Could California be on the brink of decriminalizing psychedelics? A proposal aiming to do just that passed a major legislative hurdle on Monday, as it was approved by the state Senate.
The legislation now moves to the California General Assembly. Senate Bill 519 “would make lawful the possession for personal use, as described, and the social sharing, as defined, of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), by and with persons 21 years of age or older,” according to the text of the bill, which was authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener.
In a message posted to Twitter on Monday, Wiener trumpeted the bill’s passage in the state Senate as a “big step for this legislation and the movement,” as well as a step toward “a more health and science-based approach and to move away from criminalization of drugs.”
He also thanked supporters for helping promote the legislation.
In an interview with local television station FOX40 last month, Wiener said that, regardless of what one thinks about drugs, “the question is ‘Should we be arresting and jailing people for possessing and using drugs?’ And I think the answer is absolutely no.”
He also said that psychedelic drugs “have significant benefits both for mental health and addiction treatment.”
That such a proposal passed one half of the legislature in the most populous state in the country might have been shocking as recently as a decade ago––and it serves as another sign of the evolving national conversation surrounding drugs in the United States.
Psychedelic Decriminalization May Sweep the Nation
In November, voters in Oregon approved a pair of measures at the ballot that decriminalized possession of all drugs and legalized the therapeutic use of psilocybin. The same month, a legislative panel in New Jersey voted in favor of a proposal that would reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms.
Last month, New York City mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang that, if elected, he would push a program that would offer the use of psychedelic therapies for troubled veterans, including those suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The bill that passed the California Senate makes reference to the reforms approved in Oregon, while also noting that “almost 20 countries around the world including Portugal, Czech Republic, and Spain have expressly or effectively decriminalized the personal use of all substances.”
Wiener’s proposal in the California legislature aims to make other sweeping reforms related to psychedelics.
“Existing law prohibits the cultivation, transfer, or transportation, as specified, of any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material which contain psilocybin or psilocyn,” the legislation says, noting that it would “repeal those provisions.”
The bill would also “require the State Department of Public Health to convene a working group, as specified, to research and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding, among other things, the regulation and use of the substances made lawful by this bill, as specified.”
Moreover, the legislation makes a number of declarations pertaining to the War on Drugs, saying that the federally led effort “has entailed overwhelming financial and societal costs, and the policy behind it does not reflect a modern understanding of substance use nor does it accurately reflect the potential therapeutic benefits or harms of various substances,” and that criminalization of drugs has “not deterred drug use, and has instead made drug use less safe” but instead has “created an unregulated underground market in which difficult-to-verify dosages and the presence of adulterants, including fentanyl, make the illicit drug supply dangerous.”
“Lack of honest drug education has laid the groundwork for decades of misinformation, stigma, and cultural appropriation, which have all contributed to increasing the dangers of drug use,” the bill says.