Coloradans will likely only see one psilocybin-related measure on the November ballot, after a battle between opposing, citizen-led campaigns to either legalize or decriminalize psychedelics appears to be nearing a close.
Decriminalize Colorado, a local chapter of a national organization dedicated to drug reform education, was campaigning in support of Initiative 61, which would remove criminal penalties for possession, use and gifting of psychedelics including psilocybin, mescaline, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and ibogaine – notably without setting up a regulated market for the substances.
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Organizers had until Monday to collect and turn into the Secretary of State about 125,000 signatures to be included on the general election ballot. While the campaign still plans to turn in its petitions today – which will then undergo verification by the Secretary of State’s office – organizers said they doubted they would have enough signatures.
“We don’t have an official count, but we are officially announcing right now that it is very unlikely we will make it on the ballot in 2022, which is disappointing,” said co-proponent Nicole Foerster during a press conference Monday. “We campaigned in reaction to an act that we do not support. We do not support the Natural Medicine Health Act and Initiative 61 was our best bet at trying to voice what people wanted to see.”
The Natural Medicine Health Act (Initiative 58) will be on the November ballot and if approved by voters, it will effectively set the stage for a legal mushroom market by tasking state regulators with creating rules around the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transport, sales and purchase of psilocybin and psilocin, the psychoactive compounds in magic mushrooms. The crux of the proposal focuses on making psychedelics available to Coloradans seeking treatment for mental or emotional ailments and lays the groundwork for a new industry around psychedelics in the state.
The initiative would also decriminalize the use, possession and gifting of psilocybin and psilocin statewide. But folks aligned with Initiative 61 question the intentions of the measure, which is backed by New Approach, a well-funded political action committee that helped legalize psilocybin in Oregon. They believe the measure will lead to a corporate takeover of psychedelics that will make the substances more expensive and less accessible, and ultimately render treatment less equitable.
“We knew going into this that this would be an uphill battle, but we wanted to create the dialogue… so people knew why there were two initiatives and why, really, the people who sparked this movement in Denver were not on board with what’s happening,” co-proponent Melanie Rose Rodgers said at the press conference.
Even if Initiative 61 does not make the ballot, this isn’t likely the last time you’ll hear from those behind it. Monday’s press conference concluded with words of caution about the Natural Medicine Health Act and promises to continue educating the public about it.
“On the ballot in November, you are not voting for regulations that are known. You are voting for people to make regulations,” Foerster said. “We are participating in a global movement that is standing behind these values – that we support Colorado staying local, community-led, grassroots, decriminalize first and we will be continuing to fight for that under the name Colorado Community Healing.”