Psychedelic Advocates Help Push Back Colorado Social Media Policing Bill

    Colorado lawmakers have been working on a bill that psychedelic advocates warn would result in a social media ban on any content related to psychedelics, as well as increased criminalization around drugs.

    Opponents of the bill rallied against it at the state capital on May 1—and lawmakers decided that day to delay it until 2025.

    The uproar surrounds SB24-158, titled “Social Media Protect Juveniles Disclosures Reports.” The Colorado Senate passed the bill on April 17 by a vote of 30-1, sending it to the House.

    The bill summary outlines that by July 1, 2025, social media companies—like Facebook, Instagram or TikTok—would have to change and publish their policies, to include a statement that use of the platform to sell illicit drugs or guns is prohibited, as well as sexually targeting children or sharing “sexually exploitative material.” Any user found to violate the policy would be removed within 24 hours. Social media companies would also have to state that any policy violation that also violates state or federal law may be reported to the police.

    Companies would have to retain data related to users’ identities and activities for at least a year. If police open an investigation into a user, the company would be obliged to respond to their inquiry within three days, and not alert the person that they are under investigation.

    The bill would additionally require social media companies to submit an annual report to the attorney general including data on their users in Colorado, “with regard to certain prohibited categories of content,” and reporting any content that was flagged and what actions were taken. 

    Other components of the bill include age verification for all users, allowing companies to collect personal information to verify ages and “securely dispose” of it afterwards. 

    “We rely on social media to deploy educational tools and content that prioritize public health, public safety, and responsible use.”

    Since the introduction of the bill in February, a group of psychedelic advocates have been among those opposing it. On May 1, they sent an open letter to Democratic state Senators Chris Hansen and Dafna M. Jenet, and Representatives Meghan Lukens (D) and Lisa Frizell (R). They outlined concerns that the bill would violate First Amendment free speech rights for people who work with psychedelics and provide related services, and make it impossible for them to earn a living.

    In November 2022, Colorado voters approved Proposition 122, a measure to decriminalize possession, growing and sharing of naturally occurring psychedelics including psilocybin, DMT and mescaline. It also allows for licensed facilities where adults over 21 could pay to use psilocybin (and potentially, other substances) under supervision of on-site staff. The measure also permits some limited group and communal psychedelic use for adults, and the work of individuals who provide guidance and support to psychedelic users.

    “The current form of this bill will make it nearly impossible for our organizations to educate the public about psychedelics over social media and severely limit our ability to continue operating,” the letter read. “Considering the cultural precedent in Colorado where nearly 1.3 million voters approved the Natural Medicine Health Act in 2022, and the resurgence of national interest in psychedelics to address mental and behavioral health conditions, among others, we rely on social media to deploy educational tools and content that prioritize public health, public safety, and responsible use with psychedelics. Social media platforms are a universal access-point for people to have reliable resources.”

    The May 1 letter acknowledged that children may be at risk on social media platforms, but drew the line at banning content related to “illicit substances”—saying that this would not only ban people who sell drugs, but ban those who share drug-related safety information.

    “We are in the midst of a national mental and behavioral health crisis, and the last thing we need is further prohibition on the accessibility of information that contributes to a better understanding of psychedelics and reducing harm related to drugs and drug use, in general,” the letter read. It urged Colorado lawmakers to remove the “illicit substances” section from the bill.

    Its signatories include the Plant Magic Cafe in Denver, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), media outlet Psychedelics Today, and the National Psychedelics Association.

    “As a father living in Denver, CO, I know that my daughter Savana will inevitably become increasingly exposed to opportunities to engage with plant medicines and all manner of drugs in her early life,” wrote David Champion, one signatory to the letter. “I believe it is fundamental for her generation to have access to the most research-backed and safety-informed educational information available to her, and that her primary point of access to this information will be online.”

    “This bill was postponed to May 10, which is after the session ends. To my understanding, the sponsors intend to work on it next session.”

    “Besides the obvious free-speech and first amendment implications of such a bill, this will only breed more confusion amongst a population that is still figuring out how to introduce psychedelics in a safe and responsible way,” wrote Jon Clark, another signatory. “The idea that psychedelics could be essentially legal to have and use, but illegal to talk about sends all kinds of mixed messages to people.”

    May 1 was also the day that a group of pscyhedelic advocates marched to the state capitol in Denver, chanting slogans as they waited six hours to testify before lawmakers. Colorado advocate Kevin Matthews, of Helix Consulting, was one of them, and explained what happened. Matthews was a coalition director for Natural Medicine Colorado, and worked to get Proposition 122 on the ballot. He drafted the open letter about SB24-158 and helped get other signatories on board.

    That afternoon, the House Education Committee—including one of the bill’s main sponsors, Rep. Lukens—was scheduled to hear and advance the social media bill. But at the start of the hearing, Rep. Lukens “laid over” the bill, basically meaning the committee agreed not to move it forward for now.

    “This bill was postponed to May 10, which is after the session ends on May 8,” Matthews told Filter. “To my understanding, the sponsors and proponents of the bill intend to work on it next session. But as it stands right now, it’s not being considered by the state House.”

    Despite the decision to delay the bill, the committee chose to have members of the public appear and give testimony for the record. According to Matthews, only supporters of the bill were chosen to speak—including children talking about their social media use, parents who lost children to overdose and district attorneys talking about online sales of guns and drugs.

    “For the time being here in Colorado, we can take a big breath and know that our ability to post content like that online is secure.”

    Matthews pointed out that the psychedelic community was only one part of a broader coalition that may have swayed the lawmakers. “I think we made a small impact,” he said, “and it was really powerful for us to get together on this issue, but I do know there are other stakeholders involved, from the reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ communities, who were advocating on this issue against the bill.”

    He also acknowledged feeling moved by the May 1 testimony of some of the bill’s supporters, and said he hopes that lawmakers can find a compromise, to address real concerns about youth social media use, while protecting psychedelic rights and wider human rights.

    Matthews said he’s “incredible grateful” that for now, people in Colorado’s psychedelic community can continue to share “educational resources about responsible use with plant medicine, and harm reduction information.”

    “For the time being here in Colorado,” he concluded, “we can take a big breath and know that our ability to post content like that online is secure.”



    Photograph by Jonas Leupe via Unsplash

    The Influence Foundation, which operates Filter, was previously fiscally sponsored by LEAP. Filter‘s Editorial Independence Policy applies.


    • Alexander is Filter’s staff writer. He writes about the movement to end the War on Drugs. He grew up in New Jersey and swears it’s actually alright. He’s also a musician hoping to change the world through the power of ledger lines and legislation. Alexander was previously Filter‘s editorial fellow.

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