Guidelines for the Personal Use of Psychedelics Under Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022
By Yolanda Clarke and Jaime Greenwood
Feb 3, 2023
Colorado’s current approach to mental health has failed to fulfill its promise. Coloradans deserve more tools to address mental health issues, including approaches such as natural medicines grounded in treatment, recovery, health, and wellness rather than criminalization, stigma, suffering, and punishment. - Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022
In its opening salvo, the Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 (the Act or NMHA) makes a stirring case for promoting health and healing through a harm reduction approach. Rather than criminalizing mental health issues and psychedelic natural medicines, the Act seeks to establish responsible and regulated access to these treatment options for adults 21 and older. This new, compassionate, and effective approach to natural medicines offers two primary paths for responsible access:
A regulatory structure for the manufacture of natural medicine products and licensed healing centers to provide the facilitation of natural medicines
Permitting adults aged 21 and older limited access to natural medicines on their own accord or through communal or supported use
While we can anticipate extensive rulemaking by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to develop these points, the Act itself offers numerous details and restrictions for those eager to utilize the protections of the Personal Use Provisions.
What Psychedelics Are Considered Natural Medicine?
Natural medicine under the Personal Use provisions of the NMHA includes psilocybin, psilocin, dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, and mescaline (excluding Lophophora Williams II (“peyote”)). The Department may add additional substances upon recommendation from the Natural Medicine Advisory Board. Please note natural medicine under the regulatory model of the Act will be phased in, starting with only psilocybin and psilocin until June 1, 2026.
What Does Personal Use Mean Under the NMHA?
Personal Use under the Act includes the personal ingestion or use of natural medicine. While no exact measurement is provided, it includes the amount a person may cultivate or possess that is necessary to share with other adults within the context of counseling, spiritual guidance, beneficial community-based use and healing, supported use, or related services. Personal Use does not include the sale of natural medicines for payment or connection to a business promotion. Paid advertising related to natural medicine, sharing natural medicine, or services intended to be used simultaneously with natural medicine may be considered evidence of commercial activity that remains prohibited under these Personal Use provisions.
It is also important to remember that the Act only authorizes certain Colorado state-level conduct—natural medicines remain illegal under United States federal law.
Where Can I Cultivate Psychedelic Natural Medicines for Personal Use?
Adults in Colorado are permitted to grow, cultivate, or process plants or fungi capable of producing natural medicine if the plants and fungi are:
Kept on the grounds of a private residence
Secured from access by persons under 21 years of age
A person who cultivates natural medicines that are not secured is subject to a civil fine not to exceed $250, in addition to any other applicable penalties.
Where Can I Ingest Natural Medicines for Personal Use in Colorado?
It remains illegal to ingest psychedelic natural medicines in a public place other than a location licensed under Colorado’s regulated access program. While the Natural Medicine Health Act does not prohibit being under the influence in a public place, this provision prohibits unlicensed consumption-related businesses open to the public, as well as the ingestion of natural medicines in Colorado open spaces.
Where Can I Possess Natural Medicines for Personal Use in Colorado?
As the Natural Medicine Health Act only changes Colorado state law—not U.S. federal law—it is illegal to possess, use, ingest, or engage in other activities involving natural medicines while on any federal lands. As a result, compliance with the Personal Use Provisions on federal lands would not provide any protection from federal law and the possession of, use of, or other activities involving psychedelic natural medicines while on any federal lands would continue to be a federal crime. Federal lands include, but are not limited to, national parks, national wilderness areas and public-domain land.
Furthermore, the Personal Use Provisions do not protect the use or possession of natural medicines in any public building, school, or detention facility. Any such use or possession is considered criminal use or possession.
Who Can I Provide Psychedelic Natural Medicines to for Personal Use?
Colorado adults may only provide communal/supported use of psychedelic natural medicines to other adults aged 21 years or older. Providing natural medicines to minors remains illegal under state law. Under the Act, only criminal penalties for personal use by adults aged 21 years or older have been removed. Providing natural medicines to a minor constitutes a level 1 drug felony. Reduced penalties have also been incorporated for minors who possess, use, ingest, inhale, transport, or give away natural medicine.
The Personal Use provisions prohibit gifting natural medicines as part of a business promotion or other commercial activity, including paid advertising. A limited exception is included for donations and payments related to “bona fide harm reduction services, bona fide therapy services, or other bona fide support services.”
The dissemination of educational materials related to natural medicine and maintaining personal or professional websites related to natural medicine services is permitted. For licensed healing centers, donating natural medicine or providing natural medicine at a reduced cost is permitted.
While these exceptions are designed to protect indigenous and communal/supported use scenarios, it is important to remember that the sharing of natural medicines in a manner outside the scope of the Natural Medicine Health Act remains a controlled substance felony under Colorado law.
What Other Conduct is Protected Under the Natural Medicine Health Act’s Personal Use Provisions?
The Act also provides protections for conduct not directly related to natural medicine:
Undertaking activities outlined under the Personal Use provisions may not, by itself, constitute child abuse or neglect or be the basis to restrict parenting time, without a finding of an actual threat to the health or welfare of a child based on all relevant factors, or finding the use would significantly impair the child’s emotional development
Further, conduct authorized by the Act may not, by itself, be the basis for:
Punishing or otherwise penalizing a person currently under parole, probation, or other state supervision, or leased awaiting trial or other hearing
Detention, search or arrest
Denying eligibility for any public assistance program, unless required by federal law
Disqualifying a person from medical care or medical insurance
What is NOT Protected Under the Personal Use Provisions?
While the Act outlines protections, certain activities are not included in these safeguards:
Employers are not required to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, or growing of natural medicines in the workplace
An employer may fire an employee engaging in such conduct in the workplace
If the workplace constitutes federal land, a public building, school, or detention facility, the employee could also be subject to additional criminal penalties
Lastly, while the Natural Medicine Health Act protects holders of state-issued professional licenses from disciplinary action related to their use of psychedelic natural medicines, the Act does not protect a person engaging in malpractice in connection with the Personal Use provisions. Conduct that endangers or harms others is also not protected under these provisions and, thus, is subject to applicable criminal penalties for such use, possession, or distribution. This conduct includes the operation of a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or other such machines under the influence of natural medicines.
This is an exciting time for Coloradans and represents a monumental shift towards a more compassionate approach to mental health with the use of psychedelics and natural medicines! If you have any additional questions or are interested in learning more about the Natural Medicine Health Act, please contact Vicente founding partner and co-author of the NMHA Joshua Kappel at firstname.lastname@example.org.