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MA Psychedelics Law: What's on the menu?

This is the second part in a series about a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that, if it gets enough signatures and votes, would legalize psychedelics and provide regulated, supervised access.

What substances would be regulated under the MA ballot initiative?

To better understand what substances would be permitted under the proposed law in MA, let’s take a look at the programs in OR and CO. But first, we’ll review some basic info on the “natural” sources of these substances:

- Psilocybin: a primary “magic” ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

- Psilocyn: also found in mushrooms; psilocybin is converted to psilocyn by the human body.

- Mescaline: found in many species of cacti.

- Ibogaine: derived from the Iboga plant native to parts of Africa.

- Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): found in many plants, perhaps most famously in some of the ingredients used to make ayahuasca.

There is a lot to know about these different substances, far beyond the scope of this blog. But while they have significant differences in terms of potency, duration of effect, qualitative experience, and potential side effects, we can broadly say that they all appear to have real potential to treat mental health disorders (like depression and PTSD), substance use disorders (like alcoholism and opiate addiction), provide relief to existential suffering (like individuals coping with a terminal diagnosis), and have the potential to provide profoundly meaningful experiences to many people.

What is allowed in Oregon?

Oregon’s program only permits psilocybin. Further, although there are many species of mushrooms that contain psilocybin, Oregon’s regulators decided to only allow the use of the species Psilocybe cubensis. Oregon allows various psilocybin products, such as edibles made with a psilocybin extract.

A serving is set at no more than 25mg of psilocybin analyte. So, if you have dried mushrooms that test at 1% psilocybin, this serving size is around 2.5 grams of dried mushrooms. A client is not permitted to consume more than 50mg of psilocybin analyte during an administration session.

What is allowed in Colorado?

Colorado’s law is more expansive and would initially regulate psilocybin and psilocyn (FYI, psilocybin is converted into psilocyn when consumed, so we will often treat these substances as the same thing), and there is the potential that Colorado could subsequently regulate DMT, ibogaine, mescaline. These last three substances would only come into play if recommended by the regulators after June 1, 2026.

Colorado does not allow any synthetic versions of these substances, nor does it permit the peyote plant, one source of mescaline, to be used. The exclusion of peyote stems from concerns about the sustainability of that plant if there is a commercial market for it, as well as the impact upon Indigenous people who are already using peyote in traditional ways.

Colorado’s regulators have not yet finalized the rules that will define serving sizes, maximum dosage, etc.

What would be allowed in Massachusetts?

The Commonwealth’s proposed law goes even further than Colorado. It allows regulation of the same five substances (psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, mescaline, and ibogaine) and prohibits the use of peyote or synthetic substances.

In contrast to Colorado, where Colorado must start only with psilocybin and then may regulate additional substances no earlier than 2026, the MA proposed law states that the regulators must regulate at least one substance no later than April 1, 2026 and must regulate all of the listed substances not later than April 1, 2028.

This would mean that five years from now, Mass residents could legally have regulated, supervised access to the entire menu of natural psychedelic substances.

What’s the deal with natural vs. synthetic?

By excluding “synthetic” substances, these laws remove the possibility of regulating molecules such as LSD, MDMA, 2C-B, and countless others. Although LSD and MDMA in particular have shown real therapeutic promise, there are obvious political, policy and legal reasons for drawing a line around “natural” substances.

Significantly, this distinction between natural and synthetic may come into sharper focus as certain drug trials reach FDA approval. For instance, a synthetic version of psilocybin is now entering phase 3 trials for treatment of treatment resistant depression. COMPASS Pathways holds a patent on this synthetic psilocybin, which would not be possible with naturally occurring fungi. If COMPASS succeeds in having this therapy approved as a drug, it is not certain what that would mean for state-legal natural psilocybin programs. We are confident that approval of such a drug would not make all psilocybin legal. But whether such approval would result in enforcement actions against state programs (a la CBD) is uncertain.


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