Passed Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act

On November 8, 2022, Colorado voters passed a ballot initiative to decriminalize the possession of psychedelic mushrooms and other plant- and mushroom-derived psychedelic drugs and legalize their limited use by persons 21 and older. The passage makes Colorado, which was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the second state to allow the use of psychedelics after Oregon.

Proposition 122, or the “Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022,” passed with 53 percent of Colorado voters supporting the initiative, while 47 percent voted against, according to unofficial results released by the Colorado Secretary of State.

The measure will decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms and allow for the supervised use of two of the mushrooms’ drugs, psilocybin and psilocin, in state-regulated “healing centers” by 2024. The initiative also establishes the Natural Medicine Advisory Board to review and evaluate ongoing research on psychedelics and their potential health benefits, and to make recommendations to legislators and other government agencies.

The initiative comes amid growing scientific research into the potential medical benefits of psychedelics in the treatment of mental illnesses, particularly depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Implications for employers

The passage of Proposition 122 could increase employers’ concerns about workers who work under the influence of these drugs. Therefore, the proposal may encourage employers to review and revise their policies on drug testing and drug-free workplaces. The Natural Medicine Health Act states that it should not be construed as “allowing or authorizing an employer to use, consume, possess, distribute, display, transport or grow natural medicines in the workplace”. This may allow employers to continue enforcing zero-tolerance policies regarding the use of psychedelics. For comparison, Colorado law does not require employers to permit the use of marijuana in the workplace, and the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that workers are not protected by the state’s labor protections from dismissal for lawful off-duty conduct because Marijuana’s continued illegal status under federal law.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 320