Colorado Appoints Natural Medicine Advisory Board to Shape Psychedelic Program
Get to know the board that will help craft Colorado's psilocybin program under the Natural Medicine Health Act (Proposition 122)
On Friday, Governor Jared Polis announced members of the Colorado Natural Medicine Advisory Board. This fifteen-member board sits within the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), where it will advise regulators drafting rules for the state’s psilocybin program. Colorado voters approved the Natural Medicine Health Act (Proposition 122) in November, triggering an eighteen-month implementation phase in which the board will complete its work.
I’ve summarized each board member’s background below so that you can find the information in one place. The board consists of two types of appointees. The first group will serve two-year terms, and the second will serve four-year terms. All but one of the appointed members reside in Colorado.
At least on the surface, few board members appear to have experience directly related to psychedelics. Though she does not mention psychedelics by name, Dr. Sofia Chavez, a board-certified natural medicine physician, describes being raised with the healing traditions of her New Mexican ancestors and continuing to learn their practices and Mesoamerican healing techniques. Dr. Sue Sisley, the only board member from out of state, is well known for her controlled substances research, particularly involving cannabis. Also an advocate for psychedelics research, Sisley supports an Arizona bill to fund clinical trials with psilocybin.
Several board members have experience related to drug policy or substance use treatment. Professor Bradley Connor of Colorado State University has studied addiction, cannabis, and alcohol use, but his curriculum vitae makes no mention of psychedelics. Wendy Buxton-Andrade, the Prowers County Commissioner for District 3, chairs Colorado’s Opioid Settlement Board for Region 19. In 2017, Fortune Magazine named journalist turned marketing professional Ricardo Baca one of the seven most powerful people in the U.S. marijuana industry.
I will update this article as we learn more about the Natural Medicine Advisory Board. The newly appointed members include:
Members serving two-year terms expiring January 31, 2025
William Dunn, NRP, FP-C
William Dunn of Avon, CO will represent first responders. He is the Senior Manager of Clinical Services at Eagle County Paramedic Service. According to his profile at Pinnacle EMS, Dunn has more than 25 years of experience as a paramedic and 15 years of management experience. According to LinkedIn, Dunn attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and Eckerd College.
Billy Wynne, JD
Billy Wynne of Greenwood Village, CO will represent the fields of health insurance, health policy, and harm reduction. According to Wynn’s professional website, he attended Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia Law School. Wynn reports having significant experience working in Washington healthcare policy, having served as Health Policy Counsel to the Senate Finance Committee. In 2018, Wynn founded the Wynne Health Group, a government and public relations firm with operations in Denver, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. In 2020, he and his wife Christy opened Colorado’s first “100% sober bar” in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Denver.
Sofia Chavez, PhD
Sofia Chavez of Lakewood, CO will represent the Indigenous and religious use of psychedelics. Chavez is a board-certified Doctor of Natural Medicine. According to LinkedIn, she graduated from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Institute of Bioenergetic Medicine. For the past six year, Chavez has served as a Community Liaison at Denver Health “strengthening relationships between the Denver Health Pena clinic and Hispanic community.” For twenty-three years, she has offered therapeutic services at Estara Health and Wellness, in Lakewood, Colorado.
According to a profile hosted by the GlobalMindEd Conference, Chavez “was raised with the healing traditions of her ancestors from Cubero and Tijeras New Mexico,” and she has “continued to learn the healing ways of her ancestors” and Mesoamerican healing techniques. Chavez reportedly studied with Dr. Clarrisa Pinkola Estés, who was also appointed to the Natural Medicine Advisory Board, at her Archetypal and Cross-Cultural Studies Institute.
Bradley Connor, PhD
Bradley Connor of Fort Collins, CO will represent the fields of natural medicine therapy and research. Connor is a Professor at Colorado State University, where he leads the Development of Addictive & Risky Behaviors Lab and directs the Masters in Addictions Counseling. Connor attended college and completed a masters and Doctor of Clinical Psychology degree at UCLA. His latest research appears to have focused on the identification of substance use conditions, the co-consumption of cannabis and alcohol, and telehealth services for suicide prevention.
Wendy Buxton-Andrade of Lamar, CO fills a board seat focused on disparities in access to healthcare. Buxton-Andrade serves as the Prowers County Commissioner for District 3. According to her commission profile, Buxton-Andrade earned a degree in marketing from Metropolitan State College in Denver. She reports having twenty-five years of varied business experience, which includes running a medical staffing service in Denver. Buxton-Adrade chairs the state’s Opioid Settlement Board for Region 19, which includes nine Colorado counties.
