Gov. Jared Polis says he is fully in Colorado’s plans for psychedelics but wants them to focus on the medical aspects.
Polis appeared on HBO Real time with Bill Maher On Nov. 11, he discussed a variety of topics, including the recent midterm elections, a possible presidential nomination and the state of the Democratic Party, but his conversation with the comedian inevitably turned to “mushrooms.”
Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana and an early adopter of medical marijuana; The passage of Proposition 122, making this the second state to legalize medicinal access to psilocybin mushrooms and possibly other psychedelic substances, added even more to Colorado’s high standing in the Rocky Mountains. However, Polis was never vocal in support of Prop 122 and had not even decided how he would vote as of October.
Now that Prop 122 has been passed, Polis is behind the move to Mushrooms.
“We all know this stuff takes decades or years, and it costs $1,000 in a pill. It’s ridiculous, so we want to make it available,” he told Maher. “It’s promising. We will work to get it right from a health standpoint in Colorado.”
Maher, more drawn to the fun side of magic mushrooms, asked the governor if he had ever tried psilocybin. After saying he never backed down, Polis turned his attention to the medical aspects of Colorado’s new law.
“There’s a lot of promise that some of the mushroom-based therapies, natural remedies, work for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression,” he noted.
A contingent of psychedelic therapy advocates and Indigenous groups opposed Prop 122, arguing that nationwide decriminalization of psychedelics must be established well before a framework for legal access is in place. Supporters of a rival psychedelic initiative that didn’t make it to the 2022 vote feared that Prop 122 would lead to over-commercialization and injustice similar to what happened with commercial marijuana in Colorado.
Polis emphasized that Colorado would not treat psychedelics the way it treats marijuana, allowing for a commercial market with hundreds of dispensaries selling it recreationally across the state. While personal possession of mushrooms is no longer illegal and the state will sanction healing centers for the medicinal use of psilocybin, Polis said he doesn’t see another billion-dollar retail industry emerging.
“It’s more the medicinal side of mushrooms. And then, yes, there are no criminal penalties if you grow it yourself for recreational purposes [purposes]but we’re excited about some of the medical opportunities,” he told Maher.
Polis’ recent appointment of Alec Garnett, tenured former Speaker of the Colorado House, as his new chief of staff had also caused a stir among alternative medicine practitioners and recreational athletes. During his time as Speaker of the House, Garnett pushed through legislation restricting access to medical marijuana and concentrated THC, for which he received an award from a national anti-marijuana group and much criticism from marijuana stakeholders.
However, despite Garnett’s recent struggles with the pot lobby, several marijuana industry officials don’t see the new chief of staff influencing Polis on marijuana or psychedelics laws.
“As a political observer, I was a bit surprised but not really concerned,” said an industry official west word. “It’s not like under Jared’s government [the chief of staff] would have the freedom to run things against the potency. If anything, he would have to resist these efforts. I don’t really see that as a problem.”
Under Prop 122, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies will be responsible for developing a regulatory framework for access to psilocybin by 2024, including production rules and guidelines for legal healing centers. DMT, ibogaine and mescaline were also decriminalized in Colorado under the measure, but Colorado officials have until 2026 to investigate these substances and determine if they should be legally accessible.