DENVER — On Thursday, July 22, the office of the Colorado Secretary of State announced that proposed Initiative #58 has qualified for the November 8 general election.
The Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 would create a regulated access model, create so-called “healing centers” for patients and abolish criminal penalties for people 21 and older. Persons under the age of 21 can still be charged with a minor drug offence.
It’s one of two psychedelic-related measures proponents are trying to get into the November vote this year.
Natural medicines in the yardstick are certain plant- or fungal-based psychedelics, such as mushrooms that contain psilocybin.
Those behind the measure argue that Colorado’s approach to mental health has failed and that it will take the federal government years to intervene. Its co-proponents, Veronica Lightning Horse Perez and Kevin Matthews, believe that Coloradans should now have access to natural medicines.
“[They are] designed for people such as veterans suffering from PTSD, those suffering from terminal illnesses and struggling with end-of-life challenges. And everyone would actually have access to these services,” says Matthews.
“The way we’ve defined personal use, and we’re approaching decriminalization, is that individuals could use, possess, cultivate, store and even share these natural medicines without facing any kind of criminal repercussions for doing so,” Perez said.
In 2019, voters in Denver decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms. Proponents gathered signatures for the Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 this spring.
Shannon Hughes is an associate professor in Colorado State University’s School of Social Work who studies psilocybin.
“In clinical studies of depression, they find that 60-80% of participants report an immediate and substantial decrease in depression for end-of-life stress when faced with a terminal illness,” Hughes said of mushroom use. containing psilocybin.
For patients, the natural medicines in the measure would be administered in “healing centers,” but anything grown by a person outside of one cannot be sold.
Alan Floyd is a cancer patient taking psilocybin under the federal Right to Try Act. Floyd said traditional medicines didn’t work for him, and some even made him suicidal. Still, he found solace in psychedelic mushroom capsules.
Still, Floyd believes that “everyone should be very careful about legalization.”
If passed, the measure would create the Natural Medicine Advisory Board, with members to be appointed next January. The qualifications, education and training for natural medicine counselors would be set out by January 2024. Applications from healing centers could be submitted by September 2024.
“The Natural Medicine Advisory Board has a great responsibility here to make sure the program works for all Coloradans. That advisory board will also report to the state legislature, particularly on the effects of how this is accessible to Coloradans,” Matthews explained.
Perez added: “We want to make sure that these prices don’t get so out of hand that it’s not fair. And people from different socioeconomic backgrounds can’t use this drug in this way through the regulated system because the costs are too high.”
Going even further, the Natural Medicine Advisory Board could recommend expanding natural medicine to include other psychedelics in June 2026.
The exact timeline would be determined by the state, along with the board, during the implementation process.
There is also a retroactive effect in the measure, meaning records can be deleted.
Opponents argue that the psychedelics would be commercialized in the same way as cannabis in Colorado.
“This is going to be very, very bad for the state of Colorado,” said Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. “They can start today with decriminalization, but the end game is full commercialization. They want “street corner shops selling psychedelic mushrooms, and they want to make money from it. This is ultimately about money. This is about making money off the backs of drug-addicted Coloradans. “
However, proponents said they don’t want to see recreational pharmacies for natural medicines.
“I don’t want the drug companies to have a stranglehold on this drug,” Matthews said.
With so many sides to consider in this one initiative, Coloradans have a lot to think about in November.