According to a voter proposal on the November ballot, Colorado might legalize the personal use and possession of some hallucinogenic plants and fungi, including “magic mushrooms,” and establish a Natural Medicine Access Program.
With the passage of Measure 109 in Oregon two years ago, psilocybin became legal in that state for the first time. With the passing of Measure 110 in 2020, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize several other narcotics as well. Ordinance 301, which decriminalizes the use and possession of mushrooms that contain the hallucinogenic chemical psilocybin, was narrowly adopted by Denver voters in early 2021.
The Denver ordinance was designed to, to the greatest extent possible, de-prioritize criminal prosecution of anyone twenty-one years of age and older who uses or possesses psilocybin mushrooms for personal use, and to prohibit the city and county of Denver from allocating resources to such prosecution.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore Colorado’s history of magic mushrooms, what this new initiative could entail, and everything else you need to know about the recent developments in magic mushroom legalization in the U.S.
Understanding Psilocybin Mushrooms
To better understand what makes this new initiative in Colorado so controversial, it helps to understand the basics of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
Certain mushrooms that grow in Europe, South America, Mexico, and the United States contain psilocybin, a psychedelic chemical. Magic mushrooms are psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Serotonin receptors are often activated by psilocybin in the prefrontal brain. This area of the brain influences perception, cognition, and emotion. Additionally, hallucinogens affect the parts of the brain that control arousal and panic reactions.
It’s not a given that psilocybin usually results in vivid or audible hallucinations. Instead, it alters how certain drug users see the things and people already present in their environment. The effects of psilocybin can be influenced by the amount of the drug taken, one’s prior experiences and expectations of how the experience would unfold.
Psilocybin often starts to have hallucinatory effects 30 minutes after use and lasts for 4-6 hours. Changes in mental processes and sensory perception can persist for several days in some people.
Psilocybin is a substance that some take recreationally. It can provide the same kinds of pleasure and sensory deprivation as hallucinogenic substances like LSD.
A groundbreaking investigation on the security and beneficial effects of psilocybin was released in 2006 by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Additionally, it has been researched to see whether it may be utilized to treat certain illnesses. Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin in October 2020. This gives two years to think about prescription and regulatory needs. Psilocybin is not considered addictive by medical organizations, although users may suffer unsettling hallucinations, anxiety, and panic after using the substance.
Colorado’s History of Psychedelic Substance Legalization
Federal law designates psilocybin mushrooms as a Schedule I prohibited substance. Drugs classified as Schedule I by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are those with no accepted medicinal value and significant potential for misuse and dependency. However, several states, including Colorado, have been working to rectify this.
On May 7, 2019, Denver voters made history by passing the nation’s first ordinance decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms. With 176,000 ballots cast, Initiative 301 unexpectedly won with a narrow margin (50.6 percent to 49.4 percent). However, it was also familiar ground for Colorado’s largest city, which in 2005 set the precedent for the legalization of marijuana in a move that ultimately extended throughout a large portion of the nation.
This law does not make mushrooms completely lawful. They are handled similarly to how marijuana was when it was decriminalized in Denver in 2005: as the district attorney’s and city police’s lowest priority in terms of upholding the law. The 2019 ordinance states that if a person is over 21 and claims they are only using the mushrooms for personal use, no city dollars may be utilized to imprison, arrest, or even issue a ticket for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms. However, Denver’s city-level adjustment to a police policy for psilocybin mushrooms may represent an evolving perception of that substance, similar to the growing relaxation of marijuana regulations. A review panel was established as part of the endeavor to assess the effects of decriminalization. Advocates for mushrooms, members of the City Council, Denver citizens, an addiction counselor, and police officers make up the panel.
Even among friends, selling magic mushroom fruiting bodies will continue to be illegal. There are no shroom shops in Denver, in contrast to the countless marijuana stores that have sprung up since the state’s 2012 decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Through a voter initiative, Colorado became the first state in 2012 to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
What Does the New Potential Law Entail?
Instead of making psilocybin mushrooms lawful, the local psychedelic legalization group known as “Decriminalize Denver” sought to reduce the emphasis given to the possession and usage of the drug by law enforcement. On this year’s state ballot, voters are asked to legalize the psychoactive ingredients found in magic mushrooms and establish places where the public can use them for therapeutic (and safety-monitored) purposes.
