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Massachusetts Psychedelics Activists Say Local Election Clerks Certified More Than Enough Signatures For 2024 Legalization Initiative



Massachusetts activists say local election clerks across the state have certified that they turned in more than enough valid signatures to force legislative consideration of a psychedelics legalization initiative before potentially putting the issue on the state’s 2024 ballot.

After submitting signed petitions to local clerks last month, the campaign Massachusetts for Mental Health Options (MMHO) says that those officials have now verified more than 95,000 of the signatures. Those petitions will now be forwarded to the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday for final validation.

Supporters need 74,574 valid signatures to initiate the first step of the process, which will put the reform in front of state lawmakers next year.

“We are thrilled at the response of voters across the state, this is an exciting next step in the process,” Emily Oneschuk, MMHO’s grassroots outreach director and a a U.S. Navy veteran, said in a press release. “Plant based therapeutics are the most effective treatment I have seen for veterans struggling with mental health challenges after service.”

The 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.

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.

If the secretary of state affirms that there are enough valid signatures, the legislature will then 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.

“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,” Lt. Sarko Gergerian said in the MMJO press release. “Don’t lose hope. These options could be available soon for you and your loved ones here in Massachusetts.”

Activists hit a temporary snag last month 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.

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.

BSNM has helped enact local policies to deprioritize enforcement of laws against psychedelics in six cities: SalemSomervilleCambridgeEasthamptonNorthampton and Amherst.

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.

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Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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