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Colorado Bill That Would Have Muzzled Social Media Speech On State-Legal Psychedelics And Other Drugs Is Dead For The Year



The sponsor of a Colorado bill that would have forced social media platforms to ban users for talking positively online about certain controlled substances—including as state-legal psychedelics, certain hemp products and even some over-the-counter cough syrups—abruptly shelved the bill this week.

Advocates say their pushback to the proposal “caught the attention of the legislature” and convinced lawmakers to reverse course.

The legislation, SB24-158—a broad proposal concerning internet age verification and content policies—would have required social media platforms to immediately remove any user “who promotes, sells, or advertises an illicit substance.”

Though an earlier amendment from the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Chris Hansen (D), made a carveout around statements advertising state-legal marijuana to adults over 21, the amended bill would have still applied to numerous other legal and illegal substances.

On Wednesday, the bill‘s sponsor in the House, Rep. Meghan Lukens (D) shelved the measure in the Education Committee, a move that will “postpone indefinitely” its consideration, according to the legislature’s website.

“The reality is, this bill simply needs more time,” Lukens said during the committee hearing, according to a Westword report. “I am optimistic, after work during the interim, that I can come back with a strong, effective version of this bill. A version that protects all young people from bad actors on social media.”

Kevin Matthews, director of the campaign in Denver that made the city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin, called the development “a stunning reversal of events”

In an email to supporters, Matthews relayed that a “small yet mighty plant medicine coalition descended upon the Capitol grounds during lunchtime chanting ‘Our Freedom of Speech is Under Attack, Protect the Plants Protect the People,'” adding that the coalition’s actions—which also included a sign-on letter to House lawmakers—”caught the attention of the legislature and convinced lawmakers that SB24-158 was flawed policy.”

Matthews said it was a “bittersweet victory,” however:

“The decision to lay over was announced at the beginning of committee, and the committee chair decided to allow heart-wrenching testimony only from proponents of the bill—teenagers who struggled with doom-scrolling addiction and lack of connection to the outside world, grieving parents who lost children due to the availability of dangerous illicit substances on social media,” and others, he said, who together highlighted “some of the deeply personal, real-world issues and challenges we face with access to harmful content on social media platforms.”

R Street Institute Fellow Shoshana Weismann, who first called out the potential problems in the bill’s drug-related language and last month described the amended version as “asinine” for forbidding statements around even some over-the-counter medications, said she was pleased to see the concerns addressed.

“I’m sincerely grateful to the sponsors for taking criticism of their efforts so seriously,” Weismann told Marijuana Moment. “That takes a great deal of humility and it’s pretty rare to see. If they are still interested in pursuing their ideas in the future, I hope they reach out to critics to workshop their ideas.”

As the legislation made its way through House committees, its Senate sponsor, Hansen, did not respond to questions from Marijuana Moment about whether the legislation intended to ban, for example, a 19-year old medical marijuana patient who posts about medical marijuana to their Instagram story, a user posting to Facebook that the use of a Schedule V over-the-counter cough syrup helped them feel better or promotion by Gov. Jared Polis (D) of the state’s legal psychedelics industry—as a plain reading of the bill might suggest.

Hansen said in March that he was “working on answers” to those questions.

Under the proposal, social media companies would have been required to update policies and post them publicly on or before July 1, 2025. Updates to social media policies would also need to be posted online within 14 days of implementation.

Companies would also be mandated to submit reports annually to the state attorney general a statement “of whether the current version of the published policies contain definitions and provisions relating to illicit substances,” according to a legislative summary of the bill provided to a Senate committee.

Lawmakers said that in light of the bill’s other provisions intended to protect young people on social media from firearms and sexual victimization, they hope to revisit it when the legislature reconvenes next year.

“It might be slow, but I hope we get there soon,” committee chair Rep. Barbara McLachlan (D) said, according to Westword.

Separately, Colorado marijuana regulators earlier this year touted industry successes in 2023 and promoted their new hospitality rules for the industry, including increased sales limits for cannabis hospitality businesses that allow on-site use.

One of the things they noted is a rule about online sales that took effect last August. Customers must still physically pick up the marijuana products from retailers, but now they can browse and electronically purchase cannabis online ahead of visiting the store.

Polis has praised the state’s reputation on marijuana and even said in January that Colorado is “leading the nation” on psychedelics, just as it did with cannabis.

“Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational use of cannabis, setting a standard for innovation and safety and economic mobility that’s been replicated by states across the nation and countries across the world, who come here to learn what Colorado did right,” Polis said in his latest State of the State address. “Now, thanks to our voters, we’re once again leading the nation on natural medicine, unfreezing 50-plus years of stifled research to learn about the potential benefits for the people of our state and beyond.”

Colorado has seen more than $15 billion in legal marijuana sales since opening day a decade ago. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Council Staff (LCS) released a report last August showing that Colorado generated more tax revenue from cannabis than alcohol or cigarettes during the last fiscal year. The Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), meanwhile, recently touted an ID verification compliance rate of 99 percent at the state’s cannabis businesses.

Two recent polls, meanwhile, indicate that more than a decade after Colorado voters approved the ballot measure making their state the first in the U.S. to launch legal adult-use marijuana sales, a strong majority of those in the state feel the change has been a positive one.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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