Opinion – Psychedelic Turn: Colorado approves distribution of psychedelics


By a narrow margin of votes (52% x 48%), the state of Colorado became the second in the United States to regulate the offer of psychedelic mushrooms to the adult public. The referendum, included in the election on Tuesday (8), approved Proposition 122, which introduces the Law of Health and Natural Medicine.

Colorado, in the western US, had already pioneered the decriminalization of marijuana a decade ago. Since then, the cannabis trade has flourished, much to the chagrin of conservatives, now defeated, once again, in their attempt to stop psychedelics. But there was also criticism from progressives, for the predominance of big capitalists.

Under the new legislation, the so-called “magic” mushrooms can only be consumed by people over 21 years of age in “healing centers”, and not sold at retail. And this always in the presence of qualified facilitators throughout the “trip”, which can last around six hours.

The proposal is that the service can be offered, without medical prescription, also by alternative therapists, and not only by health professionals. These clandestine services never ceased to exist, even with the banning of psychedelics in the 1970s.

The text now adopted in Colorado has similarities with legislation passed in 2020 in Oregon (Northwest USA). Two years ago, the pioneer state authorized the opening of “psilocybin services” (psychoactive psilocybe), which will be offered in the middle of next year, almost three years after the decision by the electorate. Colorado went further, and faster.

In Oregon, an advisory committee has had two years to detail the regulation, which undergoes public consultation until December and takes effect in 2023. In Colorado, the group will be appointed by the end of January and in September of next year it should present its proposal. The actual distribution would begin before the end of 2024, so within two years of Tuesday’s vote.

Another big news is the forecast to extend regulation, in 2026, to other plant-based psychedelic drugs. Can peyote cactus mescaline be legalized (Lophophora williamsii), ibogaine from the African bush Tabernanthe Ibogaand dimethyltryptamine (DMT) present in vegetables such as chacrona leaves (psychotria viridis), one of the ingredients of ayahuasca tea.

Finally, the drafters of Proposition 122 were careful not to include in the referendum text the option for cities and counties to vote to reject state legislation (the “opt-out” clause). There was such a provision in the Oregon law passed, a concession for Conservative voters, and several localities there included that decision on Tuesday’s ballot.

Of Oregon’s 36 counties, 27 put the local psilocybin ban to a vote, and 24 actually overturned the state norm (as did 114 cities). Only Jackson, Josephine and Deschutes counties kept it. The result, however, was celebrated by defenders of the liberalizing measure, because most of the state’s population will have access to mushrooms.

The 12 counties that will have psilocybin services are home to the largest cities, such as Portland, Salem (capital), Eugene and Bend, where psychedelics have become legal. A quarter of the population of 4.3 million lives in them alone. Those who voted against are in east-central Oregon, in rural areas with few people.

Even there, in the conservative strongholds where mushrooms were banned, there is no lack of cities that have chosen to remain “safe havens” for psilocybin, as can be seen in the map above. People who wish to have the psychedelic experience with them will be able to do so without having to travel far – physically, that is. In addition, in 17 places the ban is temporary, only valid for two years.

“We believe that as the therapy is rolled out to Oregon communities in 2023 and beyond, voters will continue to learn about how it can address our mental health crisis,” Sam Chapman of the Healing Advocacy Fund told The Oregonian. “Over time, access will only continue to expand.”

The initiatives in Oregon and Colorado, by providing direct access to over-the-counter psychedelics, bypass the usual drug approval process by the FDA, the US Anvisa. In the commonly used route, drugs must pass phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials before being licensed as drugs.

In the case of psychedelics, the most advanced substance for psychotherapeutic use is MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder, which is in a phase 3 trial and could be authorized as an adjunct to psychotherapy in 2023 or 2024. If this happens, it is expected that the treatment becomes covered by health insurance.

Next comes psilocybin (mushrooms) for depression. Several research centers and companies have carried out studies with encouraging results. The largest, from the company Compass Pathways, was published a week ago in the respected New England Journal of Medicine.


To learn more about the history and new developments of science in this area, including in Brazil, look for my book “Psiconautas – Travels with Brazilian Psychedelic Science”.

Be sure to also see the reports from the series “A Resurreição da Jurema”:




It is worth remembering that psychedelics are still experimental therapies and certainly do not constitute a panacea for all mental disorders, nor should they be self-medicated. Talk to your therapist or doctor before venturing into the area.

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