Easthampton is officially the fourth Massachusetts city to vote to decriminalize the possession of many psychedelic substances. Arrests for possession, use, and cultivation of some entheogens are now “among the lowest law enforcement priorities” in the city—although these substances remain federally illegal. The City Council approved the resolution with a 7-0 vote with two abstentions.
“I do really hope that what I see to be happening—and that Easthampton I think is really lucky to be on the cutting edge of—is that this whole topic, this is the start of a movement,” said Councilor Owen Zaret, as reported by WBUR. Zaret is a co-sponsor of the resolution.
Under these new guidelines, entheogens from naturally-derived sources, such as psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, cacti, and iboga are now decriminalized. The resolution excludes Lophophora, otherwise known as peyote, and animal-derived controlled substances.
The text of the resolution acknowledges that naturally-derived entheogens can “catalyze profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth.” It also states that “Indigenous people have used these plants for thousands of years in spiritual and health rituals, demonstrating their efficacy,” and acknowledges that peyote should be protected for indigenous communities.
The cities of Somerville, Cambridge, and Northampton passed similar resolutions earlier this year. The grassroots advocacy group Bay Staters for Natural Medicine lobbied for these changes and continues to engage communities in further decriminalization initiatives across the state.
As WBUR reports, Bay Staters’ lead volunteer James Davis, stated: “These medicines are saving our neighbors from addiction and suicide. If cigarettes and alcohol are sold at every corner store, then we should be allowed to produce and use these medicines to heal ourselves.”
In addition to decriminalizing psychedelic plants, Easthampton’s City Council also expressed support for two recent state-wide drug decriminalization initiatives: H.D. 3439 and HD 3829. Both bills were introduced by State Rep. Michael L. Connolly (D) in the spring of 2021. The first bill, Easthampton City Council writes, “would replace criminal penalties for controlled substance possession with the choice of a $50 civil fine or a health and wellness screening to refer the person with economic and health services.”
The second bill, HD 3829, seeks to establish a “Task Force to Study Equitable Access to Entheogenic Plants.” If passed by the Massachusetts state legislature, the bill will convene “21 experts in science, drug policy, economic and racial justice,” to recommend legislation on the legalization of entheogenic plants. The legislation would also “expunge records and create equity initiatives for victims of the entire war on drugs.”