On the heels of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Somerville, Massachusetts has become the East Coast’s second city to decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi. This initiative was unanimously approved by Somerville’s City Council and mayor, putting the progressive-leaning city on a growing list of spots all over America where the entheogenic prohibition is ending.
While the possession and use of these materials are still against state and federal law, their decriminalization places them in the lowest-priority category for law enforcement, with no city funds or resources going toward the application of criminal penalties in this area.
This measure, which was spearheaded by Decriminalize Nature Massachusetts and Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, outlines the ability of naturally occurring psychedelic compounds to provide relief from such conditions as cluster headaches, end-of-life anxiety, and substance addiction. It also underscores the role of entheogens in traditional practices and religious ceremony.
Following a precedent set by other successful decriminalization initiatives, this measure does not mention peyote. Instead, the more inclusive word “cacti” is used. In the past, the National Council of Native American Churches and the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative have admonished Decriminalize Nature for including peyote in its resolutions without first consulting indigenous communities. Their fear is that increased demand for the plant would put stress on ecosystems and “compromise the decades long work on the part of Native American peyote spiritual leaders and allies.”
Damon Orion is a writer, journalist, musician, artist and teacher living in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California. More of his work can be found at DamonOrion.com.