Massachusetts lawmakers passed a bill Friday to end the war on drugs in the state. One proposal seeks to decriminalise the possession of all drugs and the other to set up a working group to study plant and mushroom-based psychedelics with a view to legalising and regulating them.
Calls for an end to criminal prohibition have been heard across the state, and two city councils – in Somerville and Cambridge – approved measures earlier this year that would make the possession of psychedelics the lowest law enforcement priority for municipalities.
A statewide decriminalization bill, HD 3439, was introduced by lawmakers Friday. Liz Miranda (D) and Mike Connolly (D), would convert the criminal penalty for possession of a controlled substance to a civil fine of up to $50. To avoid a fine, individuals may complete a needs assessment to determine the need for medical and other services, including, but not limited to, services related to addiction and mental illness, lack of employment, housing or food, and any need for civil services.
The Senate version of the bill, SD 2248, was introduced Friday by Senator Julian Cheese (D) and is nearly identical to the House version. These two measures are called the Harm Reduction and Racial Justice Act, a recognition of the disproportionate incarceration and persecution of racial minorities in the war on drugs.
A separate House of Representatives bill introduced Friday by Connolly could eventually lead to easy decriminalization in Massachusetts and allow for the regulated sale of certain drugs.
First, Project HD 3829 will establish an interagency working group to study the public health and social justice implications of legalizing the possession, consumption, transportation, and distribution of naturally grown entheogenic plants and fungi.
By June 2022, a 21-member working group will study the effects of herbal and fungal psychedelics and develop recommendations for the legalization of these substances to maximize equitable access and sustainable production of these plants.
The bill would pay particular attention to the impact of drug prohibition on marginalized groups, including Aboriginal people, veterans, people with physical and mental disabilities, blacks, people of Hispanic and Latino descent, people of Asian descent, people of color, people living in poverty, and people belonging to the LGBTQ community.
The measure also calls for the working group to formulate recommendations on pardons, parole, diversion, incarceration and equity for individuals with criminal records for possession or distribution of controlled substances.
One of the proponents of this measure is James Davis, the lead organizer of the Bay Staters’ Massachusetts Nature and Natural Medicine Decriminalization Campaign, who has spearheaded successful decriminalization efforts in Somerville and Cambridge. Davis did not immediately respond to an email Friday, but after Somerville took action last month, he described the victory as a clear and powerful signal to our entire state that the war on drugs has failed and that entheogenic plants have medicinal and spiritual value.
Anti-drug reformers welcomed the filing of the bills on Friday as an opportunity to move the discussion of decriminalization forward and said the measures are a sign that lawmakers are paying close attention to the work of local harm reduction advocates.
I look forward to the dialogue that will take place in Massachusetts to identify the most effective and evidence-based public health and harm reduction strategies to replace the failed war on drugs, said Shaleen Title, a former cannabis regulator in Massachusetts and long-time drug policy activist.
You know the war on drugs is breathing its last breath when you see respected legislators from across Massachusetts listening and reaching out to groups like Families for Justice Like Healing and Black and Pink Massachusetts, led by the people most directly affected by the war on drugs, instead of supporting the ongoing racially motivated arrests, Tittle said.
In other parts of the country, lawmakers are considering similar reforms to abolish or eliminate drug-related penalties.
California Senator Scott Wiener (D) introduced a bill Thursday to legalize the possession and social sharing of a number of drugs, including psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, ketamine, mescaline, ibogaine, DMT and MDMA. It also provides for the annulment of previous convictions for possession or use. The proposal calls for the state to establish a working group to study possible future regulatory schemes for psychedelics and report back in 2024.
A Republican lawmaker in Iowa introduced a bill earlier this month to remove psilocybin from the list of controlled substances, while another would allow seriously ill patients to use psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, MMT and other drugs.
Last week, a Texas lawmaker filed a bill that would require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine in treating certain mental illnesses.
Lawmakers in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Washington State and Virginia are also considering bills on psychedelics and drug policy reform for the 2021 session.
In neighboring Vermont, lawmakers are expected to introduce a series of bills in the coming weeks to reform drug laws, including a measure to decriminalize all drugs and a separate proposal expected Tuesday that would remove psychedelic plants and magic mushrooms from the state’s list of controlled substances.
Humans have a close relationship with plants and fungi that goes back to the dawn of mankind, Vermont Assemblyman Brian Zina (P/D), who sponsored the bill on psychedelics, said this week. But the legacy of colonization has left us with the criminalization of this medicine, spiritual, religious, entheogenic.
California would legalize the possession of psychedelics like LSD, DMT and psilocybin under a new Senate bill.
frequently asked questions
Are psychedelics legal in Massachusetts?
In January 2021, the Somerville City Council voted unanimously to decriminalize the possession of entheogenic plants, including psilocybin and ibogaine. The city council of Cambridge, Massachusetts, followed suit in February 2021.
Does decriminalisation mean legalisation?
Cannabis legalization is the process of removing all legal prohibitions on cannabis. … The decriminalization of cannabis means that it remains illegal, but the legal system will not prosecute someone for possessing a prescribed amount.
What are the consequences of the legalisation of drugs?
Proponents of drug legalization believe that cheap and widespread distribution of quality drugs will eliminate the illegal drug market, regulate quality and price, and reduce the cost of law enforcement, including arrests and incarceration.
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