Effort to get legal psychedelics on Mass. ballot hits signature snag

The campaign to legalize the use of plant-based psychedelic substances in Massachusetts is at risk of missing the 2024 ballot, after state officials found several "disqualifying marks" on their ballot papers.

A group of activists said the campaign printed a labor union logo on their ballot sheets, violating signature-gathering regulations and potentially invalidating thousands of signatures.

"We are working diligently to ensure we meet the signature threshold to move our petition ... forward in the ballot qualification process," Jennifer Manley, a spokesperson for the ballot campaign said in a statement.

Manley did not respond to specific questions about the union logo or how many signatures are potentially at risk of being disqualified. Deborah O'Malley, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State's Office, said clerks in the elections division had noticed the disqualifying marks and alerted the campaign.

"Any alteration or stray mark invalidates the entire sheet," O'Malley said.

This development comes just two weeks after the campaign, Massachusetts for Mental Health Options, announced it had cleared the 74,574 signature threshold. The petition would allow people 21 and older to legally consume psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms at a licensed therapy center.

The proposed measure also would decriminalize the possession of psychedelics such as psilocybin, ibogaine and mescaline in Massachusetts. Such substances remain illegal federally.

The new uncertainty also highlights a major divide in the activist community. The ballot question campaign is supported by the New Approach PAC, a federal group funded by major donors like David Bronner, of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

But local activists who have been pushing to decriminalize the personal use of psychedelic substances at the state and local level remain skeptical of the ballot question strategy.

"We are not surprised the PAC dropped the ball with signature gathering," said James Davis, founder of Bay Staters for Natural Medicine. "Thankfully our state legislation that would legalize in a much better way is still moving forward in the legislature."

Davis said even if the ballot campaign does manage to clear the nearly 75,000-signature threshold, his group would work to swap out the question's language.

His organization opposes provisions in the proposed law that would create a new body to regulate psychedelics, similar to the state's Cannabis Control Commission. Activists have criticized a regulatory commission in Oregon for making psychedelics prohibitively expensive.

The ballot campaign's potential collapse is the second time a major progressive political priority has run into trouble in the past week.

An effort to get a rent control question on the 2024 ballot suspended its efforts last weekend, saying it wasn't on pace to gather enough signatures.

The psychedelics ballot question campaign has until Wednesday, Nov. 22, to file signatures for certification.

Manley, the campaign spokesperson, said the group still plans to hit that deadline.

"We are confident we will have a sufficient number of signatures to qualify," she said.


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Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



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