Chase Woodruff

(Colorado Newsline) The 15-member panel that will oversee Colorado’s framework for legalized access to psychedelic mushrooms convened for the first time Thursday, kicking off a whirlwind four-month process in which board members will make their initial set of recommendations to state regulators.

The members of the Natural Medicine Advisory Board, who were confirmed by the state Senate last month, will work with Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies to implement the Natural Medicine Health Act, which Colorado voters passed last November as Proposition 122. The law allows for licensed “healing centers” to provide access to psilocybin and psilocyn, the psychoactive compounds found in many species of fungi, for therapeutic purposes. It also decriminalized “personal use” of the substances.

The law requires the panel to make a wide-ranging set of recommendations for the program’s implementation — from the content of training programs and licensing for facilitators to equity safeguards and public education campaigns — no later than Sept. 30. A full set of rules for the licensing program, clearing the way for the healing centers to operate legally, will be finalized next year.

In Thursday’s inaugural meeting, Karen McGovern, the program director for DORA, briefed the new board members on the state’s administrative procedures, including compliance with open-meetings laws and ethics rules.

Katina Banks, a Denver attorney who previously served on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, was named as the board’s chair on McGovern’s recommendation. Joshua Goodwin, an Aurora psychologist and former Air Force officer who founded a behavioral health services company for military veterans and their families, will serve as vice chair.

Advocates for the use of psychedelic substances, including many veterans, point to research showing that psychedelic substances can be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety 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.

With the September deadline looming, board members approved a proposal put forward by DORA staff for six standing subcommittees on the following topics:

  • Public Health and Health Equity
  • Indigenous and Religious Use
  • Harm Reduction and Public Safety
  • Products, Research and Data
  • Emergency Response, Safety and Ethics
  • Qualifications, Licensing and Training

The approval of Proposition 122 made Colorado the second state, after Oregon, to decriminalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms. DORA officials told lawmakers last month that 226 people applied for the advisory board before Gov. Jared Polis named the 15 appointees in January.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, an Indigenous author and psychologist and a member of the new board, expressed hope that the board would take a “holistic” approach to its regulatory work.

“We’re talking about medicine that has been given to all of us since the beginning of time,” Estés said. “You mentioned D.E.I. — diversity, equity (and inclusion). There’s one other element, and it’s coming up from the young people — and it’s B., belonging. Welcoming. Being not transactional but relational. That’s what I would hope for, for our board.”