WHY DID COLORADO APPROVE THE NATURAL MEDICINE HEALTH ACT OF 2022?
After a decades-long hiatus, in 2000, a research group at John Hopkins University was the first to obtain regulatory approval in the United States to reinitiate research with natural medicine in healthy volunteers. A 2006 publication on the safety and enduring positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin, a natural medicine, is widely considered the landmark study that sparked a renewal of psychedelic research world-wide.
Since that time, this research group has published further groundbreaking studies in more than 60 peer-reviewed articles in respected scientific journals. Their research has demonstrated therapeutic effects in people who suffer a range of challenging conditions including addiction (smoking, alcohol, other drugs of abuse), existential distress caused by life-threatening disease, and treatment-resistant depression.
How does Colorado Define "Natural Medicine"?
“NATURAL MEDICINE” MEANS THE FOLLOWING SUBSTANCES IN ANY FORM THAT WOULD CAUSE SUCH PLANT OR FUNGUS TO BE DESCRIBED IN THE “UNIFORM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT OF 2013”, ARTICLE 18 OF TITLE 18: DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE; IBOGAINE; MESCALINE (EXCLUDING LOPHOPHORA WILLIAMSII (“PEYOTE”)); PSILOCYBIN; OR PSILOCYN
UNTIL JUNE 1, 2026, THE TERM “NATURAL MEDICINE” SHALL ONLY INCLUDE PSILOCYBIN AND PSILOCYN.
The Natural Medicine Health Act Changes Colorado Law
The Colorado Natural Medicine Act of 2022 promotes health and healing by reducing criminal punishments for persons who suffer mental health issues and by establishing regulated access to natural medicines.
The purpose of the Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 is to establish a new, compassionate and effective approach to Natural Medicines by:
(I) ADOPTING A PUBLIC HEALTH AND HARM REDUCTION APPROACH TO NATURAL MEDICINES BY REMOVING CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR PERSONAL USE FOR ADULTS TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE AND OLDER
(II) DEVELOPING AND PROMOTING PUBLIC EDUCATION RELATED TO THE USE OF NATURAL MEDICINES AND APPROPRIATE TRAINING FOR FIRST RESPONDERS
(III) ESTABLISHING REGULATED ACCESS BY ADULTS TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE AND OLDER TO NATURAL MEDICINES THAT SHOW PROMISE IN IMPROVING WELL-BEING, LIFE SATISFACTION, AND OVERALL HEALTH.
What is now “lawful” that previously was a violation of the Colorado Criminal Code?
Personal Use. (1) THE FOLLOWING ACTS ARE NOT AN OFFENSE UNDER STATE LAW OR THE LAWS OF ANY LOCALITY WITHIN THE STATE OR SUBJECT TO A CIVIL FINE, PENALTY, OR SANCTION, OR THE BASIS FOR DETENTION, SEARCH, OR ARREST, OR TO DENY ANY RIGHT OR PRIVILEGE, OR TO SEIZE OR FORFEIT ASSETS UNDER STATE LAW OR THE LAWS OF ANY LOCALITY, IF THE PERSON IS TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER
POSSESSING, STORING, USING, PROCESSING, TRANSPORTING, PURCHASING, OBTAINING, OR INGESTING NATURAL MEDICINE FOR PERSONAL USE, OR GIVING AWAY NATURAL MEDICINE FOR PERSONAL USE WITHOUT REMUNERATION TO A PERSON OR PERSONS TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER
Remember currently that “natural medicine” in 2022 is limited to psylocibin or psilocyn only.
A Legal Path to Natural Medicine Treatment
The 2022 Natural Medicine Health Act created the regulated natural medicine access program.
THE REGULATED NATURAL MEDICINE ACCESS PROGRAM IS ESTABLISHED AND THE COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF REGULATORY AGENCIES SHALL REGULATE THE MANUFACTURE, CULTIVATION, TESTING, STORAGE, TRANSFER, TRANSPORT, DELIVERY, SALE, AND PURCHASE OF NATURAL MEDICINES BY AND BETWEEN HEALING CENTERS AND OTHER PERMITTED ENTITIES AND THE PROVISION OF NATURAL MEDICINE SERVICES TO PARTICIPANTS.
NOT LATER THAN JANUARY 1, 2024, THE DEPARTMENT SHALL ADOPT RULES TO ESTABLISH THE QUALIFICATIONS, EDUCATION, AND TRAINING REQUIREMENTS THAT FACILITATORS MUST MEET PRIOR TO PROVIDING NATURAL MEDICINE SERVICES, AND TO APPROVE ANY REQUIRED TRAINING PROGRAMS.
NOT LATER THAN SEPTEMBER 30, 2024, THE DEPARTMENT SHALL ADOPT RULESNECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT THE REGULATED NATURAL MEDICINE ACCESS PROGRAM AND SHALLBEGIN ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR LICENSURE BY THAT DATE WITH DECISIONS MADE ON ALLLICENSING APPLICATIONS WITHIN 60 DAYS OF RECEIVING THE APPLICATION.
If you are licensed by 2022 Natural Medicine Health Act and are following the rules for licensees, you cannot be prosecuted the state or any locality for a violation of Colorado criminal law. You can't be subject to a civil fine. Your Colorado Constitutional Rights to be protected against unreasonable searches, seizures and arrests are not compromised if you are following the rules for licensees. Your assets are not subject to forfeiture unlike in standard drug prosecutions.
