Colorado wants to hear your thoughts on psychedelic legalization

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Psychedelic mushrooms at various stages of propagation in the Colorado home of a grower, June 2, 2023.

Voters last November decriminalized a handful of psychedelics and set Colorado on the path to regulated “healing centers” where people will be able to take psilocybin mushrooms in a supervised setting. Now, the state wants to hear from the public about how all of it should work.

The one-hour online sessions will be held on Sept. 5, 12, 22 and 27 and on Oct. 3. Each meeting will focus on a different topic, with questions including:

  • How can first responders be trained to deal with psychedelic emergencies?
  • How will the state educate the public about psychedelics?
  • How will the state test psilocybin and other drugs for compliance with regulations?
  • How should manufacturers and cultivators be regulated?
  • How can the state draw from traditional and historical cultivation practices, including from indigenous peoples?

The goal is to collect comments from the general public as well as from people involved in the developing industry.

“Knowing that this activity can happen across the state, what are community members thinking?” said Dominique Mendiola, senior director of the Department of Revenue’s new Natural Medicine Division. (Mendiola also leads the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The sessions are being hosted by DOR, which will set rules for the manufacture and cultivation of psychedelic drugs. DOR also will help train first responders, and it will keep track of law enforcement incidents, adverse health events, consumer protection claims, behavioral health impacts and effects on the health care system. The state’s public health department will also be involved in that work.

Another agency,  the Department of Regulatory Agencies, will make rules for the healing centers themselves: Who can work there? How will they be trained? All the regulators are taking advice from the Natural Medicine Advisory Board.

Still, Mendiola said that people can raise questions and concerns on any topic at the upcoming listening sessions.

“We're preparing to address any questions we can answer in those sessions, but even if we aren't able to address a question on the spot during these sessions, it's very helpful for us to understand what’s top of mind to any of our stakeholders,” she said.

The rise of the industry also creates questions for local governments. Unlike with cannabis, city leaders cannot completely ban psychedelic cultivators or practitioners from city limits. But they can set some basic rules about where and how they operate.

The first state licenses for manufacturers, healing centers and others are expected to be granted around the end of 2024.