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Maryland Lawmakers Hold First Committee Hearing On Marijuana Legalization

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The issue of legalizing marijuana in Maryland had its first committee hearing on Tuesday, with lawmakers considering a bill to regulate adult-use cannabis and earmark large portions of industry tax revenue for programs aimed at communities disproportionately harmed by the drug war.

“This bill ends Maryland’s failed policy of cannabis prohibition and replaces it with a system to test and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older,” Del. Jazz Lewis (D), the sponsor of HB 32, said at the House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The measure “takes marijuana production and sales off the streets and ensures regulated, labeled, lab-tested products while creating thousands of new good jobs, businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue to serve the community,” Lewis said.

The House panel heard more than two hours of testimony and debate on the bill at Tuesday’s hearing but ultimately did not vote on whether to advance the measure.

HB 32 is one of two marijuana legalization measures before Maryland lawmakers this year. The other is SB 708, introduced by Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Brian Feldman (D) and cosponsored by top Senate Democrats including the body’s president and majority leader. That measure is scheduled to be heard by a Senate committee on March 4.

Lewis said when he filed the bill in December that he introduced the legislation “because we have the data and popular opinion on our side to end prohibition.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Lewis announced amendments meant to harmonize his proposal with the Senate legislation. Among the biggest changes, are decreased taxes and cutting the maximum number of marijuana retail licenses in half, from 200 to 100.

The biggest remaining difference between the two chambers’ bills, Lewis said, is that HB 32 would allow state regulators to issue an unlimited number of microbusiness licenses despite limits on medium and large business licenses. “That’s something that’s critically important to the independent dispensaries in order to survive competing with the vertically aligned businesses,” he said.

With the proposed changes, the bill would legalize possession of up to four ounces of marijuana—up from two in order to match the Senate bill—as well as home cultivation for personal use. Individuals with past convictions for low-level cannabis activity would see those records expunged, and people currently incarcerated for cannabis crimes would be resentenced or released.

Revenue from the newly legal industry is expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars during the program’s early years and continue growing as the market matures. Nearly two-thirds of that revenue, 63 percent, will go to a community reinvestment fund, which would support programs to address the effects of poverty, mass incarceration and racism.

Additional money would go to the Maryland’s general fund, the state’s Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), substance abuse treatment, cannabis research and educational outreach, especially to encourage youth not to use the drug.

The bill would also allow existing medical marijuana businesses to enter the adult-use market early, although they would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in registration fees. That money would establish a social equity startup fund, which would provide capital and other resources to equity applicants looking to enter the industry.

“Let’s be clear: 30 percent of Maryland is Black,” Lewis said at Tuesday’s hearing. “We need to put our money where our mouth is.”

A number of lawmakers on the committee, as well as advocates who spoke in favor of HB 32, praised the measure’s strong focus equity, both in terms of criminal justice and when it comes to building a diverse legal industry.

“I personally would not support anything that did not have some protections for Black people being able to participate in this industry,” said committee Vice Chair Vanessa Atterbeary (D).

Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP and the Democratic candidate for Maryland governor in 2018, told the panel that “it is rare that you all have an opportunity to create an industry and, in the process, right past wrongs and create a more inclusive economy.”

Others who testified in support of the measure applauded its equity goals but suggested amendments to strengthen protections for small and minority-owned businesses. Hope Wiseman, CEO of Mary and Main, one of the state’s only Black-owned medical marijuana dispensaries, suggested that registration fees be adjusted to reflect that some type of businesses are more lucrative than others. Wiseman suggested a system with “growers paying the most, then processors, then dispensaries, as this is based on the amount of revenue that each license type generally makes.”

Skeptical lawmakers on the House panel pressed supporters on an array of typical legalization concerns, such as public consumption (which would remain illegal under the bill), driving under the influence of cannabis (also already illegal) and whether state-level legalization would interfere with employers screening workers for drug use (it wouldn’t).

Del. Mike Griffith (R), worried that legalizing THC-infused edibles would lead to increased use among youth. “My six year old would see an edible candy bar, wouldn’t know the difference, and would go to town,” he said.

Olivia Naugle, legislative analyst for the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), replied that evidence from the first few U.S. states that legalized marijuana indicates youth use has actually fallen. “Colorado and Washington have both conducted large-scale surveys with thousands of high-school students since both states legalized cannabis in 2012, and those results have actually shown modest decreases in rates of youth cannabis use.” Naugle said. “I think regulating cannabis really sends a message to youth that marijuana is for adults, and for adults to use responsibly.”

