Potential Conflicts of Interest on Colorado's Natural Medicine Advisory Board
Alright, ya'll. Get comfy because we have questions that need answering.
Just five years ago, legalizing psychedelics seemed like a fantasy. The idea wasn't conceivable beyond a vague timeline of some-day-far-off-in-the-future, an idea hinging on two principles: A) the hope that "many years down the road" would bring better politics, and B) that enough time would have elapsed for an entirely new, racially-inclusive, peaceful cultural perspective to root in the US. But that's not how it panned out, and the future arrived much quicker than expected. While many of us assumed legal psychedelics would sail in on a slow-moving ship, they zoomed in on a bullet train spewing dirt all over Nancy Reagan's moldy grave. Now, two states are respectively legalizing psilocybin mushrooms and earth-grown psychedelics for therapy. And both states are also decriminalizing mushrooms.
It's a historic moment for the US, a region that's taken a staunch anti-drugs posture since its early days as a nation. We're not exaggerating when we say all eyes are on Oregon and Colorado as they roll out the nation's first legal psychedelic industries. The pressure is on to do it right. But Colorado's government-appointed Natural Medicine Advisory Board has us asking questions.
There are a total of 15 people on the advisory board. Sheriff David Lucero made the list; he's spent 22 years in law enforcement and was recently sworn in as Sheriff of Pueblo County. Dr. Sue Sisley is on the board; she's a cannabis researcher from Arizona who famously sued the DEA for providing terrible flower to researchers, making it impossible to study the plant properly. Two people who work in public relations were also appointed to the board. (This is where we begin to have some questions.) One is Billy Wynne; he founded Wynne Health Group, a government relations firm offering PR and other political services focusing on health policy. His firm specializes in political strategy to help place people on federal advisory boards, write legislative drafts, build coalitions, get bills passed, get biopharmaceutical approvals for his clients, and more. He also owns a franchise of non-alcoholic bars in Colorado.
The second PR person is Ricardo Baca, a journalist-turn-publicist and CEO of Grasslands, a Denver-based weed PR agency whose clientele consists of many well-known brands in the cannabis industry, including Cookies, Puffco, and celebrity weed brands. Cookies is undoubtedly angling to get into the psychedelic mushroom market, as seen by their adaptogenic mushroom and CBD product called "CAPS," spelled out in letters that look like psilocybin mushrooms. Berner, rapper and CEO of Cookies, also just released a line of psilocybin mushroom tea with Erykah Badu.
The purpose of the Natural Medicine Advisory Board is to make regulation recommendations to Governor Polis (who's been an outward supporter of the cannabis industry since the early 2010s), who must sign off on the final draft of the laws. While Wynne and Baca practice different types of public relations (government relations being a branch of PR), they are both now in positions of power that could potentially benefit their businesses. Isn't this a conflict of interest? Isn't this an ethical issue?
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