Early yesterday afternoon, the Decriminalize Nature Colorado campaign submitted the signatures it collected to land a statewide initiative in the November ballot at the office of the Colorado secretary of state. However, those leading the campaign, which aims to decriminalize a handful of natural psychedelics, had already accepted the likely fate of the initiative before the official count of signatures even began.
“We’re very unlikely to make it to the ballot in 2022,” Nicole Foerster, one of the co-leaders of the all-volunteer organization Decriminalize Nature Colorado, said at an Aug. 8 press conference on the steps. of the Colorado Capitol.
Admitting that voters won’t have a chance to consider Colorado’s nature decriminalization measure in November, Foerster and other activists said they now have a new goal: to launch an “information campaign regarding Initiative 58, another medical legalization and decriminalization measure for psychedelics that has already been approved for the Colorado ballot. Although Foerster and co-frontman Melanie Rose Rodgers say they don’t want their new effort classified as such, they’re essentially running a “No to Initiative 58” campaign.
“You need millions of dollars to make statewide change,” said Rodgers, a leading supporter of Denver’s successful 2019 psychedelic mushroom decriminalization campaign. small groups of people who make decisions for everyone.”
Foerster and Rodgers came together to form the Decriminalize Nature Colorado campaign in response to Initiative 58, which is being pushed by New Approach PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works on drug policy reform issues. . The PAC has pushed cannabis legalization efforts across the country and also helped fund a medical access initiative to psychedelic mushrooms in Oregon.
The New Approach PAC measure, known as the Natural Medicine Health Act, would create a legal access framework for psychedelic mushrooms ages 21 and older while decriminalizing mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline, at the exclusion of peyote. The initiative would create the possibility of building a legal access framework for these other substances as well.
“The Natural Medicine Health Act would provide essential medicines to Coloradans with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other challenging mental health conditions in a way that successfully balances their access and safety within a regulated therapeutic framework” , said Kevin Matthews, who co-leads the campaign funded by New Approach PAC. “Research from Johns Hopkins and the FDA shows that this natural medicine has profound mental health benefits for our veterans, trauma survivors, people facing terminal illnesses, and many others who have tried traditional treatment with little or no success.This initiative gives them another opportunity for healing.
Matthews led the Decriminalize Denver campaign in 2018 and 2019, when he worked closely with Rodgers and Foerster. Matthews’ decision to work with the New Approach PAC and move forward with the Natural Medicine Health Act in an effort to contest the November 2022 ballot, however, has created a rift among Colorado psychedelics advocates.
“A lot of people in our community were really shocked to see something happen so quickly,” Foerster said.
Foerster and Rodgers believe the state should decriminalize natural psychedelics before even considering a legal access model. This would be the best way to ensure that equity concerns remain a priority and that Colorado’s field of psychedelics does not become a capitalist’s playground, as recreational marijuana has, they suggest. .
The Decriminalize Nature Colorado campaign is also suspicious of New Approach PAC, questioning the organization’s motives. The PAC paid $2.74 million to the Natural Medicine Colorado Committee, which primarily funded a signature-collecting venture, but also compensated Matthews, attorneys and lobbyists for their work on the campaign.
“Their policy was designed to appeal to people who know nothing about it, without the full inclusion of people who will be affected by the law if passed,” Foerster said.
During their press conference, Foerster and Rodgers announced the formation of a new “education campaign”, Colorado for Community Healing. “We’re starting a campaign. We want to make sure that our values of keeping community first for a fair and democratic process, a grassroots effort, will stay no matter what happens this November election,” Rodgers said.
In the lead up to this election, this “education campaign” will use some of the same commentary that Decriminalize Nature Colorado has used to oppose Initiative 58 over the past year.
“The research is still ongoing, and they’ll tell you outright it’s inconclusive,” said Travis Tyler Fluck, an activist with Decriminalize Nature Colorado who also worked on the Decriminalize Denver campaign.
While psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms have been shown to have positive effects on people suffering from anxiety, depression and PTSD, in a July statement the American Psychiatric Association urged patience. to make them more accessible.
“There is currently insufficient scientific evidence to support the use of psychedelics to treat any psychiatric disorder except in approved experimental studies. The APA supports the continued research and therapeutic discovery of psychedelic agents with the same integrity science and the same regulatory standards applied to other promising therapies in medicine. Clinical treatments should be determined by scientific evidence in accordance with applicable regulatory standards, not by ballot initiatives or popular opinion,” said the ‘APA.
One of the reasons for the lack of scientific evidence relates to the federal criminal status of these substances, which has prevented much research from being carried out.
According to Foerster, she and other decriminalization advocates are not opposed to increased access to psychedelics in the future. But they’d like that access to happen slower than it would if I-58 goes through, and based on a “community healing model.”
“We are saying, as individuals, that we are voting no,” Foerster said. “We’re going to run an education campaign. It’s going to be like explaining what we don’t particularly support, and why.”