Skippy Leigh Upton Mesirow
Skippy Leigh Upton Mesirow of Aspen, CO occupies a seat focused on determining the criteria for approving permitted organizations. According to Mesirow’s campaign website, he is Colorado’s youngest City Councilperson. He is a Founder of the Elected Leaders Collective, which promotes mental health for elected officials, public sector workers, and first responders. A former competitive skier and collegiate national champion, Mesirow describes himself as a passionate advocate for the environment, community connection and empowerment, mental wellbeing, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Ernestine Gonzales, PhD, MA, MS
Ernestine Gonzales of Colorado Springs, CO will represent the fields of health insurance, healthcare policy, criminal justice reform, and healthcare equity. Gonzales is the only board member for which there is no information available online.
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Members serving four-year expiring January 31, 2025
Heather Lundy Nelson, MA
Heather Lundy Nelson of Denver, Colorado occupies a seat focused on behavioral health and disparities in access to healthcare services. Nelson has described herself as an entrepreneur and licensed mental health clinician completing her ordination process at Highlands Church North Denver. She reports applying her training in psychology and theology to business. Nelson co-founded Circus X Productions, an arts production company “curating experiences for a spiritually conscious world.”
Suzanne Sisley, MD
Dr. Sue Sisley of Scottsdale, AZ will represent mycology and natural medicine cultivation. Sisley is an Arizona-based physician practicing Internal Medicine & Psychiatry. She is well known for her controlled substance research. According to her professional profile, Sisley is President of the Scottsdale Research Institute and best known as principal investigator for the only FDA-sanctioned randomized controlled trial on the safety and efficacy of smoked marijuana for treating PTSD in combat veterans. Sisley serves as a member of the Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Sociology at Cal Poly Humbolt.
Katina Banks, JD
Attorney Katina Banks of Denver, CO fills a seat focused on the criteria for approving permitted organizations. In 2018, Banks joined the intellectual property team of Denver law firm Baker Hostettler. Her professional profile states she has over seventeen years of legal experience with expertise in copyright, trademark, and advertising law. Banks serves on the advisory council of the Mathew Shepard Foundation, a civil rights organization. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Capital University Law School.
Ricardo Baca of Denver, CO will represent Indigenous use of psychedelics, public health, drug policy, and harm reduction. According to his LinkedIn profile, Baca was the Denver Post’s first marijuana editor from 2013 - 2016. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Grasslands, a marketing and public relations firm in Denver. In 2017, Fortune Magazine named Baca one of the seven most powerful people in America’s marijuana industry. He earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Alisa Hannum, PhD
Alisa Hannum will represent mental and behavioral health providers and issues confronting veterans. According to her profile at EMDR Training Academy, Hannum is a clinical psychologist in the VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from West Virginia University in 2010 and completed a National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellowship in suicide prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Hannum’s research has primarily focused on suicide prevention and the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD
Clarissa Pinkola Estés of Denver, CO will serve as a representative of Indigenous and religious use of psychedelics. The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame describes Estés as an award-winning poet, certified Jungian psychoanalyst, post-trauma recovery specialist, and cantadora (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition). Estés graduated from Red Rocks Community College and Loretto Heights College before receiving her doctorate from The Union Graduate School in ethno-clinical psychology, the study of groups with an emphasis on Indigenous history. She has been in clinical practice with war veterans and persons who are survivors of massacres and disasters for over 50 years.
Joshua Goodwin, PhD
Joshua Goodwin of Aurora, CO will represent military veterans. According to his LinkedIn profile, Goodwin is a retired Air Force Office of Special Investigations counterespionage case officer and special agent. He is CEO of Operation True North Colorado, a mental health company designed for the veterans, first responders, and their families. Goodwin received his doctorate in executive leadership from the University of Charleston, West Virginia, a master’s in industrial and organizational psychology from Argosy University, and a bachelor’s in in criminal justice and psychology from Excelsior University.
Sheriff David Lucero
Sheriff David Lucero of Pueblo, CO will represent the field of criminal justice reform. He is a twenty-two-year law enforcement veteran, having spent eighteen years with the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office. Lucero was sworn in as Sheriff on January 10, 2023.
Stay tuned to Psychedelic Week for more news on Colorado’s Natural Medicine Advisory Board.
*The views expressed on Psychedelic Week do not represent the views of POPLAR at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School or the Florida State University College of Law. Psychedelic Week is an independent project unaffiliated with these programs and institutions.
Mason Marks, MD, JD is the Florida Bar Health Law Section Professor at the Florida State University College of Law. He is the senior fellow and project lead of the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR) at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School and an affiliated fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Marks teaches drug law, psychedelic law, constitutional law, and administrative law. Before moving to Florida, he served on the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board where he chaired its Licensing Subcommittee. Marks has drafted drug policies for state and local lawmakers. His forthcoming book on psychedelic law and politics will be published by Yale University Press. He tweets at @MasonMarksMD and @PsychedelicWeek.
I'm so thrilled to see Dr. Sue Sisley on this panel!
@MasonMarks - curious how this board was selected/elected?