Half of likely Colorado voters would support a statewide measure to decriminalize possession of psilocybin mushrooms and establish a system of legal cultivation and sales of the psychedelic fungus, according to a recent poll that was shared with Marijuana Moment. And with that finding, activists are feeling emboldened to mount a campaign to put the policy change on the ballot in 2022.
About one year after Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize possession of so-called magic mushrooms, the survey shows that voters have an appetite to not only expand that policy across the state but also to go further by legalizing and regulating the supply chain and allowing medical professionals to facilitate access for people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Here’s the language of a hypothetical ballot initiative that 500 likely voters in Colorado were asked to weigh in on:
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning psilocybin mushrooms, decriminalizing sale and possession for personal use of psilocybin mushrooms by persons 21 and older; allowing qualified mental health providers to authorize access to psilocybin mushrooms for people with depression, anxiety and other qualifying conditions including terminal illnesses; enacting necessary fees and licenses for qualified medical facilities run by qualified owners; requiring the State to license and regulate the cultivation, processing and sales of psilocybin mushrooms as well as impose penalties for violations of such regulations; and requiring that a review panel appointed by the Governor report annually on the implementation of this revised statute?”
Fifty percent said they would back such a measure, including 29 percent who said they were a “strong yes.” While advocates’ discussions seem to have mostly focused on a prospective ballot initiative for decriminalizing possession and legalizing therapeutic access, the relevant language of the question supported by half of poll respondents appears to describe a broader regulated psilocybin program by providing licensing opportunities that don’t explicitly reference medical use.
The poll, which was conducted by RBI Strategies & Research from March 17-19, additionally asked respondents about alternative language. A slim majority of likely voters—54 percent—said they would favor a proposal to decriminalize and legalize “certain natural remedies including psilocybin.”
Also, the survey showed that most voters are in favor of decriminalizing “certain psychedelics” for individuals with qualifying medical conditions. “Over half said they favor decriminalization in those instances, with 31 percent strongly in favor,” RBI said.
This isn’t the first survey to show voter support for psychedelics reform. In Washington, D.C., 51 percent of respondents in a recent poll said they were in favor of a proposal to decriminalize a wide range of entheogenic plants. When they received additional information about the policy, support rose to 60 percent.
Public support for psychedelics reform is also evident in Oregon, where activists are working to place a therapeutic psilocybin legalization measure before voters this November. More than 135,000 signatures have been submitted for the initiative. The campaign needs 112,020 valid signatures from registered voters by July 2 to qualify.
This latest survey was sponsored by the national psychedelics reform group Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform and Education (SPORE), which was founded by the activist behind Denver’s successful decriminalization initiative.
SPORE Executive Director Kevin Matthews spoke to Marijuana Moment about the poll findings and said there’s a “high likelihood” reformers will pursue the policy change in 2022 in light of the assuring survey results.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Marijuana Moment: What does it say to you that 50 percent of Colorado voters are in favor of psilocybin reform? What does that say about the movement in this nascent state?
Kevin Matthews: It’s tremendously encouraging that half of Coloradans support decriminalizing and regulating psilocybin mushrooms. The data also suggests that we have important work to do in terms of educating and informing Colorado residents of the potential of psilocybin, and how equitable access to mushrooms can have dramatic, positive effects in our neighborhoods.
The movement isn’t really nascent. It’s been shunned, avoided, ignored, or pushed to the edges of culture in the US for nearly 60 years and is now birthing into maturation. Given our history, it’s no surprise that Coloradans support cognitive and bodily sovereignty, especially when it comes to the substances we use to broaden our horizons and heal individually and collectively.
MM: For activists in this space, what are the challenges that lie ahead in getting that number up to a more comfortable 55-ish percent to pursue a ballot measure?
KM: Challenges are simply opportunities, and the data shows that we have a ton of potential and work to do. Anyone who wants to advocate for psilocybin mushrooms in Colorado, according to the polling and medical data, can feel confident that their testimony will be met with curiosity—if not downright support—from Colorado residents.
We have a civic duty to inform Coloradans of the potential of psilocybin mushrooms to positively impact the health and mental wellness of those who are in-need, and discover how access to psilocybin mushrooms will dramatically transform our neighborhoods for the better.
MM: What can you say about any plans to pursue the ballot, and to what extent will this survey inform that decision?
KM: Any plans to pursue the ballot in Colorado must, at a minimum, 1) protect the rights of a person(s) to grow and gather psilocybin mushrooms for personal use, 2) protect the rights of a person(s) to gift psilocybin mushrooms to another person(s) for personal use, 3) protect the licensing of medical professionals who intend to offer psilocybin-assisted therapy, 4) protect the rights of qualified individuals to offer psilocybin-assisted services, and 5) remove psilocybin and psilocyn from the list of controlled substances in Colorado.
There is a high likelihood that a November 2022 ballot initiative will be pursued by proponents and activists in Colorado, and this survey is the first step in informing how we conduct our outreach and education to reach potential voters.
