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Activists File Colorado Ballot Initiatives To Legalize Psychedelics And Establish ‘Healing Center’ Program

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Colorado voters could have the chance next year to vote on legalizing possession and personal cultivation of psychedelics, and creating a system of licensed businesses to produce psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for supervised use at “healing centers.”

A national advocacy group recently filed two separate psychedelics reform initiatives for Colorado’s 2022 ballot, both of which are titled the Natural Medicine Healing Act.

The first would legalize the possession, cultivation and an array of entheogenic substances, as well as establish a regulatory model for psychedelics therapy. The other is a similar, but somewhat more dialed-back proposal that would initially legalize psilocybin and psilocin alone for personal adult use while also allowing for their sale and administration in a therapeutic setting.

This filing comes more than two years after Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Various activists, including those involved in the 2019 campaign, have signaled interest in building upon the reform.

New Approach PAC, which has been behind a number of state marijuana legalization campaigns as well as Oregon’s medical psilocybin legalization initiative that voters approved last year, filed the new Colorado measures with the secretary of state’s office earlier this month, as Westword first reported.

Both have been revised and finalized, and activists are now awaiting approval from the state before they can launch signature gathering to qualify for next year’s ballot. It’s likely that advocates will ultimately pursue only one of the measures after doing polling and other outreach to get a sense of the relative viability of each.

Under the broader proposal, the following entheogenic plants and fungi would be legalized: ibogaine, DMT, mescaline (except when derived from peyote), psilocybin and psilocyn.”

There would be no criminal or civil penalties for “possessing, storing, using, processing, transporting, purchasing, obtaining, ingesting, or giving away natural medicine without renumeration to a person twenty-one years of age or older” as long as it’s under the allowable amount of four grams.

While some activists are taking issue with the four gram limitation, the measure does say the allowable amount “does not include the weight of any material of which the natural medicine is a part, including dried fungus or plant material” and only counts the psychoactive compounds themselves.

The state Department of Regulatory Agencies would be responsible for developing rules for a therapeutic psychedelics program where adults 21 and older could visit a licensed “healing center” to receive treatment under the guidance of a trained facilitator.

“Colorado’s current approach to mental health has failed to fulfill its promise,” the text of the measure states. “Coloradans deserve more tools to address mental health issues, including approaches, such as natural medicines, that are grounded in treatment, recovery, health, and wellness rather than criminalization, stigma, suffering, and punishment.”

“Criminalizing natural medicines has punished people for seeking access to medicines that a growing body of research shows may have efficacy as treatments for suicidality, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders,” it says.

An advisory board would be established “for the purpose of advising the department as to the implementation of the regulated access program.”

While localities could enact policies related to the “time, place, and manner of the operation of healing centers,” they could not outright ban the facilities from operating in their jurisdiction.

Further, the initiative provides a pathway for people to have their criminal records cleared for psychedelics-related activities made legal under the proposal. And it also includes protections stating that legal psychedelic activities could not be used against a person when it comes to parental rights, violating probation or parole, access to public benefits or medical care.

The second measure that New Approach PAC filed focuses on psilocybin and psilocyn—the key active ingredients in psychedelic mushrooms.

It would similarly remove criminal penalties for the personal use of the substances and create a regulatory model overseen by the Department of Regulatory Agencies to allow adults to access the medicines at a healing center.

While the ballot proposal centers around psilocybin and psilocyn, it does allow regulators to eventually “classify additional controlled substances as natural medicines under this act if consistent with the purposes of this act.”

The initiative is also distinct from the broader proposal in that it would not create an advisory board, it does allow local municipalities to ban healing centers from operating in their area, it doesn’t provide for retroactive record sealing for psychedelics-related convictions and there are no explicit parent protections.

Here’s the ballot title language of the first initiative that was approved by the state’s Ballot Title Setting Board on Wednesday:

“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning legal regulated access to natural medicine for persons 21 years of age or older, and, in connection therewith, defining natural medicine as certain plants or fungi that affect a person’s mental health and are controlled substances under state law; establishing a natural medicine regulated access program and requiring the department of regulatory agencies to implement the program and regulate the manufacture, cultivation, testing, storage, transport, delivery, sale, and purchase of natural medicine; creating an advisory board to advise the department as to the implementation of the program; granting a local government limited authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of providing natural medicine services; allowing limited personal possession or use of natural medicine; providing specified protections under state law, including criminal and civil immunity, for authorized providers and users of natural medicine; and, in limited circumstances, allowing the retroactive removal and reduction of criminal penalties related to the possession, use, and sale of natural medicine?”

