Massachusetts lawmakers introduced legislation Friday that will attempt to end the state’s war on drugs. One proposal would remove criminal penalties for possession of all drugs, while the other would establish a task force to study plant- and fungi-based psychedelics with the eventual goal of legalizing and regulating the substances.
Calls to end criminal prohibition have been growing across the state, and two city councils—in Somerville and Cambridge—earlier this year adopted measures making possession of psychedelics the municipalities’ lowest law enforcement priorities.
The statewide decriminalization bill, HD 3439, introduced Friday by Reps. Liz Miranda (D) and Mike Connolly (D), would replace criminal penalties for the possession of any controlled substance with a civil fine of up to $50. To avoid the fine, individuals could enroll in a “needs screening to identify health and other service needs, including but not limited to services that may address any problematic substance use and mental health conditions, lack of employment, housing, or food, and any need for civil legal services.”
The Senate version of the legislation, SD 2248, was introduced Friday by Sen. Julian Cyr (D) and is virtually identical to the House bill. Both measures are titled “An Act Relative to Harm Reduction and Racial Justice,” an acknowledgment of the disproportionate arrests and prosecutions of racial minorities under the war on drugs.
A separate House bill introduced by Connolly on Friday could eventually take Massachusetts past simple decriminalization and allow for regulated sales of certain drugs.
Initially HD 3829 would establish an interagency task force that would “study the public health and social justice implications of legalizing the possession, consumption, transportation, and distribution of naturally cultivated entheogenic plants and fungi.”
Between now and June 2022, the 21-person task force would study the effects of plant- and fungi-based psychedelics and develop recommendations for how