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Bill to study mental health benefits of plant-based psychedelic drugs pulled pending vote

April 6, 2022, 1:32 pm

At the sponsor’s request, a panel of state lawmakers rejected a bill to study the mental health benefits of plant-based psychedelic drugs.

The bill sponsor, Democratic Rep. Alex Valdez of Denver, explained that since Colorado voters will likely soon consider whether to decriminalize and regulate the use of psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine and similar substances, he would rather wait to see how the election turns out than prematurely ask his colleagues to approve House Bill 22-1116.

Psilocybin mushrooms (Wiki Commons photo).

HB-1116, which Valdez sponsored with Sen. Joann Ginal, a Fort Collins Democrat, would have established a 17-member panel to study how plant-derived hallucinogenic drugs — including psilocybin and psilocyn, found in certain species of mushrooms; ibogaine, which comes from a Central African shrub; and dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, found in a variety of South American plants — could be used to support mental health. After one year, the panel would have submitted a report detailing its findings to state lawmakers, the governor’s office and the Colorado Department of Human Services.

In most circumstances, possessing or selling these perception-altering substances is illegal under federal and state laws passed in the last several decades. Notably, however, the medicinal use of psychedelic drugs by indigenous communities dates back centuries.

Valdez briefly spoke to members of the the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee of the “breakthroughs” in psychiatric research “that are happening by treating folks with all sorts of mental health challenges with psilocybin specifically.” But he wanted to withdraw the bill and allow voters to weigh in, he said, because “what I believe in is the democratic process.”

After Valdez explained his change of heart, committee members voted unanimously Tuesday to postpone HB-1116 indefinitely, effectively killing it.

Denver voters already moved to decriminalize psilocybin possession in 2019, though police can still go after people selling so-called “magic mushrooms” and products derived from them.

Two groups of activists are now collecting signatures to place statewide measures on the November ballot. One, Initiative 58, would allow Coloradans 21 and older to purchase and consume psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine or mescaline while under supervision at “healing centers” licensed and regulated by the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies. A competing measure, Initiative 61, would decriminalize the possession, use, cultivation, gifting and delivery of psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline and DMT without setting up a regulatory framework.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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