And here’s the psilocybin-focused initiative’s ballot title: 

“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning legal regulated access to natural medicine for persons 21 years of age or older, and, in connection therewith, defining natural medicine as certain plants or fungi that affect a person’s mental health and are controlled substances under state law; establishing a natural medicine regulated access program and requiring the department of regulatory agencies to implement the program and regulate the manufacture, cultivation, testing, storage, transport, delivery, sale, and purchase of natural medicine; granting a local government authority to regulate or ban the provision of natural medicine services; allowing limited personal possession or use of natural medicine; and providing specified protections under state law, including criminal and civil immunity, for authorized providers and users of natural medicine?”

While there are growing calls for expanded psychedelics reform—and specifically regulated, legal access to entheogenic substances—there are some local Colorado activists who are concerned about the language of the two New Approach proposals, as Westword reported.

“They’re looking to create these top-down, restrictive policies in places where grassroots community has been the strongest and where policy has been passed by grassroots community,” Decriminalize Nature Boulder County’s Nicole Foerster argued at a virtual meeting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, activists in the state are also targeting a number of jurisdictions for separate psychedelics reform efforts.

The Colorado initiatives seek to accomplish something similar to what California activists are actively pursuing. California advocates are in the process of collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state.

Virginia activists have also launched a push to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics in the Commonwealth, and two state lawmakers recently touted the therapeutic potential of entheogenic substances like psilocybin mushrooms.

Last month, Detroit voters approved a ballot initiative to widely decriminalize psychedelics, making it the latest in a growing number of jurisdictions to enact the reform.

In October, lawmakers in a fourth Massachusetts city, Easthampton, voted in favor of a resolution urging the decriminalization of certain entheogenic substances and other drugs.

The action comes months after the neighboring Northampton City Council passed a resolution stipulating that no government or police funds should be used to enforce laws criminalizing people for using or possessing entheogenic plants and fungi. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Somerville and Cambridge have also moved to effectively decriminalize psychedelics.

The local measures also express support for two bills introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature this year. One would remove criminal penalties for possession of all currently illicit drugs and the other would establish a task force to study entheogenic substances with the eventual goal of legalizing and regulating the them.

Separately, Seattle’s City Council approved a resolution in October to decriminalize noncommercial activity around a wide range of psychedelic substances, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline.

A bill to legalize psychedelics in California advanced through the Senate and two Assembly committees this year before being pulled by the sponsor to buy more time to generate support among lawmakers. The plan is to take up the reform during next year’s second half of the legislative session, and the senator behind the measure says he’s confident it will pass.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics. Activists in the city are also hoping to expand upon the local decriminalization ordinance by creating a community-based model through which people could legally purchase entheogenic substances from local producers.

Earlier this year, Texas enacted a law directing state officials to study psychedelics’ medical value.

The governor of Connecticut signed a bill in June that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Oregon voters passed a pair of initiatives last November to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs. On the local level, activists in Portland are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.

The top Democrat in the Florida Senate filed a bill in September that would require the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

The Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill this year, but it later died in the Senate.

In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee in September.

NIDA also recently announced it’s funding a study into whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking cigarettes.

An official with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also said at a recent congressional hearing that the agency is “very closely” following research into the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics like MDMA for military veterans.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a longstanding champion of marijuana reform in Congress, said in October that he intends to help bring the psychedelics reform movement to Capitol Hill, and he reiterated that point in response to a question from Marijuana Moment on Thursday. The congressman is also circulating a letter to get his colleagues to demand that the Drug Enforcement Administration stop preventing terminal patients from accessing psilocybin as a right-to-try investigational drug.

In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

Congressman Asks Colleagues To Demand DEA Allow Psilocybin Treatment For Terminal Patients

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

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Bipartisan Pennsylvania Senators File Bill To Let Medical Marijuana Patients Grow Their Own Plants

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A bipartisan group of Pennsylvania senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow medical marijuana patients to cultivate their own plants for personal use.

Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) first announced their intent to file the legislation in November, arguing that it is a necessary reform to ensure patient access by giving people a less costly alternative to buying from dispensaries.

Registered patients who are 21 and older, and who have been residents of the state for at least 30 days, could grow up to six plants in an “enclosed and locked space” at their residence, according to the text of the bill. They would be allowed to buy cannabis seeds from licensed dispensaries

 

In an earlier cosponsorship memo for the new home grow bill, the lawmakers said that letting patients cultivate their own medicine would “help ease the cost and accessibility burdens for this important medicine.”

