Colorado Likely To Legalize Psychedelic Plants, Aspen Voters Showed Much Support | news

Colorado aims to become the second state after Oregon to legalize the possession and medicinal use of psychedelic plants and mushrooms.

Legislative access to psilocybin mushrooms for people 21 and older is scheduled to go into effect with the passage of Proposition 122, a voting measure presented to Colorado voters in the midterm elections. The nationwide initiative comes at a time when research is breaking new ground on the mental health benefits of herbal psychedelic treatments.

While incoming ballots are slowly trending toward a win for the measure, the Associated Press had yet to call the race Wednesday night, announcing it was too early to call with such a low vote count.

According to a live update database reported by the New York Times as of 5 p.m. Thursday, Proposition 122 received 52.1% of the vote in support of the nationwide initiative versus 47.9% against. These results are based on the 90% of votes cast in Colorado regarding the election measure at press time.

By county, Pitkin voters showed strong support for the law, with 6,694 votes, or 76%, for legalization compared to 2,131 votes, or 24% against. In fact, Pitkin reported the second-highest percentage of “yes” votes for the proposal per county, behind San Miguel County at 79%.

The level of support from Aspen makes sense given that the community has been having discussions about decriminalizing herbal medicines for well over a year.

An approved petition regarding therapeutic access to and decriminalization of these compounds in the city of Aspen was circulated through the Right to Heal Aspen citizens’ group in the spring. Although close, supporters of the petition did not get the required number of signatures from Aspen voters by the scheduled deadline.

Martha Hammel, who led the Right to Heal Aspen campaign and petition, explained that regardless of whether the Aspen Initiative had made the vote, the statewide measure would have overruled it.

And because of the petition sparking community discussions about herbal medicines, Aspen is well-positioned to push for the legalization of these natural medicines at the state level, she said.

“The reason we pushed our initiative forward in Aspen, even though there was the statewide initiative that would override it, was because we wanted to start those talks,” Hammel said. “Fortunately, we’ve already started here, and now it’s time to put things into action.”

With the passage of Proposition 122, getting things done at the state level means Gov. Jared Polis has until Jan. 31 to appoint members to the National Medicine Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will then develop regulations to implement natural medicine services and to allow “limited personal possession, use and free distribution of natural medicines”, according to the language of the vote.

Regulated access to psilocybin is scheduled to become available in 2024, and the Advisory Board will have the authority to add more herbal psychedelic compounds to the program in 2026.

The immediate impact of its passage is that no Coloradans of legal age will be arrested for using, possessing, growing and giving away these natural medicines, Hammel explained.

In discussing what the legalization of psychedelic plants means, Hammel used an analogy to the legalization of both inbound and backcountry skiing. The introductory page refers to the two-year development plan of the state advisory board for the regulated delivery and administration of these substances.

And just as backcountry safety measures include education, search and rescue groups, and an overall culture of respect for the mountains, so does our community’s access to natural medicine, Hammel explained.

“What needs to be done at a hyperlocal level is that we want to build a culture of safe and respectful use around these drugs,” Hammel said. “What we can do on the ground is create awareness-raising efforts.”

Hammel — who has professional experience in psychedelic assisted therapy as an educator, leader, and integrative coach — mentioned resources such as the Fireside Project, the Psychedelic Peer Support Line, and an app that provides emotional support during and after psychedelic experiences.

The Right to Heal Aspen website offers a compiled list of resources from psychedelic research and integration support to organizations and therapists in the valley. Hammel is also involved with Aspen’s Psychedelics Working Group, which she said will meet soon to hear what the community wants and to establish a structure that will allow for the safe use of these drugs in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Pitkin County voted overwhelmingly for 122, and we want to make sure aspenites have access to healing as soon as possible,” Hammel said.

Aspen Mayor Torre agreed that when seeking mental health treatment options, safe and controlled access to herbal medicines is great for those who could benefit from this legalization. While he is “very supportive” of using natural medicines for therapeutic reasons, Torre said he also has concerns that the wrong people are accessing and using these modalities.

As for legalization changing anything at the local level, Torre said he anticipates practitioners in the valley will soon seek access to psilocybin and eventually use it for therapies. The mayor mentioned that he did not believe Aspen City Council was in a position to promote or facilitate any of the new opportunities.

Torre sees the passage of Proposition 122 as an opportunity to restore a more robust public health dialogue in the community, he said, not just about psilocybin but also about alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

“I think this definitely needs to be incorporated into a more robust public health campaign and could continue the conversations in our community about many other substances as well,” Torre said. “I don’t think we’re doing enough to educate about substances like these right now, so maybe this passage opens the door for that.”

Torre pointed out that the vote counts for Proposition 122 have come in by a small margin over the past few days.

“This suggests that people in Colorado have questions and concerns about this,” Torre said. “And that, for me as mayor, means doing everything in my power to approach this cautiously in our community.”

Hammel is confident that Colorado will become the second state to legalize psychedelic plants – which is still a historic moment.

“I think the Coloradans are ready for that — we have a culture of personal responsibility and respect for nature, which I think translates well to psychedelic culture,” Hammel said. “And we as Colorado can build a safe, grounded, and respectful psychedelic culture here.”

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