MM: Denver decriminalized psilocybin barely a year ago and yet support is already strong statewide. That wasn’t the case with marijuana legalization, which was the product of decades of activism and outreach. Why do you think Colorado seems so ready to embrace this policy change that just recently entered the zeitgeist?
KM: “Colorado” means “colored red.” To me that means that we’re at the root, the base, of change. Coloradans are, by nature, radical folks and understand that living here means being dedicated to personal autonomy, family, and community. In that sense we have a ton of work to do, especially in our city centers, when it comes to psychedelics and we can realize that dedication with effort, education, and advocacy.
We embrace change by our very nature because we’re rooted, and our roots are mycelial in nature.
Read the Colorado poll on psilocybin reform below:
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.
American Medical Association Asks Mississippi Voters To Reject Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative
A medical marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on Mississippi’s November ballot is being targeted by two medical associations that are pushing voters to reject the policy change.
With weeks left until the vote, the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) and American Medical Association (AMA) are circulating a sample ballot that instructs voters on how to reject the activist-led measure. For supporters and opponents alike, the way the ballot is structured can be confusing—a product of the legislature approving an alternative that appears alongside Initiative 65.
“The purpose is to defeat Initiative 65. Initiative 65A will allow the legislature to enact changes to the law, which would not be possible with Initiative 65,” the opposition campaign document states. “MSMA is asking for you to join us in educating and encouraging our population to vote against Initiative 65.”
This marks the latest obstacle that reform advocates are facing as they work to inform the electorate about how to fill out the ballot to pass their proposal. Despite polls that show support for medical cannabis legalization at 81 percent in Mississippi, opponents aren’t acquiescing to public opinion.
MSMA President Mark Horne told WLBT-TV last week that the organization was asked to review the initiative and that “it was immediately clear that this is an effort focused on generating profits for an industry that has no ties to the medical or health care community in Mississippi.”
But according to Jamie Grantham, communications director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care (MCC), that talking point has only recently been aired and the campaign didn’t receive that feedback until MSMA mounted this opposition push. She told Marijuana Moment on Monday that the group’s steering committee is composed of several physicians who also had a hand in drafting the measure’s language—and that includes doctors who are part of MSMA.
“Ultimately, it boils down to patients being able to have access to this through their physician. They need to be able to have that conversation with them,” she said. “If certain physicians don’t see a benefit to that, that’s fine. But lots of other physicians do, and that’s evidenced undeniably in the 34 other states with medical marijuana programs where patients are receiving relief.”
AMA President Susan Bailey argued that “amending a state constitution to legalize an unproven drug is the wrong approach,” adding that there are concerns about youth exposure and impaired driving.
That said, a scientific journal published by AMA has printed research showing the advantages of broad marijuana legalization, however, with one recent study showing that people in states where recreational cannabis is legal were significantly less likely to experience vaping-related lung injuries than those in states where it is prohibited.
The organization has long maintained an opposition to legalization but has called for a review of marijuana’s restrictive federal Schedule I status.
Marijuana Moment reached out to AMA for comment, but a representative did not respond by the time of publication.
If the Mississippi campaign’s measure passes, it would allow patients with debilitating medical issues to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The proposal includes 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.
In June, lawmakers introduced yet another medical cannabis alternative resolution that would’ve posed an additional threat to the activist-driven reform initiative. But, to advocates’ relief, the legislation didn’t advance before lawmakers went home for the summer.
Nebraska Activists Unveil New Medical Marijuana Initiative For 2022 Following Supreme Court Defeat
Nebraska activists on Monday announced they are filing a new medical marijuana ballot initiative after an earlier version got shot down by the state Supreme Court this month.
The previous proposal had already collected enough signatures from voters and qualified for this November’s ballot, but a local sheriff filed a challenge, arguing that it violated the state’s single-subject rule that prohibits measures that deal with multiple issues. The secretary of state’s office rejected that claim, but the case went to court and a majority of justices ultimately ruled that the proposal would be removed from the ballot.
While advocates are disappointed that the state won’t have the opportunity to enact the policy change this year, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana didn’t waste any time putting together a new initiative that they feel will pass the single-subject test and appear on the 2022 ballot.
Language of the new proposal simply states: “Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes.”
Of course, that simplified text might satisfy the ballot policy, but it leaves an open questions about what—if any—regulated market would provide people with access to cannabis. It also doesn’t define eligibility, so that right to marijuana would appear to be unrestricted as long as person purports to use it for therapeutic reasons.
Those questions, if they remain unanswered by the campaign, could prove to be a sticking point for voters who would otherwise support regulated access to medical cannabis but might be uncomfortable with what could be a “free-for-all” situation that opponents have locked activists into with the single-subject challenge.
That said, the advocacy group says it plans to follow up the new simple constitutional amendment with “trailing statutory initiatives to set up a safe and secure medical cannabis system in Nebraska” if lawmakers fail to pass any medical marijuana legislation over the next year. That’s similar to how casino gaming supporters are pursuing their issue with companion constitutional and statutory ballot measures.
Under this year’s blocked initiative, physicians would have been able to recommend cannabis to patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions, and those patients would then have been allowed to possess, purchase and “discreetly” cultivate marijuana for personal use.
