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Colorado Psychedelics Update: Natural Medicine Health Act Implementation Bill SB23-290 Engrossed, Reengrossed, and Heading to the House

By Joshua Kappel, Juliana Todeschi

Apr 25, 2023

SB23-290, the formal implementation bill for the Natural Medicine Health Act, passed its third reading in the Colorado Senate on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. If passed, SB23-290 would replace Proposition 122.

Since its introduction on April 18, SB23-290 has gone through the Colorado Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees and several amendments have been made. The reengrossed version of the now 91-page bill heads to the state House with a new sponsor, Representative Judy Amabile. Read on for the latest updates.

On Thursday, April 20, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing and Senator Fenberg proposed two important amendments to address the community’s initial concerns with the bill. One amendment (L.009) made clear that plants containing natural medicine that have been traditionally and lawfully cultivated for ornamental purposes do not have to be cultivated in an enclosed locked space, and removed the prohibition on remuneration to compensate those involved in ceremonial use. Fenberg’s other proposed amendment (L.004) expanded “Indigenous” use to encompass all traditional and tribal uses of these plant medicines and expressly extended Indigenous use to include federally recognized American Tribes. L.004 also expanded the duties of the Natural Medicine Advisory Board and State Licensing Authority to address these other sacred traditional and tribal uses when carrying out their duties under the Act. Both amendments passed the Senate Finance Committee by a vote of 5-2.

On Monday, April 24, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed amendment J.001 to appropriate $1.6 million across multiple state agencies to implement the bill over the 2023-2024 fiscal year without objection. Under Proposition 122, any money taken from the General Fund needed for startup costs had to be repaid when revenue was collected. Under J.001, this repayment requirement has been removed. The Senate Appropriations Committee then voted 4-3 to send the amended bill to the Senate Committee of the Whole for a second reading.

Following the Senate Appropriations Committee amendments, Fenberg offered a series of additional amendments before the bill’s second reading. Specifically, Fenberg offered:

  • L.014, an amendment to ensure that remuneration could be exchanged for “bona fide harm reduction services or bona fide support services used concurrently with the sharing of natural medicine or natural medicine product,” so long as there is no advertising related to the products and services provided

  • L.015, an amendment to the criminal provisions that one must have knowledge that they unlawfully transferred natural medicine to a person under twenty-one. Additionally, the amendment requires knowledge of unlawful cultivation or allowance of unlawful cultivation on one’s private property and sets the penalties for these offenses at fines of up to $1,000

  • L.016, an amendment that allows for the unlicensed laboratory testing of natural medicine under the personal use provisions

All three of Fenberg’s amendments passed on April 24, 2023.

During the bill’s second reading, Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer introduced two amendments (L.010 and L.011) that attempted to grant local control over healing centers and conduct related to regulated natural medicine and regulated natural medicine products. Notably, Proposition 122 expressly prohibited such local control over natural medicine businesses and services. Under Kirkmeyer’s amendments, local governments would have been able to prohibit the establishment of natural medicine businesses and where natural medicine services could be provided. Both amendments failed.

The state Senate then convened on Tuesday, April 25 for the engrossed bill’s third reading containing all of Fenberg’s amendments. The engrossed bill passed its third reading by a 25-10 vote and no additional amendments were made.

On Thursday, April 27, the House will hold its first hearing on the reengrossed version of SB23-290. Stay tuned! More details on the first House hearing to come.

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