DENVER – Two ballot initiatives dealing with the decriminalization and regulation of psychedelics in Colorado might appear on this year’s November ballot.
Initiative 61 and Initiative 58 are still in the signature gathering phase and petitioners have until Aug. 8 to turn in 124,632 valid signatures to make the ballot.
Nicole Forester, a co-proponent of Decriminalize Colorado’s Initiative 61 – officially known as Legal Possession and Use of Entheogenic Plants and Fungi – says the measure would decriminalize the personal use of certain entheogenic plants and fungi (including psilocybin, psilocin, ibogaine, mescaline (not including peyote), and dimethyltryptamine) for adults age 21 and older.
“So, the initiative that we're proposing would make the facilitation, possession, (and) use no longer a crime,” Forester told Denver7. “People are using these medicines; we have data that it's safe, that there's not a public health and safety risk in those cities that have decriminalized (them) so far. We know that safe use is happening outside of regulated frameworks.”
Melanie Rose Rodgers, the other co-proponent of Initiative 61, told Denver7 the measure does not allow for the sale of these entheogens, only for their cultivation and sharing for personal use.
But despite these assurances, not everyone is on board.
Jeff Hunt, the director of the Centennial Institute – a policy institute out of Colorado Christian University – said he’s concerned about how far these decriminalization efforts will go.
“Denver has already decriminalized psilocybin and no one would be saying that we're doing very well in the City of Denver with our drug issues,” Hunt said. “And so, I'm concerned that this will take a problem that we're having in the City of Denver with the decriminalization of drugs to the entire state. I think the people of Colorado need to look at this and ask ourselves, is this really going to make our state a better place?”
Initiative 61 isn’t the only one advocates are looking to get on the November ballot.
Initiative 58 – officially known as the Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 – would create a state-regulated access model to make it legal for people to receive natural medicine services at licensed healing centers and approved health care locations, like palliative care. It would also remove criminal penalties for the use of these natural medicines, according to co-proponent of Initiative 58, Kevin Matthews.
For those who’ve tried psilocybin as an alternative to prescribed medications, however, legalization creates skepticism of what pharmaceutical giants will do once these entheogens are part of the health care conversation.
“I think everyone has to thread very carefully with legalization,” said Alan Floyd, a cancer patient who uses psilocybin under Right-to-Try – a federal law passed under the Trump administration that allows patients with life-threatening diseases or conditions to access unapproved treatments if all other approved treatments have been tried. “The last thing I would want to see on Earth is for the pharmaceutical companies to have a stranglehold on this medicine; I feel that that is wrong.”
It's the potential cost related to these treatments that Veronica “Lightening Horse” Perez hopes Initiative 58 will address in order to make natural medicine more accessible to lower-income Coloradans and those seeking other forms of care outside a traditional health care setting.
“Three-thousand dollars is a lot of money for most people,” Perez, a co-proponent of Intiative 58, said of the hypothetical cost of going to a healing center, where these natural medicines would be administered. “So, we did look at that (the potential high costs) and write into the measure that we need to be really careful with this (costs). We want to have access programs; we want to make sure that these prices aren't getting so out of hand.”