The new legislation has three other initial cosponsors in addition to Street and Laughlin.

Street had attempted to get the reform enacted as an amendment to an omnibus bill this summer, but it did not advance.

The senators argue that patients in particular are deserving of a home grow option, as some must currently travel hours to visit a licensed dispensary and there are financial burdens that could be alleviated if patients could grow their own plants for medicine.

Late last year, Laughlin and Street also unveiled a separate adult-use legalization proposal that faces significant challenges in the GOP-controlled legislature. And Street is behind another recent cannabis measure to provide state-level protections to banks and insurers that work with cannabis businesses.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

In the interim, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is running for U.S. Senate this year, said one of his key goals in his final year in office is to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications to have the courts remove their cannabis records and restore opportunities to things like housing, student financial aid and employment through an expedited petition program.

Pennsylvania lawmakers could also take up more modest marijuana reform proposals like a bill filed late last year to expand the number of medical marijuana cultivators in the state, prioritizing small farms to break up what she characterized as a monopoly or large corporations that’s created supply problems.

Rep. Amen Brown (D) separately announced his intent to file a legalization bill that he’ll be working on with Sen. Mike Regan (R), who expressed his support for the policy change a day earlier.

Additionally, another pair of state lawmakers—Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D)—formally unveiled a legalization bill they’re proposing last year.

Philadelphia voters also approved a referendum on marijuana legalization in November that adds a section to the city charter saying that “the citizens of Philadelphia call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to pass legislation that will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use, and sale to adults aged 21 years or older, of cannabis for non-medical purposes.”

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said last year that marijuana legalization was a priority as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn’t contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.

The governor, who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill in June, has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A survey from Franklin & Marshall College released last year found that 60 percent of Pennsylvania voters back adult-use legalization. That’s the highest level of support for the issue since the firm started polling people about it in 2006.

An attempt to provide protections for Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients from being charged with driving under the influence was derailed in the legislature last year, apparently due to pushback by the state police association.

Nebraska Activists Say New GOP Medical Marijuana Bill Is A ‘Poison Pill’ Meant To Detract From Ballot Efforts

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Minnesota Democratic Leaders Preview Marijuana Legalization Plan For 2022

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Minnesota Democratic leaders are preparing for another push to legalize marijuana this session, with the sponsor of the House-passed reform bill saying he will be reworking the legislation in an effort to build further support—though it continues to face an uphill climb in the GOP-controlled Senate.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) and Senate Minority Leader Melisa Franzen (D) discussed the legislative strategy during a roundtable event hosted by the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative on Wednesday.

Winkler said that his bill, which moved through 12 committees before being approved on the House floor last year, is the “product of hundreds of hours of work involving thousands of people’s input, countless hearings and public listening sessions—but it is not a perfect bill.”

“As we look ahead to this session…our goal is to go back and reexamine provisions of the bill,” he said. Licensing structures, public safety and substance misuse concerns are among the issues that lawmakers will be looking at to improve upon the legislation.

“We will be working with our colleagues in the Minnesota Senate,” Winkler added. “We’re interested in pursuing legalization to make sure that the bill represents senators’ priorities for legalization as well.”

The leader said that “any effort this year that would be successful would require Republican support as well.”

But while advocates are encouraged to hear that the House may again vote to pass the legalization legislation, the Senate minority leader tempered expectations about the bill’s prospects in her Republican-run chamber.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a path to legalization this year in the Minnesota Senate,” Franzen said. “It’s controlled by the Republican party, and they have there’s a few members who are really adamantly opposed to legalization.”

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is supportive of cannabis legalization, and while the broad reform didn’t advance last session, he did sign a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, in part by allowing patients to access smokable cannabis products.

Winkler said on Wednesday that “it was because of the work done” by advocates on legalization that put pressure on Senate Republicans to advance that legislation.

Another cannabis issue playing out in Minnesota concerns CBD. The state agriculture department and pharmacy board have increased enforcement against the sale of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid in recent months, prompting calls for legislative reform.

Winkler said that the political dynamics around legalization that led to the expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program will be “a template for how we will address challenges with CBD this year.”

“My staff is working very closely with advocates, working with senators, working with other House members to get in a repair for the CBD industry, and I have every confidence that we will be able to do that with your help,” he said.

A poll conducted by Minnesota lawmakers that was released last year found that 58 percent of residents are in favor of legalization. That’s a modest increase compared to the chamber’s 2019 survey, which showed 56 percent support.

