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MD Mass Marijuana Pardons, AZ Therapeutic Psilocybin Bill Goes to Governor, More... (6/17/24)

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Consequences of Prohibition

Tens of thousands march for marijuana legalization in Sao Paulo, the Biden administration rolls out grants for mental health and substance abuse needs, and more. 

A bill to allow therapuetic psilocybin service centers to operate has passed the legislature in Arizona. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Governor Pardons More Than 175,000 Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Wes Moore (D) on Monday issued a mass pardon for more than 175,000 marijuana convictions. The pardons are for small-time pot possession charges against about 100,000 people (some were busted more than once). 

Marijuana became legal in the state on July1, 2003.

Moore said the move is a step toward healing decades of drug war social injustice disproportionately harming people of color, noting that criminal arrest records can be used to deny housing, employment, and educational opportunities. 

"I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs," Moore said. "If you want to be able to create inclusive economic growth, it means you have to start removing these barriers that continue to disproportionately sit on communities of color."

Nine other states and various cities have pardoned hundreds of thousands of old pot convictions in recent years, but Moore justly described his as among "the most far-reaching and aggressive" executive actions among officials nationwide who moved to address criminal justice system inequities in the wake of marijuana legalization. 


Arizona Legislature Approves Bill for Therapeutic Psilocybin Service Centers. The House last Friday gave final approval to a Senate bill that would legalize service centers where people could use psilocybin in a medically supervised setting, Senate Bill 1570. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Katie Hobbs (D). 

Sponsored by Sen. TJ Shope (R), the bill would expand on a previously passed law that provides $5 million a year to fund studies into psilocybin therapy. It would create an Arizona Psilocybin Advisory Board to establish training criteria for service center workers, make recommendations on how the law should be implemented, and keep abreast of psychedelic science and policy developments. 

Board members would be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders and would include representatives of the attorney general's office and the Department of Human Services, as well as physicians, veterans, first responders, and scientists with psilocybin experience. 

The proposal would establish an Arizona Psilocybin Advisory Board, comprised of members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. Representatives of the attorney general’s office and DHS, as well as military veterans, first responders, scientists with experience with psilocybin, and physicians, would be among the members.

Massachusetts Senate Approves Bill to Study Therapeutic Psychedelics for Veterans. The Senate last Friday approved a military veterans' bill that includes a provision to create a psychedelic working group to inquire into the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA, Senate Bill 2800

The House earlier approved its version of the bill, introduced by Gov. Martha Healey (D), but the Senate amended it before giving it final approval. That means the two chambers must reconcile their bills before sending a final version to the governor. 

The bill, known as the Honoring, Empowering, and Recognizing our Servicemembers and Veterans (HERO) Act, includes numerous provisions aimed at veterans. Both versions of the bill includes the psychedelic provisions, but the House version now includes a pilot program to examine medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for veterans. 

The psychedelic provisions would require the Executive Office of Veterans' Services to create a working group study "alternative therapies for mental health treatments for veterans" and explore "whether psychedelic therapy is associated with improved outcomes among veterans with diagnosed mental health disorders."

The working group would "evaluate literature, research trials, and expert opinions to determine if psychedelic therapy is associated with improved outcomes regarding mental health treatment for veterans" and it would be required to issue recommendations "regarding the provision of psychedelic therapy to treat veterans with mental health disorders in Massachusetts."

The bill's progress comes after a joint legislative panel, the Special Joint Committee on Ballot Initiatives, recommended against the legislature approving a psychedelic legalization initiative. Lawmakers were required to consider the initiative after it passed an initial round of signature-gathering last year. That initiative faces a signature-gathering deadline of July 3 to qualify for the November ballot. 

Drug Policy 

SAMHSA Announces Grant Program for Behavioral Health Needs. Last Friday, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced notices of funding opportunities aimed at improving behavioral health for racial and ethnic minorities, and other underserved populations, providing training and technical assistance to programs serving these populations, and integrating primary and behavioral health care. The funding totals $31.4 million and are aimed at addressing the nation's mental health and overdose crises. 

These grant programs additionally support HHS’ Overdose Prevention Strategy, the HHS Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration, and SAMHSA’s strategic priorities: preventing substance use and overdose; enhancing access to suicide prevention and mental health services; promoting resilience and emotional health for children, youth, and families; integrating behavioral and physical health care; and strengthening the behavioral health workforce.  

"We continue to see the impact of investing in quality programs serving a broad range of support systems around the country," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "This funding highlights the Biden-Harris administration’s dedication to improving the nation’s behavioral health by devoting resources that strengthen and support existing programs as well as support traditionally underserved populations."  

"At HHS we have championed a ‘no wrong door’ approach to improving access to behavioral health services," said HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm. "With these notices of funding opportunities, we are continuing our work to transform behavioral health and integrate behavioral and physical health services." 

"Through strategic investments, SAMHSA is advancing mental health and substance use care for underserved populations, integrating behavioral and physical health, and fostering a culture of wellness nationwide," said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. "This funding underscores our commitment to enhancing access and quality of care for all, ensuring tailored support across diverse communities. By prioritizing inclusive approaches, we’re not only addressing immediate needs, but also laying the foundation for long-term resilience and helping communities thrive." 

The funding opportunities include investments in a range of behavioral health efforts:   


Tens of Thousands Rally for Marijuana Legalization in Sao Paulo. Marching under the slogan "Rolling a future without war," tens of thousands of marijuana legalization supporters hit the streets of Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, on Sunday. 

Rallygoers demanded legalization and denounced violence and abuse of power by Brazilian security forces. 

The rally came just days after the Congress last Wednesday approved a constitutional reform that allows for the criminalization of the possession of any amount of drugs despite earlier Supreme Court rulings saying the constitution's right to privacy protected small-time drug possession. 

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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