Del. Ron Watson (D), who indicated he supports the bill, asked why its expungement provisions wouldn’t apply to people convicted of selling small amounts of marijuana. “It seems like everybody’s taken care of except the sales guy or gal,” he said.

Lewis replied that “I would gladly clear it all” but acknowledged that there would likely be disagreement over where to draw the line: “I imagine there may be some difference of opinion as to, you know, at what level someone moves from being a corner boy to being something more.”

Other lawmakers quizzed Lewis on how “equity” would be defined and who specifically would benefit under the proposal. “What if you’re just Black and live in the suburbs?” Atterbeary asked.

Lewis said three groups currently would qualify for equity benefits under the current bill: people formerly incarcerated on a cannabis-related charge or their family members, people who live in areas where data shows disproportionate policing of laws against cannabis and/or people who are racial minorities in the state.

He added that supporters have written to the state attorney general’s office to make sure those rules—specifically around race-based eligibility—are constitutional. “We’re waiting for that to come back right now,” Lewis said.

The bill would also reserve control of certain ancillary businesses, such as security and delivery services, exclusively for equity applicants.

Rajani Gudlavalleti, a member of the executive leadership team at the Baltimore Harm Control Coalition, told the panel that legalization and social equity measures are essential to undo drug-war harms and build healthy communities.

“Our vision for a healthier world requires a model of cannabis legalization that includes strategies for repair from the impacts of the drug war in communities of color,” Gudlavelleti said, “and so that is why Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition supports HB 32.”

The legalization bill would leave the state’s medical marijuana system unchanged, creating a separate agency to oversee the adult-use market. William Tilburg, executive director of the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission, which has not taken a position on the legislation, said that approach “quite literally doubles administrative costs to the state” and urged the two systems be overseen by a common regulator.

At one point in the hearing, Lewis announced that the Maryland Department of Health had endorsed the legalization plan, but he later told Marijuana Moment the claim was the result of miscommunication from a staffer at the department, who initially indicated in a text message to the lawmaker that it would “testify in support of” the bill.

A representative for the Department of Health told Marijuana Moment that the agency signed up as an “information” witness and took no position on the bill itself.

Maryland legalized medical marijuana through an act of the legislature in 2012. Two years later, a decriminalization law took effect that replaced criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams with a civil fine of $100 to $500. Since then, however, a number of efforts to further marijuana reform have fallen short.

A bill last year to expand the decriminalization possession threshold to an ounce passed the House last year but was never taken up in the Senate.

In May, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that would have shielded people with low-level cannabis convictions from having their records publicized on a state database. In a veto statement, he said it was because lawmakers failed to pass a separate, non-cannabis measure aimed at addressing violent crime.

Hogan has hesitated to take a strong stand on marijuana in the past, though he’s more recently signaled openness to the idea. In 2017, he declined to respond to a question about whether voters should be able to decide the issue, but by mid-2018 he had signed a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana system and said full legalization was worth considering: “At this point, I think it’s worth taking a look at,” he said at the time.

As for Maryland lawmakers, a House committee in 2019 held hearings on two bills that would have legalized marijuana. While those proposals didn’t pass, they encouraged many hesitant lawmakers to begin seriously considering the change.

Atterbeary, who was also at Tuesday’s hearing, said at the prior hearings that she had been “fundamentally opposed” to legalization in previous years but was increasingly “in the mindset that it’s been growing on me.”

In a statement to Marijuana Moment after Tuesday’s hearing, Naugle at MPP applauded Lewis for his leadership on HB 32. Passing the measure “would save thousands of Marylanders—disproportionately Black Marylanders—from arrests and criminal convictions.”

“There are now 15 states that have ended cannabis prohibition,” she added, noting that conservative states such as Montana and South Dakota have also passed legalization laws. “Maryland should follow suit by passing HB 32 this session. This is a just, equitable cannabis policy that Maryland could be proud of and be a leader to other states.”

Lawmakers And Advocates Urge Biden To Grant Marijuana Clemency In Presidents Day Push

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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House Rejects AOC Amendment To Promote Research Into Psychedelics’ Medical Benefits

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The U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment on Tuesday that was designed to free up research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. The body also addressed several other amendments related to cannabis.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) filed the psychedelics measure, which would remove a 1990s-era provision that’s long been part of spending legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The congresswoman attempted to eliminate the language via an amendment in 2019 only to have it defeated by Republicans as well as a majority of her own party members in a resounding vote of 91-331.

