Massachusetts and Vermont Are Trying to Legalize Psychedelics and Decriminalize Drugs
Massachusetts could decriminalize minor drug possession and research the legal sales of psychedelics, and Vermont may decriminalize psychedelics and all other drugs.
Published on February 22, 2021

On Election Day 2020, Oregon made history by becoming the first state to decriminalize the possession of all drugs and legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy. This inspiring move has convinced lawmakers all across the country that now is the time to put an end to the War on Drugs.

Last Friday, Massachusetts lawmakers introduced two separate bills designed to phase out prohibition once and for all. The first of these bills, officially titled “An Act Relative to Harm Reduction and Racial Justice,” would decriminalize the possession of any drug, reducing criminal penalties to a simple $50 fine. Anyone busted with drugs would also have the option to enroll in a public health screening program instead of paying the fine. 

The second bill, HD 3829, would establish a 21-person task force to research the feasibility of creating a taxed and regulated sales market for psychedelic drugs. If passed, the bill would require the task force to submit a report on “the public health and social justice implications of legalizing the possession, consumption, transportation, and distribution of naturally cultivated entheogenic plants and fungi” by June of 2022, Marijuana Moment reports.

The task force would be asked to provide recommendations on how to legalize psychedelics “in a manner that maximizes equitable access and sustainable manufacture of these plants.” The proposal also calls for recommendations on how to effectively clear the criminal records of anyone who's previously been busted for using psychedelics and requests further research on how drug prohibition affects marginalized groups.

“I’m looking forward to a dialogue in Massachusetts to identify the most effective and evidence-based public health and harm reduction strategies that should replace the failed drug war,” said Shaleen Title, the former Massachusetts cannabis regulator to Marijuana Moment.

“You know that the War on Drugs is taking its last dying breaths when you see well-respected legislators from all over Massachusetts listening to and centering groups like Families for Justice as Healing and Black and Pink Massachusetts, which are led by the people most directly affected by drug policing and enforcement, instead of supporting continued racially targeted drug arrests,” Title continued.

Meanwhile in Vermont, lawmakers are working to resurrect a psychedelics decriminalization bill that they initially proposed last January. Later this week, State Rep. Brian Cina plans to reintroduce a bill that would completely remove peyote, ayahuasca, mescaline, psilocybin, psilocin, ibogaine, DMT, and any plants that contain those compounds, from the state's list of controlled substances. 

“Humans have had a close relationship with plants and fungi that goes back to the very beginning of humanity,” said Cina, according to Marijuana Moment. “But the legacy of colonization has left us with the criminalization of these medicinal, spiritual, religious, entheogenic medicines... In general, there’s many of us trying to decriminalize human behavior that’s become sort of stigmatized and judged by others but the main impact is on the person.”

Last year's version of the bill never even advanced to a committee hearing, but Cina says that support has grown since last year, and he expects to have seven co-sponsors for the new version of the legislation. Cina’s fellow lawmakers are also planning to unveil a bill that would decriminalize minor possession of all drugs. Little information is known about this bill, but it is expected to be modeled on Oregon's successful decriminalization measure.

The Northeast is not alone in its push for comprehensive drug reform. Last week, a California state Senator proposed a bill to decriminalize the possession and use of psychedelics, and activists are working on a ballot campaign to completely legalize psilocybin mushrooms. And that same week, an Iowa Republican launched a bill to legalize MDMA, LSD, DMT, psilocybin, and other entheogens for terminally ill patients. Legislators in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Washington state, and Virginia have all proposed progressive drug reform bills this year as well.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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