Winkler said in 2020 that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization And Expungements In Budget Request

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Nebraska Activists Say New GOP Medical Marijuana Bill Is A ‘Poison Pill’ Meant To Detract From Ballot Efforts

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A Republican Nebraska senator introduced a bill on Thursday that ostensibly seeks to legalize medical marijuana in the state—but activists have raised concerns that the restrictive measure may be an attempt to subvert an effort to pass even broader patient protections on the 2022 ballot.

Sen. Mike Groene (R) filed the legislation, which would allow certain patients to buy and possess cannabis oils, pills and up to two and a half ounces of flower at a limited number of dispensaries. Smoking or inhaling marijuana would be banned, however, as would making edibles—so it’s not clear how patients would consume the flower they could possess.

But the main problem is, the bill would maintain that cultivating marijuana in Nebraska for commercial or personal use is illegal, meaning dispensaries wouldn’t even have a legal means of obtaining cannabis products for patients.

The bill is also severely restrictive in terms of who would qualify for cannabis. It would only permit access to people with stage IV cancer, uncontrolled seizures, severe muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy or a terminal illness with less than a one year probable life expectancy.

It’s being backed by the Nebraska chapter of the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), leading some advocates to suspect that the lack of cultivation provisions is designed to be a “poison pill” while misleading voters into thinking that there is a good faith effort to legalize medical cannabis legislatively.

“This appears to be a political stunt,” Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “Opponents of medical cannabis know there is a viable campaign to put medical cannabis on the ballot, and they know Nebraskans will overwhelmingly support that effort.”

“This is an attempt to take our focus away from that,” he said. “But it won’t succeed because it’s clear that this proposal is not a good faith effort to find some middle ground on the issue.”

The bill comes as Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) continues to work to collect signatures for a pair of medical cannabis legalization initiatives that advocates hope to place on the November ballot. They have until July to collect 87,000 valid signatures to qualify each of their complementary measures.

Activists with the group collected enough signatures to qualify a medical marijuana legalization measure for the 2020 ballot, but the state Supreme Court invalidated it, finding that the proposal violated the single-subject rule for citizen initiatives.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Now this legislation from Groene is entering the mix for the 2022 session. And SAM Nebraska co-chair John Kuehn told The Lincoln Journal-Star that it’s “a good faith effort and we are willing to look at this as an acceptable alternative to creating a marijuana industry in the state of Nebraska.”

While advocates aren’t necessarily buying that argument given that it would authorize dispensaries without providing the ability to cultivate marijuana products, some like NMM co-chair Sen. Anna Wishart (D) are willing to work with the senator to get the bill into a more acceptable shape for patients.

“It would be the status quo,” Wishart said. “I want a safe system, but there are practical realities patients are living with every day. No one wants a system that doesn’t work.”

Notably, Groene did support a procedural motion to advance Wishart’s more expansive medical cannabis bill last session.

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democrats, pounced on the restrictive nature of Groene’s bill and said it makes it “not easy or feasible for most” to obtain a medical cannabis recommendation from a doctor.

Shari Lawlor, a member of Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis, said that the group is “grateful that Sen. Groene recognizes the importance of medical cannabis,” but as drafted, “this is a medical cannabis bill with no cannabis.”

“It envisions a system with dispensaries but no farmers or cultivators who actually produce the medical cannabis that patients need,” she said. “And since patients are not allowed to cultivate medical cannabis themselves under this proposal, there is effectively no way for patients to get the relief they need.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is no fan of legalization. He partnered with SAM Nebraska on a recent ad urging residents to oppose cannabis reform in the state. Given the organization’s support for this new GOP proposal, there’s some suspicion that he might back it to give the appearance that the administration isn’t deaf to calls for reform by voters.

Advocates aren’t going to be deterred by the bill’s introduction. They will be moving forward with the complementary medical cannabis initiatives in hopes to getting the issue to voters.

The campaign deliberately chose to take a bifurcated approach because of the state Supreme Court invalidation over the single-subject rule.

One of the statutory initiatives would establish legal protections for patients and doctors around cannabis, while the other would allow private companies to produce and sell medical marijuana products.

Lawmakers attempted to advance medical cannabis reform legislatively last year, but while the unicameral legislature debated a bill to legalize medical marijuana in May, it failed to advance past a filibuster because the body didn’t have enough votes to overcome it.

Wishart and NMM co-chair Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) announced in late 2020 that they would also work to put the question of legalizing marijuana for adult use before voters in 2022. But for now their focus appears to be on the medical cannabis effort.

For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general argued in an opinion in 2019 that efforts to legalize medical marijuana legislatively in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization And Expungements In Budget Request

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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