This time around—amid a growing national movement to reform laws around psychedelics—the chamber rejected it with a narrower 140-285 tally for inclusion as part of a large-scale funding package covering multiple federal agencies.

Most Democrats supported the reform in the most recent vote, but enough still sided with the vast majority of Republicans to defeat it.

“The United States has and continues to uphold an obsolete provision from the war on drugs,” Ocasio-Cortez said on the floor before the vote. “This provision specifically has for a very long period of time presented and acted as a barricade to federal research on certain substances— psilocybin, MDMA and marijuana—and allowing us to research the potential therapeutic applications of these drugs in the treatment of diseases such as PTSD, addiction and depression. We are long overdue.”

Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) also spoke in support of expanding psychedelic research, saying the substances can “help veterans deal with those invisible wounds that they bring back from the battlefield—PTSD and other mental issues that they bring back with them and carry with them on a day to day basis.”

The House also acted on a series of other amendments concerning cannabis on Tuesday that the House Rules Committee had made in order for floor consideration earlier this week.

For example, a pro-reform proposal that advanced encourages the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enact rules allowing CBD as a dietary supplement and food ingredient. Filed by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and approved in a voice vote as part of an en bloc package with other amendments, it encourages FDA to create a regulatory pathway for CBD “no later than 180 days after enactment.”

In a House floor speech, Schrader said hemp businesses face “economic burdens from the regulatory uncertainty caused by lack of action” from FDA.

“The livelihoods of hemp farmers and safety of consumers across the country reside in the hands of the agency,” he said.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Lawmakers defeated a proposal from Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) appropriations bill to eliminate a rider that’s currently in the legislation that “allows federal funding to go to institutions of higher education that are conducting research on marijuana.”

That measure generated significant pushback given that research into cannabis is an overwhelmingly bipartisan issue, and top federal drug officials have repeatedly urged Congress to support policies that make it easier to study the risks and benefits of the plant. What’s more, Lesko represents a state with adult-use legalization on the books.

The congresswoman argued in a House floor speech before the vote that not passing her amendment would “permit universities to offer a class called ‘Pot Smoking 101’ [that’s] dedicated to smoking pot under the false pretense of research.”

But House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said removing the current marijuana protections for universities in the bill could hamper studies.

“Without such research, there would be limited scientific discovery and breakthroughs helping to shape our daily lives,” she said. “Evidence-based research regarding cannabis ought to be encouraged in academic settings, not discouraged, and we should ensure that we broaden our understanding of marijuana, not limit it.”

Lesko’s amendment was rejected, with 147 votes in favor and 276 against.

Another amendment, which was rejected in a different en bloc package with other proposals, would have transferred “$25 million from the Environmental Programs and Management enforcement activities account to the National Forest System account for enforcement and remediation of illegal marijuana trespass grow sites on federal lands and for the clean-up of toxic waste and chemicals at these sites,” according to a description.

That measure was filed by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), who recently released video of himself driving a bulldozer of cannabis plants.

Two marijuana reform amendments from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) that legalization advocates hoped to see advance were blocked from floor consideration by the Rules Committee on Monday.

Her proposals—which were aimed at appropriations legislation for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—would have made it so marijuana possession or consumption could not be used as the sole basis for denying people access to public housing. One Norton amendment was narrowly focused on medical cannabis while a second measure would have covered all marijuana use that’s legal under state laws.

Members filed these proposed revisions as part of the appropriations minibus bill for fiscal year 2022 to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, Rural Development, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.

The spending package as introduced would also allow Washington, D.C. to use its local tax dollars to implement a system of lawful marijuana sales for adults.

That stands in contrast to a budget proposal from President Joe Biden, whose administration is seeking to keep language protecting medical cannabis states from federal intervention but has excluded the provision on giving D.C. autonomy to legalize marijuana commerce.

Another provision that was included as part of the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) spending bill would protect banks that work with marijuana businesses. Further, the committee report attached to that legislation encourages federal government agencies to reconsider policies that fire employees for using marijuana in compliance with state law.

Federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions, a report attached to separate spending legislation that’s part of the minibus package says.

Report language also directs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve communication on veteran eligibility for home loans and report back to Congress on its progress within 180 days of the enactment of the legislation. A separate provision urges VA to expand research on the medical benefits of cannabis for veterans.

