A historic opportunity for Colorado to once again lead the country in progressive drug policy reform is on the ballot this November.
The Natural Medicine Health Act, which will appear as Proposition 122, seeks to end the decades-long legacy of harmful prohibition of psychedelic drugs, and bring opportunities for healing to Coloradans in desperate need.
As a Licensed Addiction Counselor, and a person who benefitted from a powerful psychedelic plant medicine to help end a severe opioid use disorder more than a decade ago, I’m urging the voters of Colorado to vote yes on Proposition 122.
If passed, the Natural Medicine Health Act would create a tightly controlled and regulated system of service centers where adults 21 and over could receive plant-derived psychedelics under the monitoring of trained facilitators.
In 2020, a similar Proposition in Oregon saw a decisive victory. The passage of Measure 109, the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, created the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board, which spent the past two years rolling out licensure and training requirements under the Oregon Health Authority. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, has shown incredibly promising potential for healing many difficult to treat mental health conditions, such as substance addiction, major depressive disorder, and existential distress in patients with terminal health diagnoses.
In Colorado, Proposition 122 would, after 2026, allow the possibility to expand the category of allowed plant-derived psychedelics beyond psilocybin to include psychedelic substances derived from naturally occurring plants, including DMT, mescaline — and ibogaine, the drug that helped end my heroin and fentanyl addiction. In addition, adults 21 and older would be protected by decriminalization of important aspects of personal use laws, a long overdue reform to the failed legacy of the war on drugs.
Colorado has already led the nation with legal cannabis for both recreational and medical use, but it is important to note that Proposition 122 will not create a retail industry for psychedelics, nor serve as a medical treatment requiring specific diagnoses. Like the Oregon model, the Natural Medicine Health Act will direct the Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs to form the Natural Medicine Advisory Board, where a diverse array of experts, including people from marginalized communities and those with lived experience, will guide the Regulated Natural Medicine Access Program’s implementation.
Like many Coloradans, I’m concerned about our handling of illicit synthetic opioid use in our state, and the growing mental health crisis leaving many in needless suffering and desperate for options.
Long before my family made Littleton our home in 2020, I struggled with addiction for many years while living in the Northeast, and a fentanyl-adulterated heroin supply I’m lucky I didn’t succumb to. But before my encounter with the drug-court system a year after a felony arrest, I was in desperate need of treatment, and neither abstinence-based nor medication-assisted therapy was working for me.
I knew about ibogaine, a naturally occurring alkaloid found in the root bark of the iboga shrub indigenous to western equatorial Africa, being a promising treatment for opiate addiction. But because of drug prohibition laws, the only clinics I could go to were outside of the U.S. Thankfully, my family supported this option and helped fund my travel to Mexico for the treatment that ultimately saved my life.
At the ibogaine clinic, I enrolled in an observational trial being run by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit psychedelic research and education organization, which tracked my progress following the treatment. The association has been a leading organization in advancing the science behind psychedelic medicine healing, and is finalizing its development of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD through the Food and Drug Administration prescription drug approval process after decades of effort, almost entirely funded through private philanthropy.
With more than 100,000 Americans dying from drug overdoses every year, including thousands of Coloradans, there is an urgent need for promising solutions to be liberated from the tyranny of our draconian drug prohibition laws — laws that stemmed from racist and unscientific policies that have wasted more than a trillion dollars, and filled our prisons with disproportionate rates of young people of color.
As the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has shown, it takes years and millions of dollars to reach prescription status for a single psychedelic medicine to treat a specific diagnosis. Americans cannot wait decades for plant-derived psychedelics to make their way through arduous federal processes, and remain inaccessible to many in need. The Natural Medicine Health Act is our chance to create an equitable system of access to plant-derived psychedelics in a safe and regulated manner.
Colorado voters can once again put American drug policy on the right track. Vote yes on Proposition 122.
Kevin Franciotti, of Littleton, is an addiction counselor and clinical psychotherapist.
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