When swallowed, some mushrooms can be fatal or highly dangerous. To accurately identify mushrooms, particularly “shrooms” with psychedelic and hallucinogenic properties, which number 180 species, knowledge and expertise are required. Additionally, the current Colorado effort has sparked a disagreement among supporters, with some of them siding with a still popular substitute.
The so-called Initiative 61 would make it illegal to use, cultivate, or possess psilocybin and other entheogenic plants anywhere in the state, but it would not establish a state-regulated market.
In Colorado, voters have the legal and constitutional right to veto referendums as well as exercise their right to initiative. Proponents needed to gather 124,632 legally acceptable signatures in order to place an initiated state bill or initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2022.
Those who signed the petition have six months to spread it. The deadline for submitting signatures is three months before the election, according to the state constitution. One of the 23 states that permit residents to request a veto referendum on a passed law is Colorado. A veto referendum needs 124,632 valid signatures, much like initiatives.
“Decriminalization isn’t a popular thing for companies and corporations and venture capital. Decriminalization is for the people.” – Initiative 61 organizer Melanie Rose Rodgers
Is Initiative 61 a Good Thing for Magic Mushroom Enthusiasts?
To many magic mushroom enthusiasts, the new potential law seems like a great idea. However, some Colorado non-profit organizers and activists are against the new initiative.
Initiative 61 goes farther than Denver’s decriminalization initiative, which deprioritized criminal penalties for psilocybin possession and personal use, by prohibiting legal penalties for the possession, use, growing, gifting, or transportation of these drugs for anyone over 21. Dawn Reinfeld, the executive director of Blue Rising Together, an organization that advocates against high-THC marijuana, was troubled by this. Because she is concerned that youngsters may readily obtain mushrooms and that mostly entrepreneurs would be present at the decision-making table, Reinfeld stated that she is opposed to both initiatives.
Some people might disagree. Nicole Foerster, a leader of the Initiative 61 campaign, is concerned that Coloradans would see psilocybin as a quick-fix medication, particularly if a facilitator or medical professional can give it. Numerous studies have suggested that psilocybin may be helpful for those with PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression. Given that a mental health advocacy charity this year named Colorado as the poorest state for overall adult mental health, Matthews said that giving Coloradans access to this treatment option is very crucial.
In the end, magic mushrooms differ from magic pills in several ways. It requires effort with everything involving healing. With the safeguards and safety standards in place, Initiative 61 offers people a new approach to dealing with their behavioral and mental health issues. Initiative 61’s creators said that they developed the proposal in response to the National Minority Health Association, primarily to address their fears that complete decriminalization of psilocybin for those over 21 years of age may result in an escalating drug use problem in Colorado.
What Will Happen If Initiative 61 Becomes an Established Law?
According to the NMHA, facilitators are required to complete training that covers mental and physical health, client safety, and social and cultural considerations. The Department of Regulatory Agencies of Colorado, in consultation with a Natural Medicine Advisory Board, would decide on such training. In the framework for lawful access, DORA would either accept or refuse licenses. This wouldn’t apply to psilocybin’s recreational usage and development.
Individuals who care about disadvantaged people are skeptical that the board would give priority to those who will be most affected by the problem since this might potentially provide too much influence to a small number of people in the state. Some Colorado citizens are particularly concerned about those who are fighting for their rights under the present health care system. There may be grounds for worry if individuals making choices aren’t members of the relevant disadvantaged communities.
The NMHA makes no mention of what identities members must possess. However, it does specify a few conditions for the board: With approval from the state senate, the governor would name 15 members, at least one of whom would have knowledge of Indigenous peoples’ customary usage of herbal remedies. Additionally, it states that members should have experience in fields including drug policy and harm reduction, emergency and mental health services, and the production and study of natural medicines. The NMHA also mandates that DORA establish a variety of regulations, including one that encourages “demographic and cultural diversity” for licensing for providers of natural medicine.
For some underprivileged people, this assistance is insufficient. According to state data, the majority of marijuana licenses in Colorado are held by white individuals, which has been the focus of certain efforts. According to a recent Department of Safety study, arrests for marijuana-related offenses in Colorado in 2019 were more than twice as common for Black people as for White ones. Melanie Rose Rodgers stated that she does not want psychedelics to experience the same fate.
It remains to be seen if Initiative 61 will be on the ballot with the Natural Medicine Health Act. However, Colorado will become the second state in the nation to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms if either proposal is approved.
More about the initiative can be read via Colorado’s ballot proposal page here.
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