In the report for Agriculture Department funding, lawmakers took issue with the 2018 Farm Bill’s 0.3 percent THC cap for lawful hemp products and directed USDA to work with HHS and DEA on a study of whether that threshold is scientifically backed. That report also addressed numerous other issues related to the crop.

Other report language attached to this spending package highlights the difficulty of studying Schedule I drugs like marijuana, recognizes the medical potential of cannabinoids like CBD, encourages federal agencies not to restrict the plant kratom and acknowledges the lifesaving value of syringe access programs and safe consumption sites for illegal drugs.

The appropriations process this session has seen numerous drug policy reform provisions included in bill text and attached reports—also stopping immigrants from being deported for cannabis, for example, among other issues.

A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers recently circulated a letter to build support for an amendment to a separate Department of Justice spending bill that would protect all state and tribal marijuana programs from federal interference—going beyond the existing measure that shields only medical cannabis states that’s currently enacted into law. There are now 15 cosponsors signed on to the broader proposal, which is being considered by the Rules Committee and may see floor action this week.

The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) spending report also notes that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has moved to approve additional marijuana manufacturers for research purposes and says the committee supports ongoing research efforts on cannabis, particularly in the wake of an outbreak of lung injuries associated with unregulated vaping products.

The bill was up for Rules Committee consideration on Tuesday, but the panel delayed decisions on amendments until Wednesday morning.

A provision was also attached to the bill that would make states and localities ineligible for certain federal law enforcement grants if they maintain a policy allowing for no-knock warrants for drug-related cases. That policy garnered national attention following the police killing of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by law enforcement during a botched drug raid.

Ohio Marijuana Activists Launch Ballot Campaign To Push Lawmakers To Enact Legalization

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Ohio Marijuana Activists Launch Ballot Campaign To Push Lawmakers To Enact Legalization

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Ohio marijuana activists have a new plan to legalize cannabis in the state as lawmakers pursue separate reform legislation.

Voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative, and advocates suspended a campaign to place another measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic. But on Tuesday, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) launched a new effort to implore legislators to enact the policy change.

The group submitted the requisite 1,000 signatures to the Ohio attorney general’s office on Tuesday. Officials now have 10 days to review the summary and text to ensure that it is “fair and truthful” and approve it for circulation. Several existing medical cannabis businesses are backing the measure.

“I think people are tired of prohibition with respect to marijuana,” spokesperson Tom Haren told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Tuesday, adding that he thinks Ohioans are ready to join the growing list of states that are enacting legalization.

Unlike past efforts, the new measure is a statutory, rather that a constitutional, proposal. If supporters collect 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters, the legislature will then have four months to adopt the measure, reject it or adopt and amended version. If lawmakers to not pass the proposal, organizers will then need to collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the measure before voters on the ballot in 2022.

“We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol,” Haren said in a press release. “Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and benefiting everyone.”

The proposed law that CTRMLA is pushing would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older, and they could also have up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. Individuals could grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum 12 plants per household.

It’s a notable departure from the failed 2015 reform initiative, which faced criticism from advocates because of an oligopolistic model that would’ve granted exclusive control over cannabis production to the very funders who paid to put the measure on the ballot.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

A 10 percent sales tax would be imposed on cannabis sales, with revenue being divided up to support social equity and jobs programs (36 percent), localities that allow adult-use marijuana enterprises to operate in their area (36 percent), education and substance misuse programs (25 percent) and administrative costs of implementing the system (three percent).

Under the proposal, a Division of Cannabis Control would be established under the state Department of Commerce. It would have authority to “license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed.”

The measure gives current medical cannabis businesses a head start in the recreational market. Regulators would need to begin issuing adult-use licenses to qualified applicants who operate existing medical operations within nine months of the enactment of the legislation.

The division would also be required to issue 40 recreational cultivator licenses and 50 adult-use retailer licenses “with a preference to applications who are participants under the cannabis social equity and jobs program.” And it would authorize regulators to issue additional licenses for the recreational market two years after the first operator is approved.

Individual municipalities would be able to opt out of allowing new recreational cannabis companies from opening in their area, but they could not block existing medical marijuana firms even if they want to add co-located adult-use operations. Employers could also maintain policies prohibiting workers from consuming cannabis for adult use.

Further, regulators would be required to “enter into an agreement with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services” to provide “cannabis addiction services,” which would involve “education and treatment for individuals with addiction issues related to cannabis or other controlled substances including opioids.”

