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Colorado voters divided on proposal to legalize ‘magic mushrooms,’ other natural psychedelic drugs

Proposition 122, which would allow healing centers where people could consume psilocybin mushrooms, leads in voting
Psilocybin mushrooms are seen in a grow room at a grow farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press, file)

A proposal to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in Colorado was approved, according to unofficial results Wednesday morning.

About 37,000 votes separated the decision on Proposition 122, with 51.29% supporting the measure and 48.71% against it. Neither side had claimed victory.

La Plata County voters favored the proposition, approving it 59.06% to 40.94%. Montezuma County voters opposed it 55.93% to 44.07%.

The measure would allow people 21 and older to grow and share psychedelic mushrooms, as well as create state-regulated centers where people could make appointments to consume psilocybin, the hallucination-inducing compound derived from psychedelic mushrooms.

The proposal calls for licensed “healing centers” to give clients mushrooms in a supervised setting, but does not include an option for retail sales of psilocybin.

Prop 122 would allow facilities to expand to three plant-based psychedelics in 2026. Those are ibogaine, from the root bark of an iboga tree; mescaline, which is from cacti; and dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, a natural compound found in plants and animals. Mental health centers and substance abuse treatment clinics also could seek licenses to offer psychedelic treatment.

Psychedelic mushrooms became illegal in the U.S. in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act. Even if Proposition 122 passes, the substance would remain federally classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance, like heroin, for which there is no current medical use.

The natural medicines, used to treat anxiety and depression, are obtained now through friends who grow them or from underground “trip guides” who sit with clients during a psychedelic experience, then help them process afterward.

Three years ago, Denver residents voted to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms, making possession low priority for law enforcement. Incomplete returns showed Denver County supporting the statewide measure 65% to 35%.

Incomplete results showed the measure passing in Denver suburbs and mountain communities, but failing in rural areas and in conservative Douglas and El Paso counties. In El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs, the vote was running 57% to 43%.

Colorado voters dropping off their ballots Tuesday had strong opinions about the statewide mushroom measure.

“Oh hell no,” said Jim Sandmore, 64, of Colorado Springs, when asked if he supported Proposition 122. He said he felt it could lead to the legalization of more drugs.

“I wasn’t warm and fuzzy about the legalization of marijuana. I just think that it opened up a can of worms,” said the retired architect, who is a registered Republican. “What’s next? Heroin? What’s next, cocaine? What’s next? PCP? It just keeps climbing up the ladder.”

In Denver, Bailey Johnson did not cast a vote on every ballot measure but she voted in favor of mushrooms. Johnson, 25, is a nurse, and said she believes psychedelics are effective in treating mental health conditions. People are struggling with mental health, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, and more treatment options are needed, she said.

“We need to open it up so that more people can use it if they choose,” she said.

And Will Paterson, another Denver resident, also voted for Proposition 122, even though he did not support the mushroom measure on the Denver ballot in 2019. “It seems like there’s a little more momentum now,” he said. “It just seems silly to put people in jail for substance use stuff like that at this point. I think, initially, I didn’t want people wandering around on mushrooms, and now, I’ve sort of accepted that that’s probably not a reasonable fear.”

In Highlands Ranch, mom of four Marisa Neyenhuis said no to the proposal. The Democrat said she believes psilocybin is safe, but that the other substances mentioned in the measure – ibogaine, mescaline and dimethyltryptamine – need more study before they should be legalized.

Natural Medicine Colorado, which got Proposition 122 on the ballot, spent nearly $4.5 million through Oct. 26, while raising $6 million through Monday.

New Approach, a political action committee, and the Center for Voter Information donated $1.2 million each to Natural Medicine Colorado, according to campaign finance reports. Natural Medicine Colorado donated $224,000 to another super PAC called Rocky Mountain Voter Guide, which published an online voting guide in support of the measure.

Protect Colorado’s Kids raised about $51,000 from the nonprofit of the same name to oppose the measure, with most of that spending going to digital advertising and texting.

Colorado Sun reporters Sandra Fish and Olivia Prentzel contributed to this report.