Connect with us


Massachusetts House Approves Veterans-Focused Bill On Psychedelics Therapy And Marijuana As An Opioid Alternative



The Massachusetts House has unanimously approved a military veterans-focused bill that includes provisions to create a psychedelics working group to study and make recommendations about the potential therapeutic benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA. Lawmakers also approved an amendment to create a pilot program to examine medical cannabis as an opioid alternative for veterans.

The chamber passed the legislation, an earlier version of which was introduced by Gov. Maura Healey (D) in November, in a 156-0 vote on Wednesday.

The Honoring, Empowering and Recognizing Our Servicemembers and Veterans (HERO Act) is a wide-ranging proposal focused on veterans, but it cleared the House with two key drug policy reform provisions attached.

The psychedelics measure wouldn’t immediately create a framework for legal access, but it would require the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services (EOVS) to convene a working group to study “alternative therapies for mental health treatments for veterans” and exploring “whether psychedelic therapy is associated with improved outcomes among veterans with diagnosed mental health disorders.”

The panel would need to “evaluate literature, research trials and expert opinions to determine in psychedelic therapy is associated with improved outcomes regarding mental health treatment for veterans.” And it would be required to issue recommendations “regarding the provision of psychedelic therapy to treat veterans with mental health disorders in Massachusetts.”

The legislation limits the scope of psychedelics that should be studied to psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine.

The secretary of EOVS would need to appoint to the working group two members representing medical centers that serve veterans, two members representing health insurance companies, two members representing veterans service organizations, one member representing an organization that’s currently studying psychedelics therapy and any additional members seen fit to complete the research.

The working group would need to file a report with findings and recommendations with the clerks of the House and Senate and two joint legislative committees no later than January 1, 2025.

Under an amendment from Rep. Alyson Sullivan (R) that was adopted on the floor as part of a broader package, the bill would also establish a pilot program meant to explore the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis as an opioid alternative for veterans.

The state Department of Public Health would oversee the three-phase program. The first stage would require the department to study the medical literature and delivery devices for cannabis, while consulting with veterans’ service organizations (VSOs) as it evaluates “current medical marijuana programs within the commonwealth” and collaborates with other states on the use of cannabis “to combat opiate use disorder.”

It would need to develop a “basic program structure” for the pilot program, which would involve identifying health professionals and veterans willing to participate.

For the second phase, the department would launch the program in or near Boston, staff it and “produce a marketing campaign including local veterans and celebrities to reduce the stigma of medical marijuana.”

“The department may provide additional support for veterans at the center, including: (A) on-site housing, provided in conjunction with non-profit organizations focused on ending homelessness; and (B) alternative health care, which may include: (1) acupuncture, (2) natural medicine, (3) yoga and (4) massage therapy,” it says.

The third part of the effort would involve an evaluation of the results, after which point the department would need to “construct a statewide civilian pilot program to use medical marijuana to treat medical conditions that are currently being treated with opioid- based medicine and combat opioid use disorder.”

The passage of the HERO Act comes about two weeks after a Massachusetts joint legislative committee advised the legislature not to pass a broader psychedelics legalization initiative. But activists are in the process of collecting additional signatures to put the reform before voters on the November ballot.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 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 were required to consider the psychedelics measure, spearheaded by the campaign Massachusetts for Mental Health Options (MMHO), after the state certified advocates had submitted enough valid signatures in an initial petitioning round last year. The legislature had until May 1 to make a decision before the campaign was cleared to collect another 12,429 signatures by July 3 to secure ballot placement.

Earlier this month, the Special Joint Committee on Ballot Initiatives issued a majority report that formally recommended against passing the measure as drafted.

The campaign first filed two different psychedelics reform initiatives in August, and after the state attorney general determined that they both met the constitutional requirement for ballot placement the following months, activists decided to pursue the version that included a home cultivation option.

Eight cities across Massachusetts have enacted policies to locally deprioritize enforcement of laws against psychedelics, an effort that has been led by BSNM: SalemSomervilleCambridgeEasthamptonNorthamptonAmherst, Provincetown and Medford.

Meanwhile, a different Massachusetts legislative committee advanced a bill in February that would legalize psilocybin therapy in the Commonwealth and set up a framework to license facilitators who would supervise medical, therapeutic and spiritual applications of the drug.

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.

Daily Marijuana Use In U.S. Is Now More Common Than Daily Alcohol Drinking, New Study Finds

Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Get our daily newsletter.

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Get our daily newsletter.