Guest column by Elbert County Commissioner Chris Richardson
Colorado has many issues to deal with: spiking crime rates, an inflation rate nearly twice the national average, surging gas prices, unaffordable housing and rising homelessness, a mental health crisis, and widespread drug abuse and trafficking. Now is not the time to double down on proven bad ideas. While it’s hard to believe any rational person would consider that now is a good time for “decriminalization” of hallucinogenic drugs, that is exactly what is being proposed.
Do we really need to add to the already horrendous statistics? Colorado, #1 in cocaine use nationally. Colorado, 76% above national average for marijuana use for those 12 and older. Colorado, opioid use up 95.5% in 2018-2019. Colorado, fentanyl overdoses up 70% in 2021-2022 (including 31 children this school year). Colorado, we must do better. And that starts by not doing worse. We should not add yet another sad category to these numbers.
Despite rising rates of drug use, activists are now plotting to promote the use of another illegal substance: psychedelics. Dubbed the “Natural Medicine Health Act,” and appearing on your Ballot as Proposition 122: Access to Natural Psychedelic Substances the effort to legalize and commercialize these substances ignores science. The advent of marijuana tourism was the clear beginning of our once great state’s accelerating decline. Now some are seeking to put Colorado on the map as the top destination for a new class of drug dealers and users.
Our county’s citizens voted overwhelmingly against Proposition 64 and twice against ballot measures in our towns to allow marijuana sales. We chose not to participate in the rush to legalize marijuana and locally, we are better off for it. However, Proposition 122 does not allow for the local decisions we have made to protect our children and our homes. This measure, if passed, would leave no local choice in the matter. As a local issue in previous elections, Denver has allowed use of so-called “magic mushrooms” and it is clear to anyone who must travel to our capital city that it has in no way improved. Voters cannot allow this bad idea to spread statewide.
The federal government lists psychedelics as Schedule 1 substances, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit. Dismissing this, supporters are misleading the public and claiming that psychedelics can treat everything from addiction and depression to PTSD and countless other mental health issues. If this sounds familiar, it is because it’s a page from the same old script used to promote decriminalization of marijuana and advocate the over-prescription of opioids. This isn’t a new wonder drug, it’s a callously promoted cash cow that presents a real danger to our already overly-stressed society.
As pointed out by Luke Niforatos, executive director of ProtectOurKidsPAC.com, even if carefully prescribed and dosed, the American Psychiatric Association has stated that, “There is currently inadequate scientific evidence for endorsing the use of psychedelics to treat any psychiatric disorder.” The purveyors of this bad idea certainly don’t tell voters that these mind- and mood-altering drugs have been associated with attempted suicide and accidental death, persisting perception disorder, and psychosis. Psychedelics are not safe, harmless, or risk-free.
Just as marijuana was legalized at the state level without sufficient user protections, this new industry will lobby for minimal regulations around psychedelics. It is no coincidence that supporters of psychedelics are targeting states that previously legalized marijuana, basing their arguments around the same dubious claims about purported medical benefits.
I will leave you with this. When asked, “What do psychedelics do to the human mind,” Michael Pollan, a leading proponent of these drugs, responded, “The honest answer: nobody quite understands.”
We must reject this shameless effort to submerge our state deeper into the muck of illicit drug use. I urge you to vote no on Proposition 122.
Chris Richardson is the District 1 commissioner for Elbert County.