The City Council of Cambridge, Massachusetts voted to decriminalize possession of entheogens and other controlled substances by a vote of 8-1 on Wednesday. The move comes days after Somerville became the first municipality to deregulate controlled substances in the state.
Cambridge’s decision to make possession of drugs and entheogenic plants their lowest law enforcement priority comes as a collaborative effort by Bay Staters for Natural Medicine and Decriminalize Nature Massachusetts, similar to what we witnessed in Somerville.
“The arrest of adult persons for using or possessing controlled substances shall be amongst the lowest law enforcement priority for the City of Cambridge,” the Cambridge City Council says in its order.
It was noted during the voting that War on Drugs-era enforcement policies have historically led to the unnecessary penalization, arrest, and incarceration of vulnerable people, particularly people of colour and of limited financial means, leading the council to side with the drug policy reform advocates. “The use and possession of all controlled substances should be understood first and primarily as an issue of public health by city departments, agencies, boards, commissions, and all employees of the city,” the council states.
Cambridge now joins the growing list of cities that have decriminalized entheogenic plants over the last two years, including Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Washington D.C. .
The grassroots organization Bay Staters for Natural Medicine along with Decriminalize Nature MA have been working to initiate drug policy reforms in Cambridge, Boston, Northampton, and central Massachusetts after their victory in Somerville. There’s also a state bill aiming at the “legalization of psychedelic plants” in the works that would put the coalition of organizations on “track to achieve legalization” by 2022, Bay Staters shared on its Instagram page. So far, 12 state representatives have volunteered to co-sponsor the state bill.
Massachusetts suffers from an increasingly deadly opioid-overdose crisis, now at its worst during the pandemic. “In the month of May alone, nearly 170 residents of Massachusetts lost their lives to opioid overdoses as these deaths continue to spike nationwide,” the press release says.
Ritika is a Toronto-based reporter. She writes about drug policies and developments in psychedelics.