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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
10 Jun 2023
Chris Van Buskirk

NextImg:Northampton, Somerville Democrats want to decriminalize magic mushrooms in Massachusetts

Any person 18 years or older could grow, eat, or share magic mushrooms under legislation pending on Beacon Hill that supporters say will offer residents another option to treat mental health and addiction disorders.

Six communities in Massachusetts have already directed their police departments to not make arrests for possession of psilocybin, a move that effectively decriminalizes the use of the drug. Advocates now argue the lawmakers should pass bills from a pair of Democrats that decriminalize so-called magic mushrooms on a statewide level.

“It’s ridiculous that a plant medicine we’ve been using for tens of thousands of years that grows straight from the ground that … has the lowest harms of any controlled substance, far less than alcohol and cigarettes that we buy at corner stores, is not available to people who could really benefit,” said James Davis, a former Beacon Hill staffer who now runs Bay State for Natural Medicine.

Rep. Lindsay Sabadossa and Sen. Pat Jehlen filed bills that decriminalize possession, ingestion, obtaining, growing, giving away “without financial gain” to people 18 years and older, and transportation of up to two grams of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, and mescaline.

The proposals are scheduled for a Tuesday hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by two Democrats, Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Michael Day.

Psilocybin is the chemical commonly found in magic mushrooms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted “breakthrough” status to psilocybin in 2017, and has since approved applications for companies to investigate its use in treating various disorders.

Somerville, Cambridge, Northampton, Easthampton, Amherst, and Salem are the communities in Massachusetts that have directed their police to not make arrests related to psilocybin.

Former City Councilor William Dwight and Councilor Rachel Maiore proposed the resolution in Northampton on psilocybin mushrooms, arguing the use of the substance helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression, cluster headaches, and substance abuse.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a resurgence of heroin and opioid overdose deaths and severe depression in Massachusetts communities, two ailments that entheogenic plants have been shown to have particularly strong utility in treating according to published, peer-reviewed medical research,” the two city lawmakers wrote in their successful resolution.

Sabadosa, a Democrat from Northampton, said being able to turn back to the local debate “really does help” when putting together legislation at the State House. And the idea for the bill, she said, came from constituents, who pitched her on the proposal during a meeting at a coffee shop.

“Their stories resonated with me because what they were telling me was that they were looking for what is effectively a harm reduction bill … It’ll decriminalize, it doesn’t legalize,’ she told the Herald. “… I believe very strongly in this idea of decriminalizing and making things safer for people.”

Colorado voted to legalize psilocybin in 2022 and Oregon was the first state to allow adults to use the drug after a successful ballot measure passed in 2020. Davis said legalization in Massachusetts would reduce the stigma that surrounds research scholars from studying the effects of the drug.

Adults found growing magic mushrooms could face up to 10 years in prison, according to the Bay State for Natural Medicine.

“The state law is really necessary to back up that community power. And a lot of police already privately don’t enforce laws against psilocybin mushrooms, it does happen,” Davis said. “And some people have had their lives destroyed by those arrests.”