Psilocybin Laws In Colorado And Oregon: What’s The Difference?
It’s an exciting time for psilocybin laws changing in America: On January 1, Oregon became the first state to legalize the adult use of psilocybin and will soon allow for dedicated psilocybin healing centers. Then, on January 4, psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs were effectively decriminalized in the state of Colorado following a November 2022 ballot initiative.
Slowly but surely, more jurisdictions are passing legislation related to the use of psychedelics and plant medicines. As different states create different sets of rules, though, it can be tough to keep track of what each one permits.
Exciting news: Two states have legalized psilocybin therapy for the first time ever. Click here to get on the waiting list for Oregon psilocybin therapy. And click here to get on the waiting list for Colorado psilocybin therapy.
To help draw attention to some of the major differences between psilocybin laws in Oregon and Colorado, HealingMaps spoke with Courtney Barnes, a social justice attorney specializing in drug policy reform.
While working for the law firm Vicente Sederberg, Barnes was a lead drafter of the nation’s first voter-initiated psilocybin policy reform ordinance, Denver’s Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative (I-301) in 2018. She also serves as a political advisor for Decriminalize Nature, and is general counsel for the Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform, and Education (SPORE).
“In 2019, Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin via voter initiative. Since that time, I have been involved with the drafting of over a dozen different state and local psychedelics-related measures across the country,” says Barnes. She is not licensed to practice law in Oregon, but says she will be involved in the implementation of Proposition 122 in Colorado.
Psilocybin Laws In Oregon And Colorado: The Differences
Barnes says that Colorado and Oregon are fundamentally similar in their approach to regulating psilocybin. However, there are some material differences between the two states’ psilocybin laws.
“The biggest differences, in my opinion, are related to the compounds,” says Barnes. For example, Oregon’s measure is psilocybin specific, “whereas Colorado’s proposed regulatory system is structured to allow the addition of other psychedelic compounds like ibogaine and mescaline into its access model starting in 2026.”
This means that, in the future, people living in Colorado could have access to other drugs at psychedelic treatment centers. In Oregon, however, treatment centers can only use psilocybin. The introduction of additional substances in Colorado won’t occur until the psilocybin program is running, according to Barnes. Both states require that people attending these centers be over the age of 21.
Another difference Barnes highlights is that Colorado’s ballot measure includes language around decriminalization. The adoption in Oregon was a more restrictive decriminalization approach — via a separate ballot, Measure 110.
In Oregon, Measure 109 proposed state regulations for psilocybin treatment centers. However, Measure 110 was introduced to decriminalize personal, non-commercial possession of all drugs — this includes cocaine, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and oxycodone.
Oregon is the only state to decriminalize all drugs. This means that, in Oregon, a person found to be in possession of a small amount of any drug, psychedelic or not, will not face criminal charges. Instead, he/she will receive a civil citation and a $100 fine — or an option to attend a state-funded addiction recovery center.
In Colorado, Proposition 122 was passed to decriminalize psychedelic plant medicines. This allows people over the age of 21 to possess and share psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline (excluding peyote).
Oregon and Colorado also have different rules around whether or not municipalities can opt out of psilocybin legislation.
“Oregon also allows municipalities to ban the operation of psilocybin service centers whereas Colorado does not allow localities to totally opt out of the program,” says Barnes. “Colorado does, however, allow reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on the operation of its to-be licensed facilities.”
Barnes imagines the product types offered in the two states may differ as well. However, she points out that this — and other questions around the two pieces of psilocybin laws — will remain unanswered until rulemaking occurs in Colorado.
The business opportunities within the pieces of legislation “are limitless,” says Barnes. There are some differences in the way each state will structure licensing and production.
In Colorado, psilocybin service centers are designed to be vertically integrated, says Barnes. This allows businesses to grow, manufacture, provide, and distribute psilocybin or natural medicine.
Oregon has created four different license types for each part of the supply chain. This includes specific licenses for manufacturing, laboratories (for lab testing), service centers, and facilitators. Licensed businesses will be able to engage in the manufacturing, transportation, delivery, and the provision of psilocybin services.
There will also be plenty of opportunities for people operating ancillary businesses, such as integration coaching and data tracking.
“Now that Colorado allows people to essentially grow their own psilocybin, there’ll be businesses that are going to be able to support that activity as well,” says Barnes. “With the influx of this new industry, there will be new cultural dynamics — from food to tourism to fashion. It’s going to have a ripple effect across the world, with people traveling to Colorado and Oregon to have these experiences.”
Challenges With The Newly Adopted Psilocybin Laws
It’s great to see psilocybin laws changing, but are there any flaws in the psilocybin laws and policies?
“Policy is never perfect. This is especially true when it comes to creating new, regulated access models for ancient, sacred medicine,” says Barnes. “I believe cost – both of access to these services and participation in the industry – is going to be a big critique of both programs.”
It’s still unclear what the cost of participating in either program will be. But Barnes predicts that the cost of compliance will be steep for hopeful psilocybin center operators.
It’s hard to predict how affordable psilocybin treatment will be for the end user. Whether these centers will be profitable, and what kind of limitations businesses will be subjected to, is unknown. But Barnes agrees that cost to access is the most important part of the conversation.
“I think inclusivity is a big one. We’re entering this whole new world of regulating ancient medicines in a western medicine model. So we’re trying to be creative,” she says. “Any first mover is going to have the most critiques, but I think it will be more positive than negative.”