Article: Colorado’s Indigenous leaders want power in legalization of psychedelics

Axios Denver

Colorado’s embrace of psychedelics will hurt Indigenous tribes and culture, native advocates warn.

  • The way to prevent it: Put native people in control of legalization.

Driving the news: The Native Coalition of Colorado is calling for Indigenous people to direct the process for licensing “healing centers” — facilities that can use psychedelic substances under the state’s new law, Proposition 122, approved by voters in 2022.

  • The coalition is worried about who will profit and the availability of substances they’ve used for generations amid commercialization.
  • Other advocates want to limit who can offer the substances to those with training and experience in Indigenous culture, and require financial reciprocity to natives, the Denver Post reports.

What they’re saying: “Rather than taking, or centering themselves as the movement, give it back so that they’re centering Indigenous people,” said Kuthoomi Castro, a clinical counselor who trained in psychedelic usage in native cultures in Ecuador.

Why it matters: The demands by the organization may impede the Polis administration’s work to create a foundation for legal psychedelics — the second in the nation — and echoes warnings made by disenfranchised populations with marijuana’s legalization.

The intrigue: The consideration of restrictions on psychedelics is even a debate within the Indigenous community, the Post reports.

  • Gabriela Galindo, a Boulder resident with an Indigenous and alternative medicine background, says the use of substances from Indigenous communities won’t address the root causes of the problems.
  • Veronica Lightning Horse Perez, a Littleton-based therapist with Indigenous roots, supported the legalization of psychedelics because she sees so much suffering.

Of note: Kevin Matthews, a proponent for Proposition 122, acknowledged that the ballot measure misstepped and organizers “could have done more” to incorporate Indigenous voices.

Between the lines: The law implementing the legalization of healing centers by 2025 said the use of substances should be weighed against the possibility of harm to Indigenous people.

  • Two of the 15 members of the Natural Medicine Advisory Board are Indigenous, and a subcommittee was formed to gather more feedback.

The bottom line: For native communities, it’s not enough. “Right now because it has been legalized, or it’s moving into that, it’s pretty much open for people to do as they wish, as long as the system is saying it’s OK,” Castro said.

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