Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) is calling on lawmakers to take steps allowing him to issue mass pardons for people with prior psychedelics convictions as the state prepares to implement regulations for legal use of substances like psilocybin and ibogaine.
At a the MAPS Psychedelic Science 2023 conference in Denver on Wednesday, the governor—as well as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)—spoke about the therapeutic potential of entheogenic plants and fungi, advocating for legal access.
Polis, who recently signed a psychedelics regulations bill to fulfill the will of voters who approved a legalization ballot initiative last year, said that he wanted to take the lead on psychedelics clemency. And he also believes that the substances should be covered under federal health insurance programs.
Colorado is at the forefront of both research and policy nationally for natural medicine. I am thrilled to welcome the Psychedelics Science Conference to Colorado this year to share and collaborate across disciplines on this promising area of research. https://t.co/X0AXMklfoe pic.twitter.com/1QcybrkIeY
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) June 22, 2023
The governor said he needs the legislature to act to provide him with pardon authority, “so anybody who has something on their criminal record that is now legal can have that expunged and doesn’t hold them back from future employment opportunities,” Axios reported.
He added that it’s “still ridiculous that in this day and age somebody suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD can get medical coverage for very costly prescription drugs but cannot get coverage for a treatment in a healing center that will address some of the underlying causes of the issue.”
The governor also called on the legislature to pass legislation to make it so Colorado statute automatically adjusts if the federal government revises rules around psilocybin. Doing so, he said, could translate into insurance coverage for psychedelics therapy.
“Yes, that’s right. People will no longer need to go to Mexico or Colombia. They can come right here to Colorado,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have a “person connection” to psychedelics, but his support is “values-based.” He believes it’s a matter of “autonomy.”
“Look, I’m sure we’ll get a few things wrong—but we can learn from them and build upon them.”
Perry and Polis might be on politically opposite sides of the spectrum on some issues, but the event underscored that psychedelics isn’t one of them.
The former Texas governor also drew a contrast between himself and the prior speaker, MAPS Founder Rick Doblin.
“You’ve seen the light. I’m the dark, knuckle-dragging, right-wing former governor of the state of Texas,” Perry said, playing into the fact that Doblin was wearing all white while he was dressed in black. “The idea that he and I are together is a bit of magic.”
The conservative figure might not currently support full-on psychedelics legalization, but he said he became invested in exploring the substances as therapeutic tools after discussing the issue with former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, whose brother is U.S. Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX). The congressman recently spoke about his own experience receiving psychedelics treatment and also secured an amendment to promote research into the substances as part of a military bill on Wednesday.
“The reason I am on this stage today—and hopefully a lot of you are this way—is because you had the courage to understand that your reputation is not more important than these young people’s lives,” Perry said, according to Westword. “Let’s look at what the results are. Let’s not look at what the government tells us. Let’s not look at what somebody tells us is right and wrong.”
.@SecretaryPerry at the opening of @PsychedelicSci — no one’s political reputation is more important than lives we can save. That’s why I am here with you all advocating for availability of psychedelic medicines #ps2023 pic.twitter.com/HjmaQW3hUX
— Kasia Malinowska (@OSFKasia) June 21, 2023
“No one’s political reputation is more important than lives we can save,” he said. “That’s why I am here with you all advocating for availability of psychedelic medicines.”
Perry—who took some by surprise after advocating for a Texas bill to require studies into the medical use of psychedelics for veterans in 2021—also spoke at the Strength In Numbers gala that was hosted by Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS) that year.
“As one of America’s most conservative and prominent retired governors, Perry demonstrates the potential to achieve a great consensus to advance psychedelic therapy access in the United States,” Eapen Thampy, a lobbyist working on psychedelic therapies, told Marijuana Moment on Thursday.