Coming soon? Psychedelics on the ballot in Massachusetts

A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a pop-up cannabis market in Los Angeles. (Richard Vogel/AP)
A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a pop-up cannabis market in Los Angeles. (Richard Vogel/AP)

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It looks like we may not have a very good shot of seeing the Northern Lights this week after all. (Womp womp.) But if you find somewhere dark, UMass Lowell’s Dr. Ofer Cohen told our own Samantha Coetzee your best shot is to look for a glow above the horizon to the north sometime between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. tonight or tomorrow.

First, let’s shift our gaze to a different story this morning.

After Massachusetts legalized marijuana and made it into a multi-billion dollar industry, drug reformers in the state are eyeing a new frontier: psychedelics. And like marijuana, they’re looking at using the ballot initiative process to get it done. Last week, a group called Mass. for Mental Health Options quietly filed paperwork to lay the groundwork for a future ballot campaign to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and other natural psychedelics, as State House News Service scooped. Those involved say the campaign could come as soon as next year.

  • The case for it: “We’re in a mental health crisis, and research has shown that psychedelic medicines can be effective in providing relief,” said Ben Unger, the psychedelic policy director of the group New Approach, which is involved with the Bay State ballot effort. Some of that research has been conducted locally at centers set up by Harvard and MGH to study psychedelics’ effectiveness treating conditions like PTSD, depression and anxiety.
  • The status quo: Federal law generally bans anyone from growing or possessing psilocybin mushrooms, though a handful of Massachusetts communities — including Cambridge, Somerville, Salem and Northampton — have taken small steps to decriminalize possession within their borders.
  • What the measure would do: Last week’s filing describes the potential measure as a proposal to create “access” to natural psychedelics and remove criminal penalties for personal possession across the state. Beyond that, Unger says they’re still working out the details. But he stressed that New Approach has focused on “regulated, licensed, supervised psychedelic therapy” in other states. “Not retail, not legalization, not for take home.”
  • What that looks like: Oregon and Colorado are the only states that have decriminalized psychedelics — both by ballot measure. But there are no dispensaries; rather, the two states only allow those over 21 to buy and use the drugs under supervision at licensed centers. (FWIW: Oregon and Colorado are still working to finalize their regulations, so they’re currently in a bit of a gray area.)
  • What’s next: Unger says they’ll decide on when they move forward with a Massachusetts ballot question — in 2024 or 2026 — in the coming months, as they do more outreach across Massachusetts. (For 2024, the initial filing deadline is early August.)
  • Meanwhile: Some psychedelic supporters have been trying to take the route through the State House. It turns out the fledgling effort even has some bipartisan support among lawmakers.

Stick to the PGA Tour: That’s what the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is telling bettors, after batting down a request yesterday from DraftKings to add LIV Golf to the state’s list of legal sports betting options. Commissioners reasoned they’d like to see how the proposed merger between the PGA and LIV plays out, not to mention hesitancy about the Saudi-backed spinoff league in general.

Patriots fans will notice a big difference at Gillette Stadium this season: a stunningly wide video board. Officials say the 370-foot-wide screen is the largest outdoor stadium video board in the country.

  • The $250 million overhaul also includes adding an operational observation deck to the stadium’s renovated lighthouse tower, and a new beer hall where fans can see players come out of the locker room.

P.S.— Need another incentive to take public transit during the Sumner Tunnel closure? How about free access to newspapers and magazines? The MBTA and Boston Public Library are expanding their “Browse, Borrow, Board” program to the Blue Line, East Boston ferry, more bus stops and commuter rail (yes, we wrote about this in May). Look for the sidewalk decals and scan the QR codes to start reading.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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