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Massachusetts Senate Approves Bill To Study Psychedelics Therapy For Military Veterans

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The Massachusetts Senate has approved a bill focused focused on military veterans that includes provisions to create a psychedelics working group to study and make recommendations about the potential therapeutic benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA.

About a month after the House approved its version of the legislation—based on a proposal initially introduced by Gov. Maura Healey (D)—the Senate unanimously approved an amended version of a separate House measure in a 38-0 vote on Thursday. The two chambers must now reconcile their respective bills before the final version potentially goes to the governor’s desk.

The Honoring, Empowering and Recognizing Our Servicemembers and Veterans (HERO Act) is a wide-ranging proposal focused on veterans, but it’s cleared both chambers in different forms with the psychedelics policy reform provisions attached. The House version was also amended earlier to include a section that would create a pilot program to examine medical cannabis as an opioid alternative for veterans.

The psychedelics measure wouldn’t immediately create a framework for legal access, but it would require the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services (EOVS) to convene a working group to study “alternative therapies for mental health treatments for veterans” and exploring “whether psychedelic therapy is associated with improved outcomes among veterans with diagnosed mental health disorders.”

The panel would need to “evaluate literature, research trials and expert opinions to determine in 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 working group would need to file a report with findings and recommendations with the clerks of the House and Senate and two joint legislative committees no later than January 1, 2025.

While the different versions of the HERO Act that have moved through the legislature must be reconciled in a bicameral conference committee, the psychedelics provisions are nearly identical, with the minor exceptions such as specifications on who would serve on the working group and that the newly Senate-passed measure as amended discusses veteran mental health treatment “in the commonwealth” while the other references “Massachusetts.”

“Today we reaffirmed our commitment here in Massachusetts to respect, empower, and support those who have sacrificed for our nation and returned home,” Sen. Adam Gomez (D) said, WWLP reported. “By increasing their health care and mental health benefits, promoting businesses to hire veterans, and expanding support services for active veterans and their families we start to make inroads on issues that have a direct impact on the lives of our service members, benefitting them and their families.”

“The legislation passed by the Senate today makes comprehensive and critical additions to the HERO Act to ensure that we are not only supporting Massachusetts veterans but also our active-duty service members and their families as well,” Sen. John Velis (D) said.

The passage of the HERO Act comes after a Massachusetts joint legislative committee advised the legislature not to pass a broader psychedelics legalization initiative. But activists are in the process of collecting additional signatures to put the reform before voters on the November ballot.

Lawmakers were required to consider the psychedelics measure, spearheaded by the campaign Massachusetts for Mental Health Options (MMHO), after the state certified advocates had submitted enough valid signatures in an initial petitioning round last year. The legislature had until May 1 to make a decision before the campaign was cleared to collect another 12,429 signatures by July 3 to secure ballot placement.

Last month, the Special Joint Committee on Ballot Initiatives issued a majority report that formally recommended against passing the measure as drafted.


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