Massachusetts And New York Lawmakers File Drug Decriminalization Bills For 2023

Massachusetts And New York Lawmakers File Drug Decriminalization Bills For 2023
MJ moment

Lawmakers in Massachusetts and New York have filed bills to broadly decriminalize currently illicit drugs in the interest of treating substance misuse as a public health, rather than criminal justice, matter. There’s been significant interest in drug policy reform in state legislatures across the country this session, with a slew of marijuana and psychedelics measures introduced in the first weeks of 2023, for example. Now, legislators are seeking to stop criminalizing people over drugs altogether. In addition to the new Massachusetts and New York bills, Washing State lawmakers have also signaled that they will be taking up the issue of decriminalization this year ahead of the expiration of a temporary criminalization policy instituted in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision that invalidated the state’s felony law against drug possession. So far, the only bills that have been formally filed in the 2023 session would maintain criminalization, however. Here’s what the two new decriminalization bills would accomplish:  Massachusetts A bill from Rep. Samantha Montaño (D) would amend state statute by eliminating and replacing a section that currently prescribes criminal penalties for drug possession. Instead of fines and possible jail time, people who are found to be in possession of an illegal drug would be “subjected to participating in a needs screening to identify health and other service needs, including but not limited to services that may address any substance use disorder and mental health conditions, lack of employment, housing, or food, and any need for civil legal services.” “The screening should prioritize the individual’s self-identified needs for referral to appropriate services,” it says. “The screening shall be conducted by individuals trained in the use of evidence-based, culturally and gender-competent trauma-informed practices.” Citations would be dismissed for anyone who provides proof that they completed the screening within 45 days of…

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