Colorado voters pass historic psychedelic decriminalization act
In a stunningly close result, voters in Colorado have passed the most progressive drug reform measure ever seen in the United States. Known as Proposition 122, the measure creates a regulatory framework for psychedelic clinics to operate in the state and completely decriminalizes personal use and possession of several natural hallucinogenic plants.
Known as the Natural Medicine Health Act, the ballot measure presents a framework for regulated access to certain psychedelic plants and fungi. The Act calls for the creation of a government-run Natural Medicine Advisory Board that will develop rules to establish licensed psychedelic therapy clinics by the end of 2024.
The Act is somewhat similar to a ballot measure passed in Oregon back in 2020, however, this Colorado initiative is broader, including provisions for more psychedelic substances than just the magic mushroom compound psilocybin. And, learning from the last couple of years in Oregon, the Colorado measure doesn't allow certain counties to opt out of the clinic program. This means individual countries in Colorado cannot ban the presence of psychedelic clinics, a practice that has been occurring in several parts of Oregon.
The Colorado proposition also introduces the most comprehensive decriminalization provision seen in the United States to date. While Oregon ostensibly decriminalized personal use of all drugs in 2020, it still considered the practice a "Class E" violation, allowing police to engage with drug users and present them with a fine.
The Natural Medicine Health Act doesn't address all illicit drugs, but it does completely decriminalize the personal use, possession, growth, transportation, and sharing of plants containing psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline (excluding peyote). The proposition explicitly states those acts are now not an offense under state law, and cannot be used as the basis for detention, search or arrest by authorities.
Although the passing of the Natural Medicine Health Act is inarguably a historic moment for drug reform in the United States, the ballot measure has not come without major opposition, particularly from within the psychedelic community. Many natural medicine advocates in the state have argued the proposition leans too heavily on a government-run regulatory process that will benefit corporate interests looking to profit off psychedelic clinics.
It has also been argued the decriminalization parts of the Act are dangerously vague, with no clarity on how much of a specific substance constitutes "personal use." Nicole Foerster, from Decriminalize Nature Boulder County, lobbied against this proposition, arguing anything more than simple decriminalization of psychedelics is against the interests of Colorado citizens.
"We cannot forget that the decriminalization and personal use protections are the most important part of this measure and unfortunately the most vulnerable," Foerster said in a recent statement. "Many of us who voted no support decriminalization but believe the measure should have stopped there rather than prioritizing regulated access".
Interestingly, Colorado was one of the first two districts in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana exactly 10 years ago at the 2012 general election. Will the state turn out to be a bellwether for country-wide drug reform a second time?
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