Massachusetts officials have certified that activists submitted enough valid signatures to force legislative consideration of a psychedelics legalization initiative before the measure potentially heads to the state’s 2024 ballot.
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s (D) office certified that the campaign Massachusetts for Mental Health Options (MMHO) collected 96,277 valid signatures for the reform measure—about 20,000 more than required to put the issue before legislators.
Accordingly, the proposal has now been officially transmitted to the legislature.
“This brings psilocybin and other breakthrough psychedelic therapies one big step closer to being available to adults dealing with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges,” Jennifer Manley, committee spokesperson, said in a press release on Wednesday.
“We look forward to working with legislative leaders on the possibility and promise of natural psychedelic medicine as we continue our work to provide therapeutic access to these groundbreaking treatments,” she said. “We thank the secretary and his staff for their service reviewing the nearly 100,000 signatures submitted in support, as well as the volunteers and advocates who spent many hours talking to voters around the state.”
The announcement came after a longer-than-usual review process, which was due to an especially high volume of ballot proposals that were being circulated for the 2024 election cycle.
The MMHO measure 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.
“We are on the precipice of a sea change in the way we can help people who may believe they have run out of options,” Winthrop police lieutenant Sarko Gergerian, one of the campaign’s backers, said. “Don’t lose hope. These options could be available soon for you and your loved ones here in Massachusetts.”
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.
Now that the secretary of state has verified the signature count, the legislature will now have 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.
Here are the key details of the Natural Psychedelic Substances Act:
- Adults 21 and older could legally possess, grow and share certain amounts of psychedelics.
- The covered psychedelics and possession limits are: DMT (one gram), non-peyote mescaline (18 grams), ibogaine (30 grams), psilocybin (one gram) and psilocin (one gram). Those weight limits do not include any material that the active substances are attached to or part of.
- The penalty for possession of amounts of up to double the limit would be a $100 civil fine, with amounts above that remaining criminalized.
- A Natural Psychedelic Substances Commission would be created to oversee the implementation of the law and licensing of service centers and facilitators.
- The body, which is modeled on the state’s existing Cannabis Control Commission, would be required to enact rules for regulated access of at least one psychedelic by April 1, 2026. Regulations for the rest of the substances would need to be created by April 1, 2028. It would also need to start accepting applications by September 30, 2026.
- A Natural Psychedelic Substances Advisory Board would “study and make recommendations” to the commission about issues such as public health, regulations, training for facilitators, affordable and equitable access, traditional use of psychedelics and future rules, including possible additions to the list of legal substances.
- Psychedelics purchased at licensed facilities would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, and localities would have the option of imposing an additional two percent tax if they permit the centers to operate in their area. Revenue would be used to fund regulation of the program.
- There are no provisions on expunging prior convictions for activities that would be made legal.
- Local governments could enact regulations on the time, location and manner of service centers, but they could not outright ban them from operating in their area.
- Adults could propagate psychedelics in a maximum 12X12 ft. space.
- There would be civil legal protections related to professional licensure, child custody and public benefits for people who participate in a legalized psychedelic activity.
- The effective date of the law would be December 15, 2024. The commission and advisory board would need to be created by March 1, 2025.
Activists hit a temporary snag in November after local officials flagged problems with a sizable batch of petitions that featured a union logo in violation of the state’s ballot rules. The campaign responded by deploying hundreds of petitioners for an intensive signature drive, more than making up the difference.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) recently introduced legislation 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 for military veterans.
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A local psychedelics reform group, Bay Staters for Natural Medicine (BSNM), says it’s preparing to offer lawmakers a revised version of the initiative this spring. The group, which previously expressed support for the ballot measure version allowing home cultivation, is now proposing to strike language on creating a regulatory commission to oversee the program, and it also wants to give localities that authority to restrict psychedelics services in their areas.
Separately, in the Massachusetts legislature, a Republican lawmaker filed three psychedelics reform bills in April, 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.