The Massachusetts attorney general’s office has determined that a pair of 2024 psychedelics legalization ballot initiatives have met state constitutional requirements, and it’s now releasing final summaries of the measures and allowing activists to begin collecting signatures to qualify them to go before voters next year.
In a press release on Wednesday, the office said that it vetted 42 initiative petitions and approved 34 of them, including that psychedelics reform measures that were first submitted to the state last month.
The proposals from the Massachusetts for Mental Health Options campaign are nearly identical, except that one would give adults a home grow option and the other would not. Accordingly, the final summaries largely mirror each other with that one policy distinction.
“We appreciate the Attorney General’s decision to certify both of our petitions,” the campaign said in a statement shared with Marijuana Moment on Wednesday. “We believe that Massachusetts voters should have the opportunity to expand mental health access to natural psychedelics.”
“Research from top health care organizations like Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical School show promising results that natural psychedelics can be successful in treating anxiety, depression and PTSD. In particular, we know veterans and first responders who suffer mental health issues need more help and tools for treatment,” advocates said. “The ballot question we are proposing will offer relief and hope to those in need.”
The measures would both create a regulatory framework for lawful and medically supervised access to psychedelics at licensed facilities. Both would legalize the possession and gifting of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca, but they would not otherwise provide for commercial retail sales of the substances.
That’s a key point that the campaign wanted to drive home as the attorney general’s office drafted the summaries. An attorney for the Massachusetts for Mental Health Options campaign urged the office to make slight revisions to initial versions to emphasize that the initiatives would not create a system like the state’s marijuana market, according to a copy of the draft that had track changes comments.
Mason 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, shared the draft document with Marijuana Moment last week.
“This proposed law would license and regulate facilities offering supervised use of these psychedelic substances and provide for the taxation of proceeds from those facilities’ sales of psychedelic substances,” the final summaries for both measures say.
The campaign behind the initiatives is being backed by the national New Approach PAC, which has financially supported successful psychedelics reform efforts in other states like Colorado.
Here are the key details of the Natural Psychedelic Substances Act:
- Adults 21 and older could legally possess 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.
- Under the version that does permit home cultivation, 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.
Now that the attorney general has finalized the summaries, the campaign—once it decides which version of the initiative to pursue—will need to collect an initial batch of 74,574 valid signatures from registered voters and turn them into the secretary of state’s office by the first Wednesday of December.
At that point, the measure would be set to the legislature, which could choose to enact them, propose a substitute or decline to act. If lawmakers decide not to pursue the reform by the first Wednesday of May 2024, activists would then have until the first Wednesday of July to submit at least 12,429 additional valid signatures.
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Notably, the version of the initiative that allows for home grow is being endorsed by Bay Staters for Natural Medicine (BSNM), an organization that has spearheaded a half dozen local psychedelics reform measures in the state and that previously criticized the statewide ballot campaign for a lack of consultation in the lead-up to the filing. The group is neutral on the measure that lacks a home cultivation option, however.
Meanwhile, 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.