Colorado’s governor says he’s “excited” by the state’s historic vote last week to legalize psychedelics and create psilocybin healing centers, calling it a “promising” treatment option for certain mental illnesses.
During an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday, Gov. Jared Polis (D) hailed the approval of the psychedelics ballot initiative, despite declining the opportunity to support the proposal before the vote.
The pivot recalls how he approached Colorado’s 2012 adult marijuana legalization vote, which he also disapproved of before it passed but has since celebrated.
While Polis Maher said he’s never used psilocybin personally, he does think “some of the mushroom-based therapies and natural remedies show promise for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.”
“We want to make that available,” the governor said, adding that the federal process to bring drugs to market through Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval “takes decades or years and ends up costing $1,000 in a pill costs – it’s ridiculous.”
“So we want to make that available. It’s promising,” he said. “We will work to get it right from a health standpoint in Colorado. But anything we can do to help people with PTSD is positive.
The governor has previously said he believes psychedelics should be decriminalized and touted the therapeutic benefits – but advocates have taken note of the fact that he has not proactively promoted the initiative that was on the ballot last week .
When asked about the measure in a debate in mid-October, Polis said he was undecided and needed to do more research on how he would personally vote. Now that voters narrowly approved the initiative, he appears ready to join the reform.
It’s a similar shift that proponents observed at Polis when it came to Amendment 64, the ballot initiative that made Colorado one of the first states in the US to legalize recreational cannabis.
At the time, Polis was a member of the US House of Representatives and had established himself as an advocate for cannabis reform. But he disappointed some by not endorsing the marijuana ballot measure that voters ultimately passed.
He is now one of the movement’s and industry’s strongest allies, and recently attended an event with US Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) to celebrate the success of the cannabis program of Colorado near the 10th anniversary of the 2012 vote.
In the Real Time interview, Maher pressed Polis for its emphasis on the medical aspects of the psychedelics action, pointing out that the initiative also legalizes the personal possession and cultivation of entheogenic substances like psilocybin and ayahuasca.
“It’s okay to just do it for fun, too, right?” asked Mahr.
“That’s not really what our law was about. It’s more the medical side,” the governor said. “I mean, people can grow it for their own use, but you can’t sell it.”
“We have both medical marijuana and legalized marijuana, I’m a strong proponent of both, right?” he said. “But that’s more the medicinal side of mushrooms. And then, yes, there are no criminal penalties if you grow it yourself for recreational purposes, but we’re excited about some of the medicinal possibilities.”
Tuesday’s vote comes more than four years after Denver became the first US city to decriminalize magic mushrooms, sparking a national reform movement. The state has now legalized low-level possession of a variety of psychedelics and is following Oregon’s lead in allowing licensed facilities to administer regulated psilocybin services.
Under the Colorado Initiative, the possession, use, cultivation, and sharing of psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline (non-peyote derived), DMT, and psilocyn are legalized for adults 21 years and older with no explicit possession restrictions.
The Department of Regulatory Agencies will be responsible for developing rules for a therapeutic psychedelics program that will allow adults 21 and older to attend a licensed healing center to receive treatment under the guidance of a trained facilitator. These legal entry points will initially only start with psilocybin.
Polis has until Jan. 15 to appoint members to a new Natural Medicines Advisory Board, which will be responsible for making recommendations for the inclusion of substances in the Legal Healing Center Access program.
Certain proponents of psychedelics reform had actively opposed the initiative, including some activists who pushed for an alternative legalization measure that did not go to a vote.
These activists argued that the initiative imposes too many regulations on entheogenic substances and would benefit corporate interests looking to provide psychedelic treatment services.
Meanwhile, in June, Polis signed a bill to align state laws to legalize MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately authorizes such use.
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Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.