Political strategists in Massachusetts have quietly filed paperwork to put a therapeutic psychedelics legalization initiative on the state’s 2024 ballot.
The newly formed Massachusetts for Mental Health Options (MMHO) committee submitted initial documents to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), signaling their intent to secure ballot placement for the measure, details of which are currently sparse.
An organization statement filed last week says that the purpose of the group will be to “expand mental health treatment options in Massachusetts by providing new pathways to access natural psychedelic medicine therapy.”
The filing also says that the forthcoming ballot question will be focused on “creating access to natural psychedelic medicine therapy and removing criminal penalties for personal possession of these medicines.”
But the development, first reported by Mason Marks in Psychedelic Week, has left some feeling uncomfortable. Part of the reason is that there’s an open question as to what extent the committee sought to engage with local reform advocacy groups that have successfully worked to enact psychedelics decriminalization in six Massachusetts cities—most recently in Salem.
Marks, a law professor at the Florida State University College of Law and co-founder of the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR) at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School, also said that evidence suggests that the new committee may be tied to the national New Approach PAC, which played a major role in getting psychedelics initiatives on the ballot in Colorado and Oregon last year.
David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, who financially supports New Approach and has funded various efforts to reform marijuana and psychedelics laws around the country, disclosed at a conference in Denver last month that he is backing similar reform endeavors in Massachusetts as well as in Arizona.
Bronner said in an email on Sunday that “things are still super exploratory and preliminary as far as the coalition and policy coming together there.” After reading Marks’s report, he said he reached out to allies and state donors to learn more and they informed him that “to even do this exploration they had to formally file first.”
“Conversations are happening in all directions to see if it is viable, and if so the policy will reflect input from all stakeholders and iterate / learn from / improve on CO, on both decrim and regulated access, within Mass’s single issue constraints.,” he said, referring to a rule that says ballot initiatives in the state must only cover a single subject.
The two people who filed the paperwork for MMHO are Danielle McCourt of DLM Strategies and Meredith Learner Moghimi of MLM Strategies. It remains unclear who is funding the effort, or what the initiative they’ve envisioned will ultimately look like. The deadline to submit the initiative petition is just weeks away, on August 3, so that information may become available sooner than later.
The Massachusetts for Mental Health Options has been organized as a ballot question committee on 7/3/23.
Filer Page: https://t.co/yKgODITphM
— OCPF Organizations (@OCPFORG) July 5, 2023
When reached for comment about the campaign, Moghimi told the State House News Service to contact Ben Unger, who works at New Approach, further signaling a connection between the PAC and the new Massachusetts effort.
Like Bronner, Unger said that the committee is “still very much in the exploratory phase.”
“The coalition is still forming and the policy is still going through a process of being vetted, discussed and finalized,” he said. “As you can imagine, lots [of] details to iron out.”
Massachusetts, which legalized adult-use marijuana at the ballot in 2016, has become a major hub for psychedelics policy reform in recent years, with the highest number of cities of any other state that have enacted decriminalization measures, largely led by grassroots activists such as those with the non-profit Bay Staters for Natural Medicine.
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Meanwhile, in the legislature, a Republican lawmaker recently filed three psychedelics reform bills, 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.