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Eighth Massachusetts City Adopts Psychedelics Decriminalization Policy, Also Pushing Changes To Pending State Ballot Initiative



An eighth city in Massachusetts has adopted a local policy to deprioritize arrests around psychedelic plants and fungi, also urging county prosecutors to stop pursuing cases of possession, cultivation or distribution of the substances.

The City Council of Medford passed a resolution Tuesday evening declaring that investigation and arrest of adults for “planting, cultivating, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, and/or possessing entheogenic plants and fungi…shall officially be the lowest law enforcement priority for Medford.”

Further it states that the use and possession of all controlled substances “should be understood first and primarily as an issue of public health by all town entities and that no Medford employee should use any town resources to assist in enforcement of laws criminalizing personal controlled substance possession.”

It also “calls upon the Middlesex County District Attorney to cease prosecution” of noncommercial activity around entheogens.

“The so-called War on Drugs has led to the unnecessary penalization, arrest, and incarceration of vulnerable people, particularly people of color and people of limited financial means, rather than prioritizing harm-reduction policies to treat drug abuse as an issue of public health,” says the resolution as it appeared on Tuesday’s council agenda.

City Councilors Matt Leming (D) and Anna Callahan (D) sponsored the measure, titled “A Resolution Supporting Adult Access and Education for Plant Medicine.”

In addition to declaring local priorities, the resolution also weighs in on possible statewide reform. In it, the Medford City Council endorses legislation introduced last year that would decriminalize small amounts of psilocybin, psilocin, ibogaine, DMT and mescaline.”

Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, a group behind a number of local psychedelics decriminalization measures in Massachusetts, also helped draft the state-level legislation.

The resolution further expresses support for amending a proposed ballot question that would legalize psychedelics in the state, calling for the legislature to instead substitute “language that legalizes plant medicine services in a straightforward manner without an unelected control commission prone to regulatory capture.”

If adopted, the measure would create a regulatory framework for lawful and supervised access to psychedelics at licensed facilities.

After activists submitted an initial batch of valid voter signatures, the legislature now has the choice to enact the reform, propose a substitute or decline to act. If lawmakers decide not to legalize psychedelics by May 1, activists would then have until July 3 to submit at least 12,429 additional valid signatures to put the proposal before voters on the November 2024 ballot.

Medford joins a number of other Massachusetts cities in adopting such psychedelics decriminalization resolutions, including Provincetown, which passed a measure late last year, as well as SalemSomervilleCambridgeEasthamptonNorthampton and Amherst.

Separately, Gov. Maura Healy (D) last month drew attention to testimony around a veterans-focused bill that she’s introduced to create a psychedelics work group that would study the therapeutic potential of substances such as psilocybin.

In the legislature, a Republican lawmaker filed three psychedelics reform bills last year, including proposals to legalize substances like psilocybin and reschedule MDMA pending federal approval while setting a price cap on therapeutic access.

There are several other pieces of psychedelics legislation that have been introduced in Massachusetts for the session by other legislators, including separate measures to legalize certain entheogenic substances for adults.

Another bill would authorize the Department of Public Health to conduct a comprehensive study into the potential therapeutic effects of synthetic psychedelics like MDMA.

Rep. Mike Connolly (D) also filed a bill in 2021 that received a Joint Judiciary Committee hearing on studying the implications of legalizing entheogenic substances like psilocybin and ayahuasca.

Read the full Medford City Council resolution below:

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Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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