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EDITORIAL: Colorado’s mushroom ‘therapy’ unmasked

Gazette - 6/7/2024

A news report out of the nation’s capital this week all but dismisses the psychedelic drug ecstasy as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder — casting serious doubt on a key pretext for legalizing dangerous hallucinogens in Colorado in 2022.

Beltway insider Politico reported that an expert advisory committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided in a 9-2 vote that pharmaceutical Lykos Therapeutics’ proposed use of ecstasy, or MDMA, is not an effective PTSD treatment.

The panel also voted 10-1 in finding the treatment’s risks outweigh benefits. It found that the tests the drugmaker had conducted to advocate for FDA approval were riddled with bias and other errors.

“If the FDA follows its advisers, as it typically does, it could upend a burgeoning industry already banking on using a variety of mind-altering drugs to treat disorders ranging from depression to anxiety,” Politico concluded.

That “burgeoning industry” was banking on Colorado, too, when it turned on the hard-sell for Proposition 122 a couple of years ago.

That was the statewide ballot measure, approved by voters 54% to 46%, that legalized “magic mushrooms” — psilocybin and other hallucinogens — on the cynical premise of providing therapy to sufferers of wide-ranging psychological and emotional disorders. A favorite pitch of proponents was helping military veterans with PTSD.

Now, it turns out the most informed authorities in medical science don’t regard the hallucinogens as having much therapeutic value after all.

The news comes too late to stop Prop. 122’s implementation. The state is scheduled to begin issuing licenses to dispense the drugs by the end of this year. But it’s not too late for regulators to tighten the screws.

For one thing, the state could require that only medical professionals such as psychiatrists can have licenses — since the drugs are supposedly for therapy. The ballot proposal was vague on that matter.

Of course, Prop. 122’s backers never really cared about therapy in the first place. That was just a ruse to win over an unsuspecting public.

Prop. 122 was really about spawning a market for the recreational use of hallucinogens in much the same way Big Marijuana cultivated Colorado’s recreational pot.

The multimillion-dollar campaign for the misbegotten ballot measure was bankrolled by out-of-state special interests. And while some of the support came from starry-eyed believers in legalization dogma, it also came from those looking to make a quick buck.

They saw a big payday. Lykos, for example, announced in January that it had raised $100 million from investors looking to cash in on its MDMA gambit before the FDA. It’s a safe bet some of that same industry’s money propelled Prop. 122.

It didn’t matter to them that it will recklessly endanger Coloradans and especially their children.

Too many Colorado parents have to search their middle-schoolers’ backpacks for high-potency-pot-infused edibles and concentrates, easily concealed in small canisters or in preloaded, disposable vapes. Now, they’ll have to make sure their kids don’t consume — knowingly or otherwise — legal hallucinogens such as psilocybin and mescaline.

As adopted by voters, Prop. 122 doesn’t allow for retail sales per se. The drugs are to be dispensed by “facilitators” at state-licensed “healing centers.” Also permitted will be growing mushrooms, for (wink!) personal use. A grower can “give” the product to others but not sell it.

Rest assured, money will change hands. And rest assured, as well — it’s all about the money.

The public is first now starting to learn the “therapeutic” value of hallucinogens is at best dubious. The hucksters behind Prop. 122 knew it all along.

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(c)2024 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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