Sens. Anna Wishart (D) and Adam Morfeld (D), cochairs of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, have tried for years to pass medical cannabis bills in the legislature only to be blocked by opposition from leadership.
Now, between the Supreme Court defeat and legislative inaction, they’re charting a new path.
“Families with loved ones suffering from conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, Parkinson’s, and cancer have fought for years to make medical cannabis safely accessible in our state as it is in 33 other states,” Wishart said in a press release. “This year over 190,000 Nebraskans successfully petitioned our government during a pandemic for that right, and despite receiving qualification from the Secretary of State, our initiative was removed from the ballot by a 5-2 vote from Nebraska’s Supreme Court. We will not give up and intend to bring this fight to the legislature in January with a bill that I will introduce and to the ballot in 2022.”
Morfeld added that the “new petition language indisputably presents a single subject and makes medical cannabis a constitutional right.”
“Then following with several statutory initiatives, we will establish a safe and regulated medical cannabis system,” he said. “Nebraskans have a constitutional right to petition their government, and we will not stop until they can exercise their right and have their voices heard on medical cannabis.”
— Senator Adam Morfeld (@Adam_Morfeld) September 28, 2020
While the timing isn’t ideal as far as advocates are concerned, given that presidential election years are typically targeted by cannabis reform supporters because of relatively larger turnout by supporters as compared to midterm cycles, 2022 is the next option they’re left with. That said, it’s possible that the continuing momentum for reform via the ballot could spur legislators to take up the issue in the meantime.
For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general said in an opinion last year that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
Top Illinois And Michigan Officials Give Marijuana Legalization Advice To Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor
The lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan recently gave their counterpart in Pennsylvania some advice on how to approach marijuana legalization in his state.
At a virtual forum on Thursday, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) put several questions to Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D) and Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D), asking for tips on how to navigate the policy change as legislators in his state consider his push to enact a legal cannabis system.
“What I hope that Pennsylvania can learn from Michigan is that you can do it right. You do not have to piecemeal this together,” Gilchrist said.
— Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (@FettermanLt) September 23, 2020
“When you do it in the right way, it sets you up to create the systems and infrastructure to truly support people as this comes online, to create opportunities for those who have been oppressed and cut out of opportunity because they’ve been incarcerated or criminalized in the system to be able to participate in the potential prosperity that adult-use cannabis can create for communities in a full and robust and inclusive way,” he said.
Fetterman said that, from his perspective, Illinois is “the gold standard of legalizing recreational cannabis” because of how it intentionally approached restorative justice and social equity through reform legislation.
Because Pennsylvania doesn’t have a process through which citizens can put initiatives on the ballot, he said he was especially interested in how Illinois crafted an effective cannabis system legislatively.
“We had looked at other states and what was happening in other states, when we did our homework, we realized that really none of the other states had really kind of approached this legislation or their efforts—I think we were the first to do it by legislation—with an intentional lens of equity,” Stratton, who purchased cannabis gummies at a dispensary on the state’s first day of legal sales, said. “As all of us know, if you’re not intentional about equity, it just doesn’t happen because of the systems and the systemic racism that we’ve talked about. It does not happen that you just end up with equity.”
“We are working towards making sure that those individuals that were from many of the communities most harmed by the war on drugs could have real opportunity. We’re working towards that,” she said. “We are repairing the harm of what generations of bad policy—including, again, the war on drugs—has done to these communities that are disproportionately black and brown.”
Stratton also emphasized that, under her state’s marijuana model, 25 percent of cannabis tax revenue goes toward restorative justice grants for disadvantaged communities. She also noted that Illinois has been consistently “breaking records with sales,” even during the coronavirus pandemic. That said, there have been some snags in implementing an equitable model of cannabis business licensing in the state, with several lawsuits filed over the results of a recent application scoring round.
Gilchrist jumped in to offer Fetterman another tip as Pennsylvania navigates through legalization legislation.
“There’s another element that I want to discuss that that perhaps is something that you should think about in Pennsylvania, and that is that kind of—I won’t call it consensus building per se—but that kind of real and robust and muscular set of community conversations and involvement in the design of implementation is really important,” he said.
He said it’s important to ensure that there’s “accessibility” to enter the industry and remove barriers that keep people from participating.
“You don’t want people to be designed out of these opportunities,” he said. “And sometimes that can happen, both unintentionally and intentionally.”
Fetterman ended the event by reflecting on the increasing bipartisan support around legalization, and both of his guests agreed that their experiences demonstrated as much.
He and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) have been regularly talking about the policy change in recent weeks. At a marijuana reform rally earlier this month, for example, both officials discussed their support for legalization and the need to stand up Pennsylvania’s market as more surrounding states pursue legal cannabis models.
Also this month, Wolf took a shot at the GOP-controlled legislature for failing to get the job done. He also floated the idea of passing a bill that would allow the state itself to sell the cannabis to consumers.
While Wolf initially opposed adult-use legalization, he came out in support of the policy change last year after Fetterman led a statewide listening tour last year to solicit public input on the issue.
Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the reform, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.
A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.