Chase Woodruff

(Colorado Newsline) Ten years after Colorado voters made history by approving Amendment 64, the 2012 ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana, they’ll have the chance to take another groundbreaking step towards drug decriminalization.

Proposition 122, dubbed the Natural Medicine Health Act, would establish a regulated market for psilocybin and psilocyn, the psychoactive compounds found in many species of fungi. Placed on the 2022 ballot by a citizen initiative, it will become law if a majority of Colorado voters give their approval next month.

The measure would allow licensed “healing centers” to provide access to psilocybin and psilocyn for therapeutic purposes. It would also decriminalize the “personal use” of the substances, allowing people to possess and grow psychedelic mushrooms in their own homes.

“Natural psychedelic medicines are non-addictive and can have profound benefits for people struggling with challenging mental health conditions including depression and anxiety and those struggling to find peace at the end of their lives,” says Natural Medicine Colorado, the group backing the effort.

Proposition 122 qualified for the ballot in July after organizers submitted more than the required 124,632 valid signatures to the secretary of state’s office. An issue committee backing the measure has reported more than $2.8 million in contributions, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Nearly all of that funding came from New Approach PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based 527 nonprofit that advocates for drug policy reform. Top donors to the group in recent election cycles include the van Ameringen Foundation, Scotts Miracle-Gro and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, according to OpenSecrets.

New Approach PAC supported successful mushroom decriminalization measures in Oregon and Washington, D.C., in 2020. If voters approve Proposition 122, Colorado would become the third jurisdiction in the country to pass such a law.

Denver voters took a more limited step towards the decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms in 2019, approving a measure that directed police to make possession of the substances the city’s ”lowest law-enforcement priority.”

‘Changed my life’

Conservative groups that have remained steadfastly opposed to legal cannabis in the years since Amendment 64’s passage are speaking out against Proposition 122. But Protect Colorado’s Kids, an issue committee registered to oppose the measure, has reported raising just $750.

“We should not replay the public health harms that surrounded the rush to legalize marijuana,” Luke Niforatos, head of the Virginia-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana, wrote in a Colorado Springs Gazette op-ed last month. “Instead, we should learn from history and wait for researchers to learn more about potential harms and benefits.”

Advocates point to a vast body of existing research showing that psychedelic substances can be effective in treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions. The federal Food and Drug Administration has twice designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for the treatment of major depressive disorder.

Luke Gruber, an initiative backer and a Marine veteran who suffered from PTSD and depression after serving in Afghanistan, says psilocybin therapy “changed my life.”

“I can’t really describe the experience, but I can describe what it was like after my first treatment with natural medicine,” Gruber said in a June press conference following the campaign’s submission of petition signatures. “It was like being reminded what hope felt like.”

If passed, Proposition 122 would establish a 15-member Natural Medicine Advisory Board to oversee the regulation of psychedelic substances. The first licenses for regulated providers would be issued beginning in September 2024. Pending recommendations from the advisory board, other substances, including DMT and mescaline, could be added to the program in 2026.