Decriminalization of Colorado Psychedelics goes into effect

Psychedelics, including psilocybin, are now officially decriminalized in Colorado, where voters voted last month to abolish criminal penalties for possession of the drugs. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring that Proposition 122, also known as the Natural Medicine Health Act, resonated with voters in last month’s election.

“Coloradans voted last November and participated in our democracy,” Polis said in a statement from the governor’s office. “The official validation of the results of the citizens’ initiatives and the said initiatives is the next formal step in our work to follow the will of the voters and implement these voter-approved measures.”

In its proclamation, Polis noted that Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold confirmed on Dec. 12 that Proposition 122 “passed by a majority of the votes cast.” The voting measure garnered more than 53% of the vote in the midterm elections and received the approval of nearly 1.3 million voters on Nov. 8.

The Natural Medicine Health Act creates a federally regulated therapeutic system for adults to access natural psychedelic medicines such as psilocybin mushrooms, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, and mescaline that are not derived from peyote. The measure decriminalizes the possession, cultivation and distribution of naturally occurring psychedelic drugs and establishes a system for controlled distribution by licensed professionals in a therapeutic setting.

Psychedelics will be available under the guidance of a licensed and supervised facilitator at designated healing centers and healthcare facilities such as hospice centers. Medicines are not allowed to leave the facilities and no retail sale of any kind is allowed.

“Protect. 122 puts the well-being of patients and communities first, eliminates harsh criminal penalties for personal possessions, and employs a multi-phased implementation process that allows time to develop an appropriate security and regulatory structure,” Josh Kappel, who endorsed the proposal co-wrote and directed the campaign for the successful election measure, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Under Colorado law, ballot measures approved by voters do not take effect immediately. The state constitution requires the governor to issue a proclamation declaring a majority in favor of the proposal no later than 30 days after the state collects the results of the election.

Psilocybin and Mental Health

Psychedelics like psilocybin are attracting renewed interest in the drugs’ potential to treat a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders. The Food and Drug Administration has called psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” but has not approved the drug’s use.

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine published a new study showing that psilocybin can rapidly and significantly reduce symptoms of treatment-resistant depression. Previous research from the nation’s leading medical research universities, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, and New York University, has shown positive outcomes for patients with depression and anxiety. Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun offering psychedelics to patients as part of clinical trials.

With the Natural Medicine Health Act now officially Colorado state law, the governor has until January 31, 2023 to appoint 15 members to a new Natural Medicine Advisory Board that will guide the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies in implementation of the measure is advised. The panel’s first recommendations are due by September 30, 2023. Recommendations on a training program for facilitators on the medicinal use of psilocybin mandated by the measure are due January 1, 2023. Regulated access to psilocybin should be available from authorized therapists by the end of 2024.

Kappel said that with the proclamation of Polis, implementation of Proposition 122 can now begin.

“Our goals include creating an accessible and balanced facilitator training system, an effective equity program, a unique ESG screen, and safe access to natural psychedelic therapies,” said Kappel. “Meanwhile, adults in Colorado can begin to have more open and honest conversations about these drugs with their doctors.” Adults who can benefit from these substances will finally be able to engage in psychedelic therapy without fear of arrest and prosecution.”

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