Posted in Personal Injury on March 22, 2023
Here’s what to expect with the state’s new decriminalized psychedelics law
November 8, 2022, marked the start of a new era in Colorado when voters passed Proposition 122, a ballot initiative that made Colorado the second state to allow the possession and personal use of psychedelics.
While this is good news for advocates of mushroom decriminalization, it also raises some critical questions about the implications of psychedelic use on motor vehicle accidents and personal injury claims.
The effects of this new law are being rolled out in stages, and the first change is already underway with the removal of many criminal penalties for the possession of psychedelics.
That means it’s no longer illegal under Colorado law for people 21 and older to possess or use plant-based psychedelic substances like psilocybin, psilocin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, and mescaline (except not mescaline extracted from peyote). However, it is still illegal to sell them.
Proposition 122 doesn’t allow retail sales of psychedelics, including “magic mushrooms.” However, people 21 and older may grow, transport, and process psychedelic substances like the mushrooms that psilocybin is extracted from, so long as it’s for personal use.
The state will develop a Natural Medicine Advisory Board under the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to assess the ongoing research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances.
Further implementation of the law is expected to occur by 2024 with the establishment of state-regulated “healing centers” where psilocybin and psilocin may be administered to patients in a supervised setting for things like anxiety and PTSD.
Then, in 2026, officials can consider similar programs for other psychedelics that were part of the proposition.
Current research suggests that psychedelics may have a valid role in mental health treatment. These substances, particularly psilocybin, have been shown to improve symptoms in people with anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Psilocybin is the naturally occurring active ingredient in certain species of mushrooms. Users report that taking psilocybin can lead to an altered state of consciousness with profound changes in perception, mood, and cognition, such as heightened creativity and insight. Individuals taking the substance may also experience visual and auditory hallucinations, particularly at doses above the therapeutic threshold.
The hallucinogenic effects of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances are thought to be due to reduced activity and blood flow in particular regions of the brain. Other researchers believe that these compounds activate the brain’s serotonin receptors, causing the brain to need less energy to switch between states of activity.
While these neurological mechanisms are still being studied, it’s clear that psychedelics can have a powerful impact on one’s mental state, which carries either positive or negative effects depending on the context.
The passing of Proposition 122 raises the issue of how the state will handle psychedelic-influenced driving. Although Colorado legalized the personal use of psychedelics, it’s still illegal to drive under the influence of any substance, including psychedelics.
Just like alcohol and cannabis, psilocybin and other psychedelics can cause altered perception, impaired judgment, and delayed reaction times — all of which pose a serious risk on the road.
Despite the illegal status of driving on psychedelics, the number of people driving under the influence will likely increase with decriminalization.
Colorado’s 2012 legalization of recreational cannabis provides a useful example of the possibilities. A 2019 study found that after recreational cannabis was legalized, there was a 10% increase in traffic accidents. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but this data suggests a potential link between decriminalized use of a substance and motor vehicle accidents.
This isn’t to judge psychedelic use or its users, but rather to point out that greater public acceptance of psychedelic use may result in more instances of impaired driving. Responsible use is key to avoiding this kind of danger.
Aside from the potential of more motor vehicle accidents, decriminalization may also lead to changes in how personal injury claims are handled.
When someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident in Colorado, they may be eligible to receive compensation for their losses. Accomplishing this requires proving that the other driver was negligent in some way.
Negligence can include anything from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to engaging in reckless road behavior. However, proving negligence becomes more complicated when a driver is under the influence of psychedelics.
Psychedelic substances have a wide range of effects on the user, and these can be tough to predict or measure. If someone is involved in an accident while under the influence of a psychedelic, the level of impairment and its contributing factors to the accident may be difficult to determine.
Showing that the driver was under the influence could also be a challenge because hallucinogenic drugs can remain in the body for several days after the last use. This will surely be a defense used against an assignment of blame in something like an accident-causing car accident.
The medicinal side of Proposition 122 could also complicate personal injury claims. It’s only illegal to drive while impaired, and lower doses of prescription drugs with traditionally mind-altering effects may not always cause actual impairment.
Despite this fact, people have faced legal complications for driving on prescription medication, including cannabis, in the past. If the injured party happened to be taking psychedelics as part of a medical treatment regimen, they could face an uphill battle in their personal injury claim.
While psychedelic decriminalization in Colorado will almost certainly impact how motor vehicle accidents and personal injury claims are handled, that impact won’t be clear until more time has passed. Nevertheless, individuals injured in accidents involving psychedelics should seek legal advice from a Denver personal injury attorney right away.
The team at Zaner Harden Law is committed to helping clients explore every option for obtaining maximum compensation. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident involving psychedelics, call (720) 613-9706 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.