DENVER — Colorado voters are deciding Tuesday whether theirs will become the second state, after Oregon, to create a legalized system for the use of psychedelic mushrooms.
A ballot initiative would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms for those 21 and older and create state-regulated “healing centers” where participants can experience the drug under the supervision of a licensed “facilitator.” The measure would establish a regulated system for using substances like psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogenic chemicals found in some mushrooms. It also would allow private personal use of the drugs.
If passed, the initiative would take effect toward the end of 2024. It also would permit a state advisory board to add other plant-based psychedelic drugs to the program in 2026. Those include dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT, ibogaine and mescaline not derived from peyote, which is considered sacred by some Native Americans.
Proponents argued that Colorado’s current approach to mental health has failed and that naturally occurring psychedelics, which have been used for hundreds of years, can treat depression, PTSD, anxiety, addiction and other conditions. The advocates also claimed that jailing someone for using natural substances is a non-violent crime and costs the taxpayer money.
But critics noted the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the substances as medicine. They also argued allowing healing centers to operate and permitting personal use would jeopardize public safety and send the wrong message to kids and adults alike that the substances are healthy.
The move comes a decade after Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana, which led to a multibillion-dollar industry with hundreds of dispensaries popping up across the state. Critics say that the same high-powered players involved in the legalization of recreational marijuana use a similar strategy to establish a market and then recreational dispensaries for dangerous substances.
The psychedelics that would be decriminalized are listed as schedule 1 controlled substances under state and federal law and are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use with a high potential for abuse.
The FDA declared psilocybin to be a breakthrough therapy for major depressive disorder. If a new treatment is significantly better than existing ones, the designation will expedite development, review and research.
Colorado’s ballot initiative would allow those 21 and older to grow, possess and share the psychedelic substances but not sell them for personal use. People convicted for drug-related offenses would be able to get their criminal records sealed.
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. Oregon, however, allows counties to withdraw from the program, as opposed to the Colorado measure.
Oregon’s initiative is expected to take effect at the beginning of next year.
Washington, D.C., and Denver have partially decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms by requiring law enforcement officers to treat them as their lowest priority.
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