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Colorado has much to figure out around how to implement the groundbreaking psychedelics measure voters passed in November, and a 15-person state-appointed volunteer advisory board—which will make recommendations to the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA)—will be a key part of that process. Because before anyone gets to trip on magic mushrooms, this advisory board will spend at least a year and a half codifying complicated topics like training, licensing, costs, and more.
As it turns out, 225 people said they were up to the task and submitted applications in hopes of being selected to the board, according to the governor’s office.
Out of this pool of candidates, Polis’ office announced 15 appointees for its Natural Medicine Advisory Board on January 27. Officials were quick to note, however, that these members are not finalized and must be confirmed by Colorado’s state Senate. According to Andy Bixler, communications director for the Senate Democrats, this process should be in motion as early as this week. “The Senate received these nominations earlier [last] week, and we anticipate they’ll be introduced into our system [soon],” Bixler said. “From there, it usually takes a week or two to get nominees scheduled to testify for their confirmation hearings, after which the nominations will be considered before the full Senate on the floor.”
As for who’s been nominated for the board?
You can find the full list from the governor’s office at the end of this article, where you’ll see plenty of Ph.D.s, J.D.s, and other acronyms. The appointees even include a few well-known individuals, including Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés—a Jungian psychoanalyst famous for her 1989 book Women Who Run with the Wolves—as well as prominent Arizona-based drug researcher Dr. Sue Sisley and journalist-turned-cannabis PR guru Ricardo Baca from Denver.
Though some appointees carry name recognition, the overall list does have some observers from Colorado’s psychedelic community scratching their heads. As the Nowak Society, a well-connected, psychedelic nonprofit, recently said in a newsletter:
What remains unclear is how many of the 15 appointed have personal or professional roots with plant medicines and psychedelics. Sadly also, no one known to us in the Colorado plant medicine and psychedelic communities received an invitation to serve, even while many were interviewed for a seat…We are saddened to learn that trusted folks with visibility in Colorado’s diverse plant medicine and psychedelic communities have not been invited to serve in these important roles, though we hold hope that paths to effective collaboration that centers our many, varied community experts will still be possible.
These are fair questions and concerns—perhaps ones that will be addressed during the candidates’ senate confirmation hearings. But when 5280 reached out to one of the appointees for an interview of our own—and was then connected with Governor Polis’ press secretary Conor Cahill—Cahill said the governor’s office would not allow any press interviews with board appointees, even after their possible confirmations by the state Senate, to “preserve the integrity” of the board. He added that this was the normal policy for all state boards and commissions.
But as a contrast, members of Oregon’s psilocybin advisory board, which was formed after the state passed a measure in 2020 to legalize guided magic mushroom sessions, have conducted numerous interviews with journalists, providing the public with important insights—and disagreements—discussed among the members. Being told that journalists can’t (at least officially, vis-a-vis the state) speak to volunteers about their role in implementing a sweeping ballot measure that more than 1.2 million Coloradans voted for raises some transparency concerns. Time will tell what Colorado’s appointees will be able to say outside of the public meetings where they conduct their business.
Until then, lawyer and law professor Mason Marks, who 5280 interviewed last December about his experiences on Oregon’s psilocybin panel, researched and published more robust biographies of Colorado’s Natural Medicine Advisory Board members in his weekly newsletter, Psychedelic Week.
Natural Medicine Advisory Board
Below, the descriptions of the appointees released by the governor’s office.
- William Dunn, NRP, FP-C, of Avon, Colorado, to serve as a representative of emergency medical services and services provided by first responders
- Billy Wynne, J.D., of Greenwood Village, Colorado, to serve as a representative of health care insurance and healthcare policy and public health, drug policy and harm reduction
- Sofia Chavez, Ph.D., of Lakewood, Colorado, to serve as a representative of traditional and indigenous use and religious use of natural medicine
- Bradley Conner, Ph.D., of Fort Collins, Colorado, to serve as a representative of natural medicine therapy, medicine and research
- Wendy Buxton-Andrade of Lamar, Colorado, to serve as a representative of levels and disparities in access to health care services among different communities
- Skippy Upton Mesirow of Aspen, Colorado, to serve as a representative of permitted organization criteria
- Ernestine Gonzales, Ph.D., M.A., M.S., of Colorado Springs, Colorado, to serve as a representative of health care insurance and health care policy, past criminal justice reform efforts in Colorado, and disparities in access to healthcare services among different communities
- Heather Lundy Nelson, M.A., of Denver, Colorado, to serve as a representative of mental health and behavioral health providers and disparities in access to health care services among different communities
- Dr. Suzanne Sisley of Scottsdale, Arizona, to serve as a representative of mycology and natural medicine cultivation
- Katina Banks, J.D., of Denver, Colorado, to serve as a representative of permitted organization criteria
- Ricardo Baca of Denver, Colorado, to serve as a representative of traditional indigenous use and public health, drug policy, and harm reduction
- Dr. Alisa Hannum to serve as a representative of mental and behavioral health providers and issues confronting veterans
- Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., of Denver, Colorado, to serve as a representative of traditional indigenous use and religious use
- Joshua Goodwin, Ph.D., of Aurora, Colorado, to serve as a representative of issues confronting veterans
- Sheriff David Lucero of Pueblo, Colorado, to serve as a representative of past criminal justice reform in Colorado