making psychedelics available in a safe, regulated and consistent way,” Unger said. “These natural medicines can be life-changing for so many, and we want people to be confident that the treatment they’re receiving is high-quality and held to clear standards of accountability.”

Matthews disagreed with some of the local activists present at the Decriminalize Nature Boulder County Virtual Meeting.

“We’ve been discussing the possibility of statewide reform since this spring, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far to ensure this initiative will be ready on the timeline necessary to set it up for success,” Matthews said. “We still have more outreach and collaboration to do in the coming weeks, and it’s been exciting working alongside so many of my colleagues and friends from our successful effort in Denver in 2019.”