Colorado's Prop 122 Passes; Rural Oregon: NIMBY
Today we’re looking at the recent psychedelic-related election results from Colorado and Oregon.
Voters in Colorado approved Prop 122, which decriminalizes possession, cultivation, use, and non-monetary exchange of certain psychedelic plants and fungi for people 21 and older, as well as new regulations for the legalization of Supported-Adult-Use in licensed facilities.
In Oregon, the ballots in dozens of cities and counties asked voters if they preferred the localities opt out of the state legalization program. Results differed based on political party and population density.
Let’s get to it.
Colorado Voters Pass Prop 122
As a reminder, Prop 122 does two things:
Removes penalties for possession, consumption, cultivation, and non-monetary exchange of five naturally occurring psychedelics: Psilocybin, psilocin, ibogaine, mescaline, and DMT.
Directs the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to create rules for and implement legalized supported adult use in licensed healing centers by the end of next year.
This means that as of January 1, 2024 (hopefully), there will be regulated and legal places for people to use psychedelics in Colorado.
But more pressing is the local decriminalization of five psychedelics that goes into effect immediately state-wide. Penalties are now eliminated for personal use and cultivation of these substances, and there is no longer any criminal liability for their exchange.
So what does this mean for the people of Colorado?
It means Coloradoans can grow psychedelics and even give them away to others without fear of legal repercussions but selling these substances is still illegal.
It also means they can now use psychedelics without fear of criminal prosecution—compared to other substances, this is a minor threat.
But what it means for the providers of wrap-around services is where this will get interesting.
As I have argued before, unlike cannabis (or pharmaceuticals, for that matter), psychedelics rely more on related services.
By services, I mean Set, Setting, and Support elements—ceremonies, leaders, guides, trip sitters, therapeutic and spiritual counseling, harm reduction education, preparation, and integration.
In other words, the question is, now that the substances are decriminalized, will a market for wrap-around services emerge—outside the healthcare system before the rules and guidelines for Healing Centers go into effect?
And would such a market be a positive or a negative?
It depends on how you see things.
This week, I spoke with a researcher who views such developments as existential threats to the field because they are “getting ahead of the science.”
Hype, exuberance, and optimism based on research results lead to increased use of psychedelics, and increased use of psychedelics leads to an increase in bad experiences.
But just as the hype and over-exuberance pose a risk, the extreme caution and risk aversion from the priest class of credentialed researchers, physicians, and federal regulators are not without consequences.
There is no doubt that these are powerful substances about which we have much to learn, but it is not clear that the paradigm of controlled clinical trials with narrow inclusion criteria and selection bias in the artificial environments of prestigious institutions or commercial development projects is where this information will come from.
The risk of containing psychedelic use to the federally sanctioned scientific domain until the “data is settled” is eventual institutional capture and control—like the rest of healthcare.
What does this mean for the field of psychedelics?
As shown by the last fifty years of prohibition, psychedelic use does not depend on venture capital, FDA approval, or rescheduling from the DEA.
The grassroots, underground and personal use of these tools has been a mainstay despite their illegality and absence of codified guidelines.
Exciting scientific findings, media attention, and company formation only increase the demand for underground groups, service providers, cultivation, sale, and distribution.
This “layer” of the psychedelic “ecosystem” is incredibly opaque.
With the passing of Prop 122 and the decriminalization of psychedelic use, cultivation, and exchange, the opportunity to have more transparency, knowledge sharing, and iteration at this level of the field will be fascinating.
NIMBY & YIMBY in Oregon
Dozens of cities and counties in Oregon asked voters if they should opt out of the state-level legalization of psilocybin on Tuesday’s ballot.
The resulting map of areas that will and will not allow service centers largely fell along political party lines.
The more populated, liberal-leaning regions affirmed the 2020 ballot results (Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY)), while the more rural, conservative areas opted out (Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)).
From the Statesman Journal:
“Voters in every county and city in the Mid-Willamette Valley that put a ban on psilocybin growing and “service centers” on the ballot were supporting the bans, according to early election results.
Marion and Polk counties, Aumsville, Dallas, Gates, Hubbard, Independence, Jefferson, Keizer, Lyons, Mill City, Sublimity, St. Paul, Stayton, Turner, Willamina and Woodburn all were voting to ban the substance in their cities, many by wide margins in the initial results.
“Jackson and Deschutes were the only two counties in the state to vote in favor of allowing psilocybin manufacturing and service centers. Coos, Curry, Douglas, Klamath and Josephine counties voted down local measures.”
Below is a map from Psilocybin Alpha:
Compare the above graph to the 2020 presidential election. Again, there is a clear political correlation.
Does this Matter?
I am reluctant to highlight these political divides since drug reform and veteran support—a cultural wedge of the psychedelic movement—both have bipartisan support (and online political discourse has broken brains on both sides of the aisle).
Plus, there are plenty of progressive/Democrats who view such state programs as “getting ahead of the data,” and there are conservative/Republicans who understand the urgency of new solutions to failing healthcare institutions.
It’s messy, polarizing stuff. Rather than explain these results along party lines, cultural tropes, and the staying power of Nancy Regan’s Just Say No campaign, I think it simply is a matter of education.
As Greg Ferenstein points out:
“Polling on psychedelics legalization overwhelmingly shows that many (if not most) skeptical voters become supporters after learning just the basics about the issue (like the scientific research or advocacy from veterans). Legalization is just a matter of ad $$ for education”
And as noted by writer Reilly Capps, the City of Denver barely passed mushroom decriminalization in 2019.
Fast forward three years, and the same voters overwhelmingly supported Prop 122.
So perhaps, this has the appearance of falling along party lines, but in reality, it is simply a matter of education, and the time it takes the Overton window to shift.
That’s it for this week, thanks for reading!