Should Massachusetts Decriminalize Psychedelic Drugs?

As pretty much anyone in Massachusetts knows, possession and use of marijuana (cannabis) has been legal here for a few years now.  It made its way to full legalization following initial decriminalization. Decriminalizing is the legislative process of removing criminal sanctions against an act or behavior, while legalizing something removes all legal prohibitions against that act or conduct.  It was a long and winding road to get to that public policy shift: Despite numerous bills to legalize cannabis being filed with the Massachusetts state legislature, wary (read: politically weak) state legislators never fully stepped up to the plate to act rationally on this issue. Ultimately the issue was put to a state ballot question in 20, and voters forced the legislature to legalize cannabis.

Now, a movement is afoot to legalize all psychedelic drugs in Massachusetts.  Clinically, these drugs are known as “entheogenic cultivated substances”:   An entheogenic is a natural, psychoactive substance that can induce changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior for the purpose of actuating spiritual development.  Entheogenic substances have been used in spiritual and religious settings for centuries. contexts.  The most well-known of these types of drugs are LSD and psylocibin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”.  Proponents for legalization argue that entheogenic plants have been used for centuries by a variety of cultures to address conditions that include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, grief and the anxiety that terminally ill patients suffer, as well as disabling migraines and cluster headaches.

As a Massachusetts drug charges lawyer, I think that legalizing such drugs is a wise alternative to the failed and uneven legal approaches that have been used for more than 50 years now.  The massive failure of the “War on Drugs” has cost billions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent prosecuting millions of otherwise legally abiding citizens for possessing or using these substances.  Bearing in mind that any substance can be abused, psychedelic drugs are, at base, not usually chemically addictive, though they can be psychologically addictive.

The current effort to decriminalize these substances began in the cities of Cambridge and Somerville (no surprise there, as these cities are known for being extremely liberal), but it’s landed at the State House for statewide consideration.  There are now two separate bills in the legislature – one in the Senate, SD 2248, which was just introduced by state Sen. Julian Cyr (D), which is almost identical to a House bill filed by Democrat Mike Connolly with one major exception:  The House bill, HD 3829, would go beyond decriminalization of psychedelic drugs, and allow for regulated sales of certain entheogenic cultivated substances.  Green Market Report, an online news source covering the economics of illegal drug legalization, recently reported on this development.

I’ll explain why I think these bills represent sound and sane approach to the failed 50+ year-old “War on Drugs”, in Part Two of this post a few days from now.

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