“Marijuana legalization is an issue whose time has come in Ohio,” Haren said in the press release, adding that “we crafted legislation based on the best practices learned by those that went before us.”

“Ohioans want this,” he said. “They see marijuana legalization as inevitable. They want our leaders to seize the opportunity and take control of our future.”

With respect to social equity, some advocate are concerned about the lack of specific language on automatic expungements to clear the records of people with convictions for offenses that would be made legal under the legislation. That said, it does include a provision requiring regulators to “study and fund” criminal justice reform initiatives including expungements.

Haren said the reason they weren’t able to prescribe specific expungement provisions is due to the state’s single subject ballot rule for initiated statutes.

If the measure does make the ballot, the results of local reform initiatives across the state signal that it would be successful.

As it stands, 22 jurisdictions have adopted local statues so far that reduce the penalty for low-level cannabis possession from a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine to the “lowest penalty allowed by state law.” And activists are pursuing similar policy changes in dozens of cities this year, with several having already collected enough signatures to qualify for local ballots.

“Legalization is popular in Ohio,” Haren told Marijuana Moment. “That’s why these types of local decrim measures are passing—because people recognize that marijuana prohibition has failed, and it’s not good policy. And it’s much better policy to have a regulated market that provides consumers with an ability to purchase from a legal, regulated source.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Casey Weinstein (D) recently announced he will be sponsoring legislation alongside Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D) this session that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the state. It would mark the first time such a proposal to allow recreational cannabis commerce has been introduced in the legislature

“Ohioans and Americans are way out ahead on this issue, and the comfort level with first decriminalization and medical marijuana and then full legalization is just so far beyond where legislators are,” Weinstein told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview about his bill. “This is an effort to close that gap and catch up.”

Haren said that while he hasn’t reviewed Weinstein’s legislation at this point, his organization would welcome working with any lawmaker to get reform enacted one way or the other.

Weinstein’s bill would would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow them to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. It will also include provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities that are being made legal under the measure.

Like the CTRMLA proposal, a 10 percent excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales. But after covering administrative costs, revenue would be divided among municipalities with at least one cannabis shop (15 percent), counties with at least one shop (15 percent), K-12 education (35 percent) and infrastructure (35 percent).

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is likely to oppose the legislative effort given his record. But a voter-led initiative could create a different opportunity for advocates.

“We are laser focused at this point on getting the required number of signatures, sending it to the legislature and then working with them—hand in glove, in lockstep, whatever phrase you want to use—to get get this proposal ultimately signed into law by the governor,” Haren said.

According to cleveland.com, the CTRMLA campaign has already hired several prominent consulting firms to work on the effort, suggesting it has robust funding.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Discuss Bill To Create Psychedelics Legalization Task Force At Hearing

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Massachusetts Lawmakers Discuss Bill To Create Psychedelics Legalization Task Force At Hearing

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Massachusetts lawmakers on Tuesday heard testimony about a bill to create a task force charged with studying the implications of legalizing psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca.

The legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee met to discuss legislation from Rep. Mike Connolly (D). While members didn’t vote on the proposal, the sponsor was able to make the case for the reform, noting the emerging research that suggests entheogenic substances hold significant therapeutic potential for certain mental health conditions.

He also pointed to the local reform movement that’s led three Massachusetts cities to decriminalize psychedelics so far, saying it represents “another reason why it should be a priority for all of us to bring stakeholders together and have that conversation about what policies should look like.”

“We’re hearing from the medical community, we’re hearing from clinicians and researchers that the potential benefits here simply can’t be ignored,” Connolly said. “There are these issues like PTSD and depression, anxiety and addiction that…we are struggling to address, and what the research is telling us is that these substances offer a tremendous benefit.”

The 21-member task force that the lawmaker is proposing would be responsible for analyzing the pros and cons of “legalizing the possession, consumption, transportation and distribution of naturally cultivated entheogenic plants and fungi.”

The sponsor said on Tuesday that the group “could really allow Massachusetts to play a leadership role in crafting policies around these substances.”

In an email to Marijuana Moment, Connolly said that momentum for broader psychedelics and drug policy reform in states across the country shows that “our proposal to create a task force to craft policies around legalization is rational and warranted.”

“Given our status as a longtime leader in civil rights, freedom, academic research and advances in medicine,” he said, “it is important for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be proactive about crafting policies to ensure that as the movement for legalization of psychedelics continues to advance—and as the clinical trials showing the therapeutic value of these medicines continue to pile up—that we are moving forward in an equitable, just and inclusive fashion.”


