Everything You Need to Know About Colorado’s Psychedelics Laws
Times are definitely changing.
Colorado’s long been the Lower 48 frontrunner for all things edgy and exciting, especially when it comes to legalizing recreational substances. That along with the playground that is the greater Denver Metro area, with its many impressive live music venues, propensity for naturopathic remedies, and grand emphasis on all things experiential, provides near-perfect conditions for dabbling in a bit of … magic.
To many Coloradans, the legal conversations surrounding more potent substances—such as psychedelics—and how their use should (or should not) be regulated were imminent; it was only a matter of time before the focus shifted from cannabis to what other things everyone was doing, taking, or talking about. That brings us to today, as we witness legislative history as it pertains to psychedelics.
I’m late to the party. When did we start talking about psychedelics in a legal sense?
Well, if you’re a voter, you might’ve noticed Proposition 122 on the Colorado ballot during the 2022 elections, which aimed to “decriminalize the personal possession, growing, sharing, and use, but not the sale, of five natural psychedelic substances by individuals aged 21 and over.” If you’re a voter who also keeps tabs on election results, you’ll know that the majority voted in favor of Proposition 122, making it okay for individuals in Colorado over 21 to possess, grow, and share natural psychedelics without legal consequences.
So we can start taking magic mushrooms willy-nilly?
Not exactly. Legislation has to be specific, so it’s not just any psychedelic you can avoid getting in trouble for having; the five decriminalized substances include psilocybin and psilocin, which are found in magic mushrooms, and three other plant-based psychedelic substances: dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, and mescaline.
Prop 122 also resulted in the Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 (NMHA), which proposed a timeline for the supervised use of psychedelic mushrooms, shooting for late 2024 to have licensed facilities for said supervised use, plus a state-regulated operational structure on how to go about running such facilities. And, because five psychedelic substances feels a bit too limiting for Colorado’s crowd, the proposal also requested that the state eventually expand the kinds of drugs that could be used in the theoretical facilities to include dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, or mescaline, starting in 2026.
Where did this psychedelics conversation even come from?
Well, the NMHA essentially posits that psychedelics should be both decriminalized and also way more accessible to people as natural medicines. Several studies, including those referenced in this 2021 article in the National Library of Medicine, suggest that psychedelics positively combat the effects of depression and other psychiatric disorders. So, this new legislation is ultimately trying to pave the way for people to safely and easily access psychedelics as natural medicines.
So what’s happening now?
On April 29 of this year, the Colorado House of Representatives voted 45 to 18 to pass Senate Bill 23-290, which has already been passed by the full Senate. Remember that “regulation” regarding access to supervised psychedelic use? This bill is setting that timeline in motion. It wouldn’t place any possession limits on the personal use of psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline, DMT, and psilocin (for people 21 and older), and while you can’t get criminally charged for using them in public, doing so would result in a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine.
After the bill is voted on and the terms agreed upon by both parties, it’ll go to Governor Jared Polis for signing—likely pretty soon. Then, once it’s signed into law, the state sets off to issue various licenses for the facilities that will grow, manufacture, test, and provide psychedelics, a process that would result in a natural medicine advisory board to oversee the rules and regulations and make adjustments as this new, legal industry and its corresponding set of laws rolls out.
What does it all mean?
Well, we saw what happened with the legalization of medical marijuana and, subsequently, the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado: a dramatic decrease in criminal offenses and a whole new world of opportunity, particularly for people using it as a natural medicine.
In many ways, this legislation is revolutionizing the conversation around psychedelics and how they can be used safely and effectively. It’s also bringing new meaning to the term “natural medicine,” and putting well-deserved stock—like, a lot of stock—into the research and testing that’s been performed on psychedelics so far.
It also means that in a matter of years, we’re going to start seeing healing centers and testing and cultivation facilities start to pop up across the state, and yet another industry will begin to boom in Colorado. For those in support of the laws, you can keep your fingers crossed for the same trajectory that the marijuana industry took years ago; perhaps by 2030, we’ll be rolling up to Magic Mushroom Dispensaries.
Just keep in mind two things: these processes take time and familiarizing yourself with the new laws is important. You can’t simply start doling out mushrooms and DMT at the next Red Rocks show. But if you’re of age and a fan of psychedelics, and especially if you’re struggling with your mental health and interested in their possible benefits, there’s certainly hope on the horizon.