Massachusetts: Decriminalize Plant Medicine!
Bay Staters is a Grassroot, People-Powered Movement for Justice!
Founded in early 2021, Bay Staters for Natural Medicine (baystatersnm.org, @baystaters) is a grassroots community network of volunteers from all walks of life—including law enforcement, doctors, nurses, addiction treatment workers, and ordinary people. With zero dollars fundraised, it has worked with the city councils of four communities—Somerville, Cambridge, Northampton, and Easthampton—to secure unanimous votes making arrests for all drug possession and arrests for growing entheogenic plants the lowest priority for law enforcement.
The community has also secured endorsements from city councilors in Amherst, Salem, Revere, Medford, Burlington (VT), and Boston to present and pass the measure in the next few months. The community group has achieved this work through free events (where we teach growing, trip sitting, and meditation), tabling on city streets, and hosting get-together all are welcome to (RSVP here).
An Act Relative to Plant Medicine
You can read the full text of the bill and our longer briefing here: tinyurl.com/plantmedicinebill
Decriminalizes two grams of every psychedelic plant
This has two primary benefits. The first is that two grams of psilocybin or psilocin, independent of the organic matter of the fungi that contain them, is the equivalent of nearly 100 grams of dried mushrooms. That's a pretty reasonable amount for a person to have in the comfort of their own home at any given time to use over a lifetime. This means that these plant alternatives will be reasonably accessible for people to access on a community level without thousands of pages of regulation that seek to given profit-driven actors like Field Trip in Oregon the ability to charge thousands of dollars for an experience to desperate people.
The second benefit is scaling back the entire drug war. Our bill lifts the sail of another bill, An Act Relative to Harm Reduction and Racial Justice, that we amended this year to not fine people for possession of any substance. We believe that decriminalizing minor amounts of even harmful substances like methamphetamine and heroin prevents people from getting caught up in the justice system for merely having a unhealthy relationship with these substances. Since our public records requests have shown that arrests for these substances have a near 2 to 1 racial disparity in cities like Boston, this will limit the scope of policing to focus on connecting people with harm reduction resources: a move that many law enforcement, including our partner group the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, support.
Advances Our Work for Automatic Record Expungement
The legislature's efforts to expunge cannabis records has been a miserable failure since legalization, with merely dozens of people getting their records cleared and their financial/employment lives restored. This is ridiculous, and we need to make the process automatic. Our team partners organizations expanding record clearing beyond cannabis charges to minor possession charges and tasks the court system with clearing them in a way that prevents any technical issues with record keeping or immigration. We are proudly partnering with the Clean Slate Initiative and Code for Boston for this work.
The Benefits of Psychedelics Plants
A Revolution in Mental Health and Addiction
A meta-analysis from two decades of clinical trials found these plants to have substantial effects for treating depression and PTSD (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32529966/). And a 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that psilocybin therapy puts major depression in remission for one in two sufferers. Clinical trials have shown plant medicines like ayahuasca and ibogaine to be some of the most effective treatments for alcoholism and opioid addiction.
This bill will ripple throughout the world since our Commonwealth is the biomedical capital of the world, creating momentum for international change that is years in the making. If we wait, indigenous healers, therapists, and treatment centers will be forced to continue their operation in fear and stigma. This is what Big Pharma and Billionaire Peter Thiel want to increase their market share: in the years to come, we will decide if want healers to be forced to buy the artificial psychedelics at inflated prices from pharmaceutical companies or allow adults to grow and use them in peace as they have for thousands of years. A legal treatment that could cost $100 (or free for people in need) will instead cost nearly $15,000 if these corporations have their way.
* Opioid Overdoses: In the month of May alone, nearly 170 of our friends, family members, and neighbors in Massachusetts lost their lives to opioid overdoses. A 2017 study of 44,000 Americans found that psychedelic use is associated with a 40% reduced risk of opioid abuse.
* Depression and Trauma: Massachusetts millennials have the highest rates of depression for their age group in the United States, and nearly one in five residents regardless of age suffer from depression. Naturally occurring plants and fungi, like psilocybin mushrooms, have been designated "breakthrough therapies" by the FDA for their substantial benefits in major depressive disorder.
A November 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found one in two patients put their major depression in remission after only two psilocybin therapy sessions, making it four times more effective than standard depression medications. A 2020 meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials dating back almost two decades found that psychedelic-assisted therapy is substantially effective in treating PTSD, depression, anxiety linked to terminal illness, and social anxiety linked to autism. Other studies confirm this result, finding that entheogens substantially reduce psychological distress and suicidal planning and ideation.
* Smoking: Smoking kills one in five of our friends, family members, and neighbors in Massachusetts. Apart from premature deaths and quality of life implications, smoking also cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid expenses every year. A 2017 study by Johns Hopkins medical faculty found that smoking patients achieved an 80% abstinence rate over six months with psilocybin mushroom assisted therapy—a 45% higher success rate than the most effective smoking cessation drug. Similarly, research suggests potential benefits for treating alcoholism.
* Cluster Headaches: Some Massachusetts residents suffer from cluster headaches, an extremely debilitating condition. A study by the American Academy of Neurology interviewed patients who tried psilocybin in the absence of any known cure. Five in seven reported psilocybin ended the headaches and one in two reported a complete termination of the ailment.