October 3, 2022

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With a crucial election less than three months away, Coloradans are starting to dig deeper into what is on the November ballot. As voters start reading between the lines, they’ll see that not every initiative is what it appears to be–including the buzzy, psychedelic-focused Initiative 58, also known as the Natural Medicine Health Act.
As the co-founder of the Denver-based nonprofit SPORE (the Society for Psychedelic Outreach Reform and Education), one might assume I would be in favor of this proposal — but I will be voting against the measure, and I’m encouraging Coloradans to do the same.
If voters approve The NMHA, it would create the framework for a state-regulated industry providing psychedelic services to people over 21, without needing a medical diagnosis.
While this may sound like a good thing to people who want to see increased access to psychedelics, this initiative is designed for corporate control, largely restricting access to corporate-owned healing centers.
Enthusiastic proponents of psychedelics eager to see the laws change may feel that even if the Natural Medicine Health Act (NMHA) is flawed, it is still progress, and we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
But that cliche doesn’t apply here. On the contrary, the NMHA puts profit over people and commercialization over the community.
Frankly, the NMHA is not a step in the right direction. It is a leap in the wrong direction. The NMHA is a corporate power grab, setting a corrupt foundation for the future of medicine stewardship in Colorado.
The NMHA is largely being pushed forward by an out-of-state PAC called New Approach — a lobbying group representing corporate interests vying to be the gatekeepers of psychedelic medicine.
New Approach and the NMHA campaign are misleading Coloradans. The so-called “progress” they promise will largely serve to advance an agenda of commodification and corporate control — not unlike what happened with cannabis in Colorado.
This is not progress. What is happening in Colorado is politics as usual, with a pseudo-psychedelic aesthetic.
The people who stand to benefit the most from the NMHA will be those who have the power and capital to set up shop in Colorado, selling “healing” and “transformational experiences” to anyone around the world willing to travel to Colorado for licensed psychedelic services.
The NMHA campaign insists that Colorado urgently needs state-regulated access to psychedelics because Colorado, according to some studies, is the lowest ranked state in the country for mental health.
However, these studies point to the lack of access to quality mental health services and insufficient health infrastructure as being primary factors as to why our state ranks so low. Psychedelics won’t cure this.
On the contrary, recklessly introducing psychedelics into a broken system under the governance of corporations that have a track record of putting profit over collective care would surely be disastrous for Colorado communities, exacerbating the public health crises we’re already facing.
And who would be left to clean up the messes and suffer the consequences of an irresponsible psychedelic industry that is hellbent on setting up shop — instead of helping resource communities to responsibly steward psychedelic medicines themselves?
That would be us, the people of Colorado — who will be here after New Approach does their corporate bidding and packs their bags.
Then there is the matter of “personal use,” which NMHA proponents falsely promise the new law would protect.
The “personal use” section of the NMHA addresses our personal rights to possess, share, cultivate and commune with natural medicines. From the NMHA’s definition of “personal use”: “includes the amount a person may cultivate or possess of natural medicine necessary to share natural medicines with other persons.”
The keyword here is “necessary.”
This language creates a vague decriminalization, which will have to be clarified by the general assembly or through the courts. Until the necessary amount is defined, this interpretation will be at the discretion of law enforcement.
In order for policymaking to support the people it is designed for, reform should be led by the most impacted communities through an equitable, participatory process.
This foundational work may take more time than big business, and the overzealous want to wait. However, taking our time to build a foundation for medicine stewardship based in community trust is worth it if we’re truly committed to healing.
Through a community initiative called The Mycoalition, SPORE is committed to building that foundation to make sure psychedelic policy reform is created for and by Coloradans.
There is a better way than the NMHA. Vote “NO” on Initiative 58.
Matthew Duffy is the co-founder and co-ecosystem director of The Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform and Education, a not-for-profit organization emerging from the Denver Psilocybin Initiative, the campaign that made Denver the first city in the US to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms since prohibition.
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