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Psychedelic Legalization Takes the Stage As Election Season Approaches in America

With election season looming, a surprise ‘entrant’ could be making its way onto the ballot this fall, and into state houses across America: Psychedelics.

As a handful of states grapple with psychedelic-related legislation and information gathering, voters in Colorado moved one step closer to voting on legalizing psychedelic mushrooms by submitting signatures for a wide-ranging initiative. That means that not only will psychedelics be on the ballot this fall, these measures and movements are quickly moving the concept of therapeutic psychedelics to the forefront of drug policy discussions in American politics. 

And after Oregon became the first state to legalize mushrooms in 2020, the question of ‘who’s next’ is starting to narrow down its possible answers. 

Colorado’s legalization efforts appear to be headed to the ballot box after organizers submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s office for Initiative 58, a proposed measure to legalize and provide supervised access to psilocybin and psilocyn. The measure would codify a “Natural Medicine Act of 2022” that looks to establish a system of licensing and patient care within two years, and set the groundwork for potentially adding access to DMT, ibogaine and mescaline (excluding peyote). 

Proponents of Initiative 58 said they submitted 220,000 signatures, which they are hoping gives them enough leeway to match the 120,000 verified signatures required to bring the measure to ballot boxes. If that benchmark is hit, voters in the Centennial State will have a chance to vote on a measure that is aiming to “establish a new, compassionate, and effective approach to natural medicines.” 

Another way that psychedelics are pushing toward legalization is through state legislative bodies. 

In New Jersey, state Senate President Nicholas Scutari filed a bill last month called the “Psilocybin Behavioral Health Access and Services Act”, which aims to create a system of licensing and supervised access to psilocybin. Scutari’s bill cites preliminary clinical findings from the Food and Drug Administration that “indicates psilocybin may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapies for treatment-resistant depression” and lays the groundwork for a comprehensive path toward licensing and legalization. 

The proposed legislation states: “It is necessary and appropriate to develop a comprehensive regulatory scheme to ensure that psilocybin can be accessed in safe, controlled environments that are designed to foster improvements in behavioral health for adult patients,” and goes on to define an “18-month program development period” to achieve the goals laid out in the act. 

While the two measures have different paths to becoming law, both share common features, and bear an undeniable resemblance to Oregon’s path to legalization. Both measures set a timeline of 18-24 months for implementation, and include guidance for establishing regulatory programs, as well as instructions for how providers will be licensed to supervise adult use for therapeutic purposes. Both measures also establish regulatory boards to oversee the programs and take up future matters pertaining to harm reduction and introduction of natural medicine in a legal, supervised setting. 

That matches up with the path of legalization efforts in Oregon, where a measure passed in 2020 is set to legalize mushrooms beginning in January of 2023. With that date creeping closer, voters are now set to fine tune the state’s laws and what it means for practical application. 

In Jackson County, voters are considering whether to ban psychedelic mushroom businesses in the wake of a planned venture for therapeutic psilocybin retreats. The Synthesis Institute, a company based in the Netherlands, recently purchased a resort in the Oregon county, and was planning to open a therapeutic resort in time for legalization laws to kick in. Now, they’ll have to wait for the public’s decision after county commissioners voted to send the decision to the ballot for a vote. 

By all indications, these legislative and voter-initiated measures are just the tip of activity across the country toward legalizing natural medical alternatives. California still has active legislation geared toward considering psychedelic treatment options after a voter-initiated measure recently fell short of gathering enough signatures to make the ballot. 

Legalization efforts are also picking up steam in states not typically associated with drug policy reform. Connecticut’s governor recently signed a wide-ranging bill that includes language to provide psychedelic-assisted treatment for specific patients after enacting a measure last year to research the therapeutic potential of such treatments. In Oklahoma, a similar effort to explore the mental health benefit of psychedelic treatment has advanced in the state house, thanks in part to the bill’s 14 co-sponsors coming from both sides of the political spectrum.

Author

  • Patrick Radigan

    Patrick Radigan is a recovering sports journalist who had his eyes opened to the world of drug policy reform while covering a court case of a cannabis consultant found not guilty on trumped up possession charges. Since that case, he's covered legalization issues in multiple states, monitored tribal movements in the legal cannabis space and is now turning his attention to the wide spectrum of legalization and policy matters surrounding natural medicine alternatives. Patrick has written stories for newsprint, shot video for television news and got his start covering biofuels and soil science for a climate magazine. Originally from South Dakota, Pat earned a pair of journalism degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and now resides in Colorado.