Colorado just appointed one of America’s leading cannabis and psilocybin researchers to its psychedelics board.
The office of Governor Jared Polis announced over the weekend that Dr. Sue Sisley of Arizona will be joining Colorado’s newly formed Natural Medicines Board. Cannabis journalist and founder of the weed PR firm Grasslands, Ricardo Baca, was also appointed to the board.
Both Sisley and Baca’s terms are expected to expire by 2025.
Last November, Colorado voters narrowly approved Prop 122, which effectively legalized psilocybin mushrooms and certain natural psychedelics, such as DMT and ayahuasca.
However, Prop 122 does not specify regulations regarding the use or potential trade of natural psychedelics. Rather, it establishes a “wellness center” system, where adults 21 years of age and older can visit for a guided trip experience. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies will roll out more detailed regulations regarding how the wellness centers will operate sometime by 2024.
The Natural Medicines Board will help the Department of Regulatory Agencies hammer out those regulations, so it’s a pretty big deal that a devoted advocate such as Dr. Sisley is part of it.
“The reason for all of this is to allow people to have access to these medicines so that they can have a choice and how they're treating their mental health,” Veronica Lightning Horse Perez, psychedelics therapist based in Colorado, told NPR shortly after Prop 122’s passage.
Although her most recent research projects focused on psilocybin as a PTSD treatment, Sisley made waves in 2017 when she spearheaded the first FDA-approved medical marijuana trial. However, since the feds required her medical cannabis project to use the US government’s shitty, moldy weed, her cannabis and PTSD research went nowhere, even after filing a lawsuit and later a FOIA request against the DEA.
Dr. Sisley threw her full support behind Arizona’s recently passed psychedelics research bill, which should make it easier for her to investigate psilocybin in her home state. Given her scientifically-based advocacy on behalf of US military veterans everywhere, she will be a welcome addition to the state’s psychedelics board.
The appointment of Grasslands founder Ricardo Baca is also welcome. Baca was formerly known as the first “pot editor” of a major, mainstream newspaper back in 2014, when Colorado first began selling regulated marijuana. Baca founded The Cannabist, a widely-read online cannabis publication which became defunct after its parent the Denver Post was sold to an East Coast hedge fund.
Baca’s role on the Natural Medicine Board involves serving as a “representative of traditional Indigenous use,” as well as harm reduction. Baca identifies as a member of Colorado’s Indigenous community.
“It's very easy to get lost in a rulemaking process and forget, as has been done throughout history, about indigenous people in their contribution,” Lightning Horse Perez said to NPR. “We can create a model in which it is recognized, in which we are asking for indigenous reciprocity, remembering that there is a sacred and cultural use and that this population did keep it sacred.”
Now, the real test of Colorado’s system comes next year, when the Department of Regulatory Agencies finally issues rules regarding the use, possession, and distribution of natural psychedelics. Just as it’s possible the state will establish a flourishing natural medicines framework on par with the state’s legal weed program, it’s also possible the state will regulate Prop 122 into the ground, too.
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