Voters in Colorado could see two separate psychedelics decriminalization measures in this year’s election after activists submitted a new ballot proposal to state officials last week. Organizers of the group Decriminalize Nature announced on Monday that they had filed a Colorado ballot proposal to decriminalize most natural psychedelic plants and fungi on January 28. This was only weeks after a national group launched a campaign for a similar initiative.
Nicole Foerster and Melanie Rose Rodgers, organizers with the group Decriminalize Nature, wrote in a press release that the ballot proposal would revise state statute so that possession and use of entheogenic plants and fungi except for peyote by adults are no longer a violation of Colorado law. The proposal would also decriminalize activities facilitating the use of natural psychedelics such as supervision, guidance and support services as well as the possession of paraphernalia associated with such drugs.
The measure falls short of regulating psychedelic drugs for commercial production and sale. Organizers said that establishing decriminalization first would preserve access to psychedelic drugs for individuals and protect indigenous and legacy practitioners from the regulations inherent to commercial legalization.
“Without decriminalization and the security it allows for affected communities to more effectively organize, regulatory models will make it difficult for the most disadvantaged groups of our population to continue to access the natural medicines they safely use to heal,” Foerster said in Monday’s announcement. “To address this we are advocating for a simple change to existing laws around these controlled substances.”
In 2019, Denver became the first U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Since then, other cities including Oakland, Washington, D.C. and Seattle have passed more comprehensive psychedelic decriminalization measures. And last year, Oregon voters passed a ballot measure to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin.
The new Colorado ballot proposal would decriminalize psilocybin, psilocin, ibogaine, mescaline and DMT. Adults would be permitted to possess, cultivate and gift the natural psychedelics, but selling the drugs would still be illegal.
“We drafted this initiative to ensure that full decriminalization is on the table,” Foerster told Westword. “The precedent on the grassroots level right now is to fully decriminalize first. If you do both [decrim and legalizing medical access] at the same time, you are prioritizing legalization.”
First Decriminalization Proposal Filed for Colorado by National Group
In December, a national group submitted separate ballot proposals to decriminalize psychedelics in Colorado. New Approach PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee, filed the decriminalization proposals with state officials on December 3.
The first proposal would decriminalize the psychedelic drugs ibogaine, DMT, mescaline (excluding peyote), psilocybin and psilocin for adults 21 and older. Under the measure from New Approach PAC, the governor would be required to appoint a Natural Medicine Advisory Board, which would be tasked with implementing decriminalization. The state would also license healing centers to supply psychedelic drugs and assist clients using them.
The second measure is similar to the first, but would decriminalize only psilocybin and psilocin, the psychedelic compounds found in “magic mushrooms.” Under the proposal, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies would implement decriminalization in a fashion similar to the one outlined in the first initiative.
“Our goal is to make the healing benefits of these natural medicines available to people they can help, including veterans with PTSD, survivors of domestic or sexual abuse, people with treatment-resistant depression and others for whom our typical mental-health treatments just aren’t working,” Ben Unger, psychedelic program director for New Approach PAC, told Westword in December.
The proposals from the national group have gained the support of some psychedelic activists in Colorado. Kevin Matthews, the leader of the group that campaigned for Denver’s psychedelics decriminalization measure, is now lobbying for the statewide effort advanced by the national group.
“We’re glad to have New Approach as a partner who can help us bring this level of change to the entire state, because we’re going to create more opportunities for so many people to receive the help they need to deal with mental health conditions that are otherwise devastating,” Matthews said. “Creating new opportunities for people to heal is what drives us, and we look forward to engaging with Colorado residents on this issue.”
Since first filing the proposals, New Approach PAC has made revisions to the decriminalization proposals, including the removal of possession limits for natural psychedelic substances. Which measure the group eventually decides to advance remains to be seen.
“They have four drafts right now that are going through the title board hearings,” Foerster noted. “We don’t know what’s going to be on the one that actually is set.”
The new proposal was drafted after a series of meetings attended by members of Decriminalize Nature and other psychedelics activist groups. Foerster said the one-page proposal is more likely to win the favor of the electorate.
“We’re confident that a short and simple revision of the Controlled Substances Act—one that makes the adult possession, use and facilitation of [outlawed] entheogens no longer a crime—is going to speak to voters over a complicated act that’s going to cost money to implement,” Foerster predicted.