Colorado became the second state to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms after voters passed a ballot initiative during the 2022 midterm elections Tuesday. The Associated Press called the race Thursday, with the “Yes” vote sitting at just over 52% as of 1:00 p.m. EST.
With the vote, Colorado has joined Oregon as the only two states to vote to establish a regulated system for substances like psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogens found in some mushrooms. The initiative, which would take effect in 2024, also will allow an advisory board to add other plant-based psychedelic drugs to the program in 2026.
“Colorado voters saw the benefit of regulated access to natural medicines, including psilocybin, so people with PTSD, terminal illness, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can heal,” Natural Medicine Colorado, the group that promoted the measure, said in a prepared statement.
Supporters in Colorado argued that the state’s current approach to mental health has failed, and the move to decriminalize and potentially legalize psychedelic mushrooms could help. They also said jailing people for the non-violent offense of using naturally occurring substances costs taxpayers money.
Critics warned that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the substances as medicine. They also argued that allowing “healing centers” to operate, and allowing private personal use of the drugs, would jeopardize public safety and send the wrong message to kids and adults that the substances are healthy.
“It is time for us to face an alarming reality: Colorado’s kids are abusing drugs at alarming rates. Increasing the accessibility and exposure of psychedelics to our kids is deplorable, and sets the stage for addiction, anxiety, and depressive behaviors,” the group Protecting Colorado Kids said. “Let us be clear, legalizing psychedelics not only puts our kids at risk, but also overwhelms first responders, medical professionals, and law enforcement with increased criminal behavior as a result of increased public drug use.”