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan also testified in favor of the reform proposal before the committee on Tuesday.

For the most part, the burgeoning psychedelics reform movement has been limited to decriminalization—with the exception or Oregon, where voters elected to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes during last year’s election. California activists are also pushing to place psilocybin legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot as a lawmaker works to pass a separate bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics that has already passed the state Senate and two Assembly committees.

While the Massachusetts legislation would only establish a task force to investigate the potential legalization of these substances, it marks another significant development demonstrating how local reforms have caught the attention of state legislators.

Connolly said at Tuesday’s hearing that it’s important to remember “that it was the Nixon administration in the 1970s that classified entheogens as Schedule I substances, without any real scientific basis. It was more to do with politics—it was more to do with systemic racism—that led to this classification and this criminalization.”

“Today, when you hear some of the professionals, some of the researchers talk about this, they really feel like we lost several decades of potential therapeutic benefit because of these arbitrary political decisions,” he said. “With this task force, there really is an opportunity for us in Massachusetts to bring policymakers and stakeholders together to make sure that as this research advances we can be ready with applicable policies, so don’t don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

The lawmaker said “the war on drugs, racial injustice and years of oppression here in our country” partly motivated the introduction of his legislation.

The task force would “bring together stakeholders from the scientific, public safety, racial justice, harm reduction, indigenous, social work, the relevant regulatory bodies and medical communities to make recommendations for the legalization and possession, consumption and distribution of entheogenic substances,” he said.

Three Massachusetts cities—NorthamptonSomerville and Cambridge—have each passed resolutions to deprioritize enforcement of laws against the possession, use and distribution of a wide range of psychedelics and other drugs.

“I’m proud to represent Somerville and Cambridge, two communities that have acted in recent months to decriminalize the possession of psychedelics and entheogenic plans, primarily as part of the larger movement to continue working to undo the racist impact of the War On Drugs,” Connolly told Marijuana Moment.

If his bill is enacted, the 21-person task force would have until June 2022 to study the effects of plant- and fungi-based psychedelics and develop recommendations for how to legalize the substances “in a manner that maximizes equitable access and sustainable manufacture of these plants.”

Particular focus would be paid under the bill to the impact of drug prohibition on on marginalized groups, “including indigenous people, veterans, people with physical and mental health disabilities, Black people, people of Latino and Hispanic heritage, people of Asian descent, people of color, people in poverty, and people identifying with the LGBTQ community.”

The measure also calls for the task force to develop recommendations around “pardons, parole, diversion, expungement, and equity measures” for people with criminal records due to possession, or distribution of controlled substances.

The Massachusetts developments are some of the latest iterations of a national psychedelics reform movement that’s spread since Denver became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019.

Besides the cities in Massachusetts, four others—OaklandSanta CruzAnn Arbor and Washington, D.C.—have also decriminalized possession of plant-and fungi-based psychedelics.

An Arcata, California councilmember announced this month that she would sponsor a measure to decriminalize psychedelics. That measure has since been referred to a committee.

The governor of Connecticut signed legislation recently that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Texas also recently enacted a bill to require the state study the medical benefits of psychedelics for military veterans.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill last month that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.

After Ann Arbor legislators passed a decriminalization resolution last year, a county prosecutor recently announced that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi—“regardless of the amount at issue.”

The Aspen, Colorado City Council discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and proposals to decriminalize such substances at a meeting in May. But members said, as it stands, enacting a reform would be more better handled at the state level while entheogens remain strictly federally controlled.

Seattle lawmakers also recently sent a letter to members of a local task force focused on the opioid overdose epidemic, imploring the group to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like ayahuasca and ibogaine in curbing addiction.

The psychedelics conversation is also catching on at the federal level.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote this week on a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that remove a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine.

In 2019, a large majority of Democratic House members joined all but seven Republicans in a vote against an earlier version of the congresswoman’s amendment. But given the surge in state and local psychedelics reform efforts in the years since, it stands to reason that this Congress may take the issue more seriously this time.

Federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions, a report attached to separate spending legislation that’s part of an advancing minibus package says.

When it comes to broader drug policy reform, Oregon voters also approved an initiative in November to decriminalize possession of all drugs. This year, the Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill, but it later died in the Senate.

Last month, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

White House Declines To Blame Marijuana Sales For Violent Crime Spike Despite D.C. Police Chief’s Comments

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.

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