There is a Trojan horse hidden on the upcoming November ballot.

Proposition 122, also known as the Natural Medicine Health Act, sounds like a great idea on its surface. Who wouldn’t want veterans suffering from PTSD to have access to plant-based medicine?

On closer inspection, though, it’s clear that the seemingly innocuous ballot measure is anything but. Instead of arising from an organic movement of concerned Coloradans looking to address mental healthcare, Proposition 122 is an imported idea backed by out-of-state business interests and based on incomplete scientific research. The text of the initiative is littered with loopholes a mile wide, and passing it would unleash an intentionally unregulated market of untested chemicals and self-proclaimed “healers.”

The first thing to understand about the Natural Medicine Health Act is that it is based largely on incomplete scientific research. To be clear, current research into therapeutic uses of certain psychedelic substances in the treatment of serious mental health issues has shown promise. It’s also nowhere near being adopted for widespread clinical use, and there are no completed clinical trials on the use of psilocybin to treat PTSD. Despite this research being in its infancy, the proposition’s backers want to use it to deem psychedelic substances – such as psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline, and dimethyltryptamine or DMT, all of which would be made available by the ballot initiative – to be “medicine.” 

Or do they? For all their claims that it will address widespread mental health issues, the backers of the Natural Medicine Health Act have written a ballot initiative that would ensure they can make claims of medicinal benefits without having to deal with all the messy red tape involved in bringing actual medicine to market. No tests, no FDA approval, just loopholes large enough to drive an enormous wooden horse through.

The loopholes are where Proposition 122 becomes particularly problematic.

The initiative’s backers claim that the measure would usher in a regulated industry of healing centers to provide mental health treatment, but the text of the ballot initiative says something else entirely. If passed, Proposition 122 would immediately legalize two major loopholes: unlimited home-grows, and unlimited “gifting.” The establishment of a regulated market is expected to take 2-3 years.

Unlimited home-grows would create an opaque market with no oversight of supply, while the “gifting” loophole would create a “gray market” for psychedelic products, in which it remains unlawful to sell the drugs without a license, but becomes legal to “give” the drugs to someone in exchange for a “donation.” When New York City legalized cannabis in the same way, a “gifting” economy sprung up before the regulated dispensaries could even get their paperwork filed. 

Another problem: the ballot initiative contains no provision to allow counties or municipalities to opt out. If the proposition passes, every town in Colorado would be forced to allow unregulated home-grows and “gifting” of psychedelics, with no limitations on “gifting” near schools or daycares, and only a $250 fine for “gifting” to minors.

So who left this gift at our gate? Proposition 122 is being funded and run by an entity known as New Approach PAC. New Approach is primarily funded by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Scotts Miracle-Gro, and the Tilray Brands, Inc. pharmaceutical company, and has spent millions of dollars in recent years to push for the legalization of either cannabis or psychedelics in a number of states. Colorado is simply the latest target for this coordinated group of corporate actors who use their money and heft to shape laws to their liking. 

☀ MORE IN OPINION

The early anecdotal data on the use of psychedelics in the treatment of certain mental health issues is promising – and that’s great news. But if we are going to view these substances as medicine, we need to test and approve them like medicine, and psychedelics have a long way to go to clear that threshold. There are systems in place to evaluate new treatments for safety and efficacy, and these drugs have not gone through those systems.

Why, then, would we be so eager to jump the gun and unleash an unregulated flood of untested psychedelics onto the streets of Colorado? Is there any other medicine which we would treat the same way?

We hope you will join us in following the encouraging research into psychedelic treatments, and in opposing this irresponsible ballot initiative as a corporate-guided attempt to rush ahead of the evidence.

Beware of businessmen bearing gifts. Vote no on 122.


Mark Wallach, of Boulder, is a member of the Boulder City Council


Dawn Reinfeld, of Boulder, is executive director of Blue Rising Together

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Mark Wallach

Mark Wallach, of Boulder, is a member of the Boulder City Council

Dawn Reinfeld

Dawn Reinfeld, of Boulder, is executive director of Blue Rising Together.