You may have noticed that psychedelics are making news headlines today more than they have since the 1960s, with more and more users coming forward to speak about the benefits they’ve found for psychological conditions like depression, anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder— conditions that remain resistant to other medications.
Last year, Colorado became the second state in the U.S. to legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms, or “magic mushrooms,” through a ballot initiative last November. A recent study spanning 7,139 participants over the age of 18 found that 7.4% of respondents were users of psychedelic mushrooms and other psychedelic substances. But before you begin exploring the potential health benefits of this natural substance, it’s important to understand what the law legalizes and what it does not, as well as what this means for Colorado’s future.
Understanding Colorado’s Proposition 122
In what’s being described as a “historic moment,” Colorado voters passed the state’s “Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022” in November’s election with 53% of voters in support of the measure to decriminalize psychedelics. The proposal’s supporters pointed out the state’s failed approach to the mental health crisis and the fact that natural psychedelics have been used to treat mental illnesses for centuries. Proposition 122 decriminalizes possessing and using psilocybin—the key substance found in psychedelic mushrooms.
The Natural Medicine Health Act decriminalizes the following for people over age 21:
- Possession of psilocybin
- Use of psilocybin
- Sharing of psilocybin
- Growing and harvesting psychedelic mushrooms
However, it’s essential to understand what the act does NOT decriminalize which is:
- The retail sale of psilocybin or whole psychedelic mushrooms
- The distribution of psychedelics
- The formation of psychedelic dispensaries
- The cultivation of psychedelic mushrooms on properties with residents who are under the age of 21
Colorado residents should also understand the difference between “decriminalization” and “legalization.” The possession and use of this substance is still a federal crime. The state’s decriminalization policy means the state will no longer prosecute these “crimes” and city and local governments no longer prioritize investigating and making arrests for this type of federal crime. The new policy also allows those with previous possession crimes for these substances to petition to have their records sealed.
What Are the Penalties for the Sale and Distribution of Psilocybin in Colorado?
The retail sale of psychedelic mushrooms remains a felony drug crime in Colorado with the following penalties:
- Selling up to 14 grams of psilocybin is a Level 3 drug felony with 2 to 4 years in prison with fines from $2,000 to $500,000
- Selling between 14 grams and 225 grams is a Level 2 felony with 4 to 8 years in prison and fines between $3,000 and $750,000
- Selling over 225 grams is a Level 1 drug felony with 8 to 32 years in prison with fines between $5,000 and $1 million
What’s Next After Decriminalizing Psychedelics in Colorado?
Proposition 122 also sets a legal framework for establishing state-regulated “healing centers” for the supervised use of psilocybin by 2024. Because the centers cannot legally sell psychedelics in Colorado, clients would pay only for the facility’s healing services which can include the use of psychedelics.
Ongoing research into the use of psilocybin seems to support claims of a potential mental health benefit from treating some forms of mental illnesses with psychedelics like psilocybin.