Sealing Prior Criminal Convictions for Possession and Growing Natural Medicine
A PERSON WHO HAS COMPLETED A SENTENCE FOR A CONVICTION, WHETHER BY TRIAL OR PLEA OF GUILTY OR NOLO CONTENDERE, WHO WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GUILTY OF AN OFFENSE UNDER THIS ACT HAD IT BEEN IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF THE OFFENSE, MAY FILE A PETITION BEFORE THE TRIAL COURT THAT ENTERED THE JUDGMENT OF CONVICTION IN THE PERSON'S CASE TO SEAL THE RECORD OF THE CONVICTION AT NO COST. IF THERE IS NO OBJECTION FROM THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY, THE COURT SHALL AUTOMATICALLY SEAL SUCH RECORD. IF THERE IS AN OBJECTION BY THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY, A HEARING SHALL BE HELD AND THE COURT SHALL DETERMINE IF THE PRIOR CONVICTION DOES NOT QUALIFY TO BE SEALED UNDER THIS ACT. IF THE RECORD DOES NOT QUALIFY TO BE SEALED, THE COURT SHALL DENY THE SEALING OF THE RECORD. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO DIMINISH OR ABROGATE ANY RIGHTS OR REMEDIES OTHERWISE AVAILABLE TO THE PETITIONER OR APPLICANT
The conviction must be for possession, use or manufacturing a controlled substance not distribution or possession with intent of a controlled substance. This process is open to cases not eligible under current laws regarding the sealing of criminal cases.
Experienced Legal Counsel is Critical
The 2022 Colorado Natural Medicine Health Act is complex and not complying with it's regulations could result in serious criminal, civil and professional sanctions. It is important to consult with an attorney experienced with Colorado criminal and controlled substance law if you are considering integrating natural medicine therapy into your wellness practice or taking advantage of the decriminalization of natural medicine for personal use.
IN COLORADO YOU CAN STILL SUFFER SEVERE CRIMINAL PENALTIES DESPITE THE CHANGE IN THE LAW FOR:
- Distribution of Natural Medicine for Renumeration
- Possession with Intent to Distribute Natural Medicine for Renumeration
- Manufacture (Grow) Natural Medicine for Renumeration
The Colorado Definition of Renumeration means anything of value, including money, real property, tangible and intangible personal property, contract rights, choses in action, services, and any rights of use or employment or promises or agreements connected therewith. 2021 Colorado Criminal Jury Instructions
All the above illegal acts are considered Drug Felonies in Colorado punishable by sentences to prison. Severity of the potential prison sentences depends on the weight of the natural medicine at issue in the prosecution:
DRUG FELONY THREE illegal acts with any weight: 2-4 years
DRUG FELONY TWO illegal acts with seven grams-228 grams: 4-8 years
DRUG FELONY ONE illegal acts with over 228 grams: mandatory 8-32 years
Federal Law Considerations
It is still illegal under federal law to possess or use what Colorado defines as Natural Medicine for any purpose unless you have been approved to conduct research through the registration and application process required by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Therefore extreme mitigation of risk is required even if you are 100% compliant with the Colorado Natural Medicine Health Act. It is unknown if the Federal Government will take the same approach to natural medicine as it currently does to legalized cannabis or whether that approach will shift as political tides ebb and flow.
The cannabis Department of Justice (DOJ) policy known as the “Cole Memo,” was issued in 2013 by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The Cole memo formally adopted a hands-off approach to federal marijuana prosecutions in states with marijuana-friendly policies, taking the position that, so long as other federal priorities were not implicated (such as combating gang and cartel activities or preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors), federal prosecutors should focus their limited resources elsewhere.
In 2018, however, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, instead advising that federal prosecutors should decide the circumstances under which to prosecute marijuana use based on their own individual priorities. The Sessions memo was issued days after marijuana became legal in California and months after Congress extended the so-called Rorhbacher-Blumenaur amendment, which blocks the Justice Department from using federal funds to impede the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. This reversal of course by the DOJ destabilized what had become a more reliable framework within which state-level cannabis industries could operate.
The current DOJ had indicated a return to the "Cole Memo" approach to cannabis prosecutions in the Federal Courts. It is the hope of the proponents of legal natural medicine possession, research and therapy that due to the positive outcomes of research with veterans of combat experiencing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that the regulation of natural medicine at the federal level will mirror the hands off approach currently in place for cannabis and will not be subject to change with a political shift in the executive branch. As research continues, proponents remain optimistic that the federal government will reclassify or completely declassify natural medicines as controlled substances reflecting their proven medical and psychological benefits.
Expert Legal Counsel on the Colorado Natural Medicine Health Act
Experienced criminal and juvenile attorney Kirk Waible is teaming up with his colleague Jeremy Shufflebarger to help you understand this new law so you can effectively prepare to help people as a facilitator of natural medicine and not run afoul of criminal or regulatory penalties. Jeremy has helped scores of mental health professionals navigate the labyrinth of Colorado DORA rules and regulations. Kirk is a former public defender who continues to represent indigent clients faced with felony and misdemeanor drug charges. Many of his clients are themselves victims of child abuse, domestic violence and a criminal justice system focused on punishment. Kirk has witnessed the inadequacy of current available strategies and systems to assist people with traumatic histories get out of the cycles of substance abuse and recidivism.
Contact us to schedule consultation on the Colorado Natural Medicine Health Act.