Voters in Colorado will have a say in the legalization of psychedelic drugs this November as an initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms and other naturally occurring psychedelics appears on the ballot for the general election.
Known as the Natural Medicine Health Act (NMHA), the proposal would legalize the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, sale and purchase of psilocybin and psilocin, the psychoactive compounds in ‘magic mushrooms,’ and other natural psychedelic drugs including dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine and mescaline not derived from peyote.
The Colorado secretary of state’s office announced in July that Natural Medicine Colorado had collected enough signatures to qualify the NMHA proposal for the November ballot. The proposal, previously identified as Initiative 58, will appear on general election ballots as Proposition 122. Supporters of Initiative 61, a separate proposal that would legalize natural psychedelics in Colorado without creating a path for commercialization, failed to garner enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Activists collected more than 100,000 more signatures than necessary to qualify the NMHA for the ballot. Natural Medicine Colorado received support from New Approach PAC, a political action committee advocating for drug policy and criminal justice reform initiatives nationwide.
“We’re deeply proud of the work that has led to this moment,” Kevin Matthews, a designated representative for the initiative, said in a press release cited by Marijuana Moment. “These medicines hold such promise for people struggling with PTSD, depression, and other mental health challenges.”
“As we deal with a growing mental health crisis in our state, we need new tools to help Coloradans heal, and these are research-backed therapies that can work even where other treatments have failed,” added Matthews, who also served as campaign manager for a psilocybin decriminalization initiative approved by Denver voters in 2019.
Healing Centers Would Dispense Psychedelics
If voters approve the NMHA in the November general election, the psychedelic drugs legalized by the measure would only be available for purchase from licensed “healing centers,” which would be regulated by the state. Unlike a similar ordinance passed by Oregon voters in 2020, local governments would not have the power to ban healing centers from their jurisdictions.
Realm of Caring, a nonprofit based in Colorado Springs, supports medical research into cannabis and now includes psilocybin in its efforts. Matthew X. Lowe Ph.D., research director at Realm of Caring partner 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 writes in an email. “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 continues. “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.
Proposition 122 follows the 2020 passage of Ballot Measure 109 in Oregon, which legalized the therapeutic use of psilocybin. Another ballot measure that decriminalized small amounts of all drugs was also approved by the state’s voters during the election. State regulators are still in the process of drafting rules to implement Ballot Measure 109.
Vancouver’s Filament Health, a clinical-stage natural psychedelic drug development company, has stabilized and isolated psilocin, the active compound in psilocybin. CEO Ben Lightburn says that the company intends to bring the psychedelic drug into the U.S. as soon as states like Colorado establish a welcome regulatory environment.
“Humans have been ingesting psilocybin-containing ‘magic’ mushrooms for millennia, so an anecdotal record of their safety already exists,” Lightburn writes. “Our goal at Filament is to demonstrate both the safety and efficacy of botanical psychedelic drug candidates in the first FDA-approved human clinical trials administering naturally sourced psychedelics. We’re hopeful that modern scientific evidence that psilocybin can effectively treat many modern health conditions—including substance use disorders, chronic pain, and depression—will help Coloradans to normalize this mushroom and enjoy the benefits.”