Psychedelic therapies are taking off in a big way; but their expense is creating a barrier, which is highlighted by a current bill in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts psychedelics regulation
Massachusetts is not just representative of this growing issue of costly psychedelics treatments; its also a testament as to why we should be careful about the voter ballot measures we participate in. Sometimes the idea of a ballot, is better than the actual measure in question. Right now, Massachusetts is dealing with issues on these two fronts, if it wants to legalize psychedelics at all.
Right now, according to Psychedelics Spotlight, there is a ballot measure that just got certified in Massachusetts, as well as a bill in the state’s congress; and they both have to do with the legalization of entheogenic plants. Should either pass in the end, it would mean adults could grow the specified plants, and share them, but not for monetary gain. As in, personal use and sharing are fine; buying and selling are not.
The bill – or rather the two bills, are S.1009 and H.1754; one from the Senate, and one from the House. The bill the numbers represent, is An Act Relative to Plant Medicine. The law would cover “the possession, ingestion, obtaining, growing, giving away without financial gain to natural persons 18 years of age or older, and transportation of no more than two grams of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, and mescaline,” meaning its contextually similar to other legalization and decriminalization bills, in that it applies to more than just magic mushrooms; but centers around plant drugs only.
At the same time that this is going on, Massachusetts also just certified a ballot measure for the same psychedelics (or, rather hallucinogens), which would do the same thing. This ballot measure is led by New Approaches, which only put the measure together, this past July. However, while this sounds interesting, it also sounds like New Approaches looks to continue bad administration behavior; something already costing Oregon its own industry.
In terms of this country, a lot has been obtained through ballot measures, and ballot measures represent one of the few times that citizens can vote directly on a topic. But Massachusetts brings to light what can go wrong with these measures; and how they can be used to introduce legislation that is unlike what is voted on, and which is not possible in real life. This current situation represents how the ballot measure process can be messed with by the same big corporations that mold our regular legislation.
What would Massachusetts psychedelics ballot measure do?
Sometimes a ballot measure seems ideal. And sometimes its just another poorly written and executed piece of legislation, possibly even put out as a ballot measure to gain public approval. In Massachusetts, this idea of unclear, or unworkable ballot measures, just came to light. In fact, one resident blew the topic wide open, with the following complaint about New Approaches, which is trying to pass the Massachusetts for Mental Health Options ballot measure.
Said Jamie Morey, the founder of Massachusetts-based Parents for Plant Medicine, “This is shameful. This DC Super PAC is trying to rig our rules and the ballot system to profit off suffering in our communities.” Her colleague Stephen Benjamin, explained the situation further.
“These measures are designed to mislead voters. They would create an unelected panel of bureaucrats with the ability to re-criminalize possession and cultivation of mushrooms to undo the protections Salem, Northampton, Easthampton, Amherst, Somerville, and Cambridge have put in place,” said Benjamin. And that “We want lawmakers to pass an informed bill, not out-of-state money rigging our rules.”
What exactly are they talking about? Something not that different to what’s going on in Oregon. If the ballot passes, it would mean all facilitation services would be overseen by an unelected board of five. Something that is at least partially blamed for the expensive services in Oregon; which have led to an inability to create revenue for practitioners. Despite a lack of sales, these practitioners must pay tens of thousands in insurance costs and fees, monthly.
Even if you decide that official service centers aren’t that important, and the much more important aspect is the legalization and ability for use privately; this is possibly impacted by the board. The ballot would legalize the substance similarly to the legislative bills; but it would also allow the regular legislature or the board, to lower the approved amounts. This would actually allow the board to overturn the six locations in Massachusetts, which already decriminalized use of these plants.
Another negative, is that the ballot measure works to ban any advertising about harm reduction by nonprofits, like the one opened by Jamie Morey. Whereas Morey, and others, want to help people have the most positive experience possible; this ballot measure would get in the way of such advertisement. No one would be allowed to say that they can give out advise for harm reduction, who is not a licensed doctor, therapist, social worker, or addiction professional. Anyone else could lose their licensing.
There are also issues brought up, that those who wrote the ballot, didn’t consult with the main natural medicine organizations in the state. New Approaches is not local at all, but based out of Washington, DC, and is funded by large cannabis corporations, along with personal donors. It’s not exactly written for the people, but seemingly a political move of big companies. In fact, one of the topics in a recent briefing for lawmakers, is how the ballot measure is capable of creating a level of commercialization, which is not desired.
Is this a battle of the sides?
One thing we know about anything related to politics or elections, is that everyone wants to win. And often, whatever side is currently speaking to us, wants us to see all their related positives, and all the detriments of the other side. Was the Psychedelics Spotlight article just giving one side to it?
Well, its certainly possible, but there is a catch. Morey and her compatriots are not the only ones in the actual natural medicine industry, that are fighting this ballot measure. Back in July, three of the main agencies in the state for natural medicine (including Morey’s), came out against this ballot, when the ballot was first designed that month.
Now, sure, once again, this could be about winning. None of the agencies: Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, New England Veterans for Plant Medicine, and Parents for Plant Medicine, were consulted about the ballot. Which could make coming out against it, a move of saltiness more than anything else. But, at the same time, don’t we want legislation on a matter to be approved (or at least consulted on) by the main purveyors in the field? Especially when we’re talking about plant medicine, in what is essentially, a pharma world?
This isn’t to say that regular legislation is usually better; we’ve often relied on ballot measures to pass laws that otherwise, weren’t passing. Think of Oregon’s psychedelics legalization, and all the cannabis ballot measures that passed over the years. Yet this time, it’s the legislation that has the support of two out of three agencies mentioned, as well as 22 other organizations in the state. This time around, it truly seems like the ballot measure is the shady piece of legislation; likely put together with the hope of an easy pass, without anyone paying attention. Hell, it worked in Oregon. And that creates the most stunning issue.
Oregon has essentially failed when it comes to psychedelics; and in some ways, that makes sense, as it was the first to do this. Sometimes the first to do something, is the one that deals with finding all the problems. But much like with cannabis industries, this does not explain the adoption of similar measures, after they’ve been seen not to work. This happens nearly constantly with weed, namely in high regulatory costs, and the addition of an unnecessary sin tax.
In this case, just looking toward Oregon should mean changing stuff around. In Oregon, the price for psilocybin services is about $2,800 at best, for using a plant that costs about $30 an ounce on the black market. In fact, Oregon’s market is so abysmal, that regulators decided that taxpayers should pay for it with a $6+ million bailout.
I expect there are plenty of issues with the legislative measure, there usually are. Perhaps we’re looking at a ‘lesser of two evils’ scenario. But even so, this ballot measure looks representative of what happens when something gets taken advantage of. We associate ‘ballot measure’ with ‘for the people,’ or something like that. And this ballot measure looks to take advantage, not provide an advantage.
The saddest part of all this, is that the Massachusetts psychedelics ballot seeks to repeat the mistakes of Oregon, to the detriment of the voting public, who will think this is being done for their benefit. Perhaps this is a good lesson in policy, that even voter ballot measures, can be badly taken advantage of.
For those interested in mushroom treatment, but who cannot pay the current Oregon prices, check out Bendable Therapy, the only nonprofit in Oregon to provide free treatments. And if nothing else, hit up a FunGuyz in Canada, or any other dispensary that sells shrooms; to get the same thing being sold for thousands, for less than $100.
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