Four years after the city and county of Denver moved to decriminalize personal possession and use of psilocybin and psilocyn – the hallucinogenic chemical components of “magic mushrooms”– the voters in Colorado passed Proposition 122.
This legalized psilocybin and creates a system for the possible later legalization of several other similar naturally derived hallucinogenic chemicals for therapeutic use, including ibogaine, mescaline and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Colorado now joins Oregon as the second state to legalize magic mushrooms, although they remain illegal at the federal level.
So, what does “legalization” actually mean?
Proposition 122 creates the “Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022”, codified in the Colorado Revised Statutes in Title 12, Article 170.
Unlike legalization of marijuana, no one should expect to see magic mushroom dispensaries popping up at street corners around the state. Legalization permits adults 21 years or older to grow, possess and share but not sell magic mushrooms.
Criminal charges for distribution and possession with intent to distribute are still on the books, and those under 21 can be charged with a drug petty offense for using, possessing or sharing magic mushrooms. There are further regulations that require home-grows to be in a private residence and to be kept secure from minors.
Of course, it remains illegal to drive under the influence of mushrooms, to bring them into places such as schools, public buildings, and detention facilities, and to do anything while under the influence that would be otherwise illegal.
Because magic mushrooms are now legal, they can no longer the be basis for any detention, search, or arrest.
The Act also has a retroactive effect: Any prior criminal conviction for conduct that is now legal (that is, for personal possession or sharing with payment) can be sealed.
In addition to legalizing personal use, the Act creates a framework for Colorado to implement a system of “Natural Healing Centers” that would also the use of magic mushrooms, and potentially other similar substances that could later be approved, in a therapeutic setting. These provisions of the new law will come into effect much more slowly, however.
The Act gives until September 2024 for the implementation of rules to govern these healing centers, and limits them to psilocybin and psilocyn until at least June 2026, after which an advisory board may approve other substances.
Supporters of legalization pointed to strong scientific evidence that hallucinogenic compounds can be highly effective when used in therapeutic settings and the lack of any negative consequences that came with Denver’s decriminalization of persona use four years prior and Oregon’s legalization of personal use two years prior.