With a psychedelics legalization initiative pending before lawmakers ahead of a potential vote on the November ballot, a Massachusetts legislative committee has advanced a separate bill 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.
The measure, H.3605 from Rep. Nicholas A. Boldyga (R), would require the state Department of Public Health to establish a licensing process for both facilitators themselves and “independent training schools” to instruct them. Would-be facilitators would need to complete no less than 20 hours and no more than 300 hours of training from a licensed school, of which a minimum of 20 would need to be in-person practical training.
The legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health voted to advance the bill with a favorable report on Wednesday.
Facilitators would also need to be 21 or older, Massachusetts residents, high-school graduates and free of felonies for the past five years prior to applying for a license. They would be allowed to possess up to five grams of psilocybin under the proposal. In psychedelic mushrooms, that weight would not include the “water and fungi material that is part of the psilocybin.”
Participants 18 years or older, meanwhile, “may use psilocybin during facilitated sessions, by a properly licensed psilocybin facilitator, for therapeutic, spiritual and medicinal purposes,” the bill says.
Health regulators would make further rules and regulations around licensure.
Facilitators would need to pay a $155 biennial licensing fee, which the advocacy group Bay Staters for Natural Medicine notes would be significantly less than licensing costs in Oregon, the first U.S. state to legalize facilitated psilocybin services.
Licensing will be akin to how the state already regulates licensed counselors. The bill also waives fees for officers, EMTs, paramedics, and veterans with an honorable discharge
— Bay Staters for Natural Medicine (@baystaters) February 8, 2024
Regulators in that Oregon licensed the country’s first state-regulated psychedelic facilitator last April. Many have complained that the services can cost thousands of dollars, however, which the Massachusetts bill’s low licensing fees are designed to combat.
The measure advanced this week is one of three psychedelics reforms that sponsor Boldyga filed last year, including others to reschedule MDMA pending federal approval and set a price cap on therapeutic access.
The development comes on the heels of local leaders in the city of Medford adopting a resolution to deprioritize arrests around psychedelic plants and fungi and also urge county prosecutors to stop pursuing cases of possession, cultivation or distribution of the substances.
The activist-backed legalization initiative now before state lawmakers, meanwhile, would create a regulatory framework for lawful and supervised access to psychedelics at licensed facilities. It would also legalize the possession and gifting of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca, but it would not otherwise provide for commercial retail sales of the substances.
After activists collected an initial batch of signatures from voters, the legislature now has the choice of enacting the reform, proposing a substitute or declining to act entirely. 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.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.