Colorado voters approved a ballot measure to legalize the use of psilocybin and psilocin, two psychedelic compounds found in so-called magic mushrooms, in Tuesday’s midterm elections, becoming the second state to do so in two years.
The measure passed narrowly, the AP predicted, with 52% of the more than 2.2 million votes cast for legalization, with 93% of the expected votes counted on Friday.
The initiative allows for the use of psilocybin in federally regulated centers under the supervision of licensed facilitators. It also legalizes the personal home use, cultivation, and sharing of psilocybin and psilocin, as well as three other psychedelic compounds — DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline — by adults over the age of 21. Retail sales are not allowed, and the law has several restrictions, including those prohibiting use in public, at school, or while driving a vehicle.
“I’m impressed with what we’ve been able to achieve,” said Veronica Lightning Horse Perez, one of the main proponents of the legalization effort. “Over a million people voted yes for it. To think that a lot of people see the value of these drugs, that a lot of people know they can be used to heal – that’s huge.”
Psilocybin is illegal federally and in most states, although it is decriminalized in Washington, DC and more than a dozen other cities. But a growing body of research has found therapeutic, anti-anxiety uses for the chemical, prompting some states to consider easing restrictions.
Oregon voters passed a measure to legalize magic mushrooms for therapeutic use in 2020, and lawmakers in Washington and New York have proposed legalization legislation this year.
Laws that would decriminalize possession were introduced in 19 states — including Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas — although none were enacted. And more than a dozen states — including Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas — have enacted legislation to further study the health benefits of psilocybin.
“More and more people are beginning to recognize and understand that psychedelic therapy is not a radical field. It’s becoming more mainstream,” said Oklahoma State Assemblyman Daniel Pae, who co-authored a bill that would authorize scientific research into psilocybin.
The bill, which passed the Oklahoma House and will be submitted to the state Senate for consideration, would allow adults living with a handful of medical conditions to participate in state clinical trials of psilocybin. Texas passed a similar law last year.
The potential of psychedelics as part of the treatment of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction, and eating disorders is being explored in numerous clinical studies. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration labeled psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy,” a designation that accelerates the development of drugs that may be more effective than existing treatments.
The Hawaii State Senate cited the FDA approval in March when approving a bill that would assemble a task force to develop a long-term plan to make psilocybin available to adults over the age of 21 receiving mental health treatment Looking for. Connecticut lawmakers last year convened a group to study psilocybin and adjusted their state budget to fund therapy programs that administer psychedelic treatments to veterans and retired first responders.
While more than 60 bills have been introduced across the country, the majority, including the Hawaii bill, has stalled in committee or failed to receive a vote. In Washington, lawmakers chose to investigate the substance after efforts to ease restrictions. And in California, lawmakers turned a usage decriminalization law into a policy analysis law.
In Colorado, the victory of the voting measure marks the second time the state has made psychedelic history in three years. Denver became the first US city to decriminalize psilocybin in 2019.
For Kevin Franciotti, a Denver-based addiction counselor who received psychedelic treatment for an opioid use disorder more than a decade ago, this is Colorado’s “opportunity to be a leader in moving American drug policy in the right direction.”
Not everyone agrees with the legalization of psychedelics. Some opponents of the Colorado measure say it would encourage use of these substances before the FDA says they’re safe.
“I hope the rest of the country can learn the hard lessons of my state’s push,” said Luke Niforatos, who heads two national organizations that have opposed the drug legalization measure. “As the years go by, and as we learn more about this experiment, hopefully we’ll say we’re going to let the FDA and scientists run the medicine, not companies.”