Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law on May 23 that established a regulatory framework for psychedelic substances.
SB23-290, also called Natural Medicine Regulation and Legalization, was signed just a few weeks after it was approved in the Senate with House amendments. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Steven Fenberg and Rep. Judy Amabile, and is set to take effect starting on July 1.
The Colorado Times Recorder spoke with Tasia Poinsatte, director of the Healing Advocacy Fund of Colorado, last month about the bill’s potential. “Our state is facing a mental health crisis, and our current system has been unable to meet the needs of those who are struggling, including the many veterans in our state who are at a high risk of suicide,” said Poinsatte. “Colorado voters agreed with the passage of Prop. 122 that we need to open new, innovative pathways to healing for those who are struggling with mental health conditions.”
The law doesn’t place limitations on personal possession for any psychedelic substance, ranging from dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline, ibogaine, psilocybin, or psilocin. Psilocybin and psilocin will be administered at “healing centers,” but it does allow other substances to be added later.
The bill also states that anyone under 21 who possesses or consumes a natural medicine product will only be subject to a fine of $100 or less, and a maximum of four hours of “substance use education or counseling.” More than one offense results in the same fine and education requirement, with an added 24 hours of “useful public service.”
The cultivation of natural medicine is permitted if it’s happening on a person’s private property within a 12-by-12-foot space. However, anyone who is not licensed and “knowingly manufactures [a] natural medicine product using an inherently hazardous substance” is committing a level 2 drug felony. An “inherently hazardous substance” refers to solvents such as butane, propane, and diethyl ether.
The bill also includes protections for consumers, stating that a person using a natural medicine doesn’t solely constitute as child abuse or neglect, is not grounds for being denied health coverage, doesn’t disqualify a person to be discriminated against if they’re eligible for organ donation, and “must not be considered for public assistance benefits eligibility.”
A person with a natural medicine conviction is also eligible to have the conviction record sealed “immediately after the later date of final disposition or release from supervision.”
The bill calls for the creation of a natural medicine advisory board to examine “issues related to natural medicine and natural medicine product, and making recommendations to the director of the division of professions and occupations and the executive director of the state licensing authority.” It also requires the creation of a division of natural medicine to be established within the department of revenue to regulate licensing for “cultivation, manufacturing, testing, storage, distribution, transport, transfer, and dispensation of natural medicine or natural medicine product between natural medicine licensees.”
Colorado voters passed Proposition 122, also referred to as the Natural Medicine Health Act, by 52.64% last November to decriminalize psychedelics. “This is a historic moment for both the people of Colorado and our country,” said Natural Medicine Colorado coalition director Kevin Matthews. “I think this demonstrates that voters here in Colorado are ready for new options and another choice for healing, especially when it comes to their mental and behavioral health.”
The initiative took effect in December 2022. “Coloradans voted last November and participated in our democracy,” said Polis. “Officially validating the results of the citizen and referred initiatives is the next formal step in our work to follow the will of the voters and implement these voter-approved measures.”
Coverage from Westword shows that advocates aren’t happy with the law, stating that it’s too restrictive. According to sponsor Amabile, the bill is solid but won’t make everyone happy. “My takeaway from the testimony is that ballot measure 122 is controversial,” Amabile said at a meeting in late April. “It has a lot of aspects that some people like. It has aspects that the people who like some parts of it don’t like. It has parts that nobody likes.”