The governor of Colorado has named members of a Natural Medicine Advisory Board that will help inform psychedelics policy after voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize entheogens and establish psilocybin “healing centers” last year.
The 15-member board consists of scientists, researchers, academics, people familiar with psychedelic medicine and law enforcement. That includes a top researcher in the field, Arizona-based Sue Sisley, and a former cannabis journalist who now runs the PR firm Grasslands, Ricardo Baca.
Members will be responsible for studying and making recommendations on a number of issues related to the psychedelics law, which permits adults 21 and older to possess, cultivate and share certain psychedelics, while also establishing psilocybin “healing centers” in the state.
Mason Marks, a law professor at the Florida State University College of Law and co-founder of the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR) at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School, published a comprehensive breakdown of the appointees. It details the diversity of members’ backgrounds and specialties within and around the psychedelic space.
Some members’ terms expire on January 31, 2025, while others’ expires January 31, 2027.
The governor’s office also notes each appointee’s designated area of expertise. They include specializations in emergency medicine, harm reduction, indigenous use, health care disparities, mycology, veterans issues, criminal justice and more.
Baca, who previously worked as the editor of The Denver Post’s once-influential cannabis vertical The Cannabist, will focus on “indigenous use and public health, drug policy, and harm reduction.”
For her part, Sisley will “serve as a representative of mycology and natural medicine cultivation.” As a researcher at the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), she’s spent significant time carrying out trials exploring the therapeutic value of psilocybin and advocating for reform legislation.
That includes a recent bill filed in Arizona to promote research into the medical potential of psilocybin mushrooms for a variety of conditions that could inform future reforms on authorizing psychedelic-assisted therapy.
In Colorado, the recommendations that the board will eventually submit will cover topics like promoting public education about the reform, regulating natural plants and fungi, ensuring “affordable, equitable, ethical and culturally responsible access to natural medicines” and possibly adding new substance to the therapeutic program.
Members will need to submit their initial report with policy recommendations by September 30.
Gov. Jared Polis (D) issued a proclamation certifying the November vote late last month ahead of deadline, which made effective provisions legalizing possession, cultivation and sharing of psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), DMT and psilocyn for adults 21 and older.
The measure legalizes “personal use” amounts of the included psychedelics. While it doesn’t set a specific numerical definition for such limits, there is no commercial sales component beyond legal access at the licensed healing centers. The psychedelic substances remain federally illegal.
Meanwhile, regulators have until January 1, 2024 to establish rules for trained facilitators to work at the psilocybin healing centers, and they must be ready to implement the therapeutic program and begin accepting licensing applications by September 30, 2024.
At first, the healing centers will only involve psilocybin and psilocyn. But by June 1, 2026, the advisory board could start recommending that other psychedelics such as ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote) and DMT be added to the list of substances that can be used at the facilities.
Polis said following the vote in November that he’s “excited” about reform, calling psychedelics a “promising” treatment option for certain mental health conditions.
He cheered the approval of the psychedelics ballot measure, despite having declined the opportunity to endorse to proposal ahead of the vote.
The governor also separately said in late November that lawmakers may need to pass additional enabling legislation “to set it up in a way that prevents any negative consequences and honors the will of the voters.”
Certain psychedelics reform advocates had actively opposed the initiative, including some activists who pushed for an alternative legalization measure that didn’t make the ballot.
Those activists argued that the initiative imposes too many regulations for entheogenic substances and would benefit corporate interests that want to provide psychedelic treatment services.
Meanwhile, Polis signed a bill in June to align state statute to legalize MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately permits such use.