A bill was passed to legalize the possession and sharing of certain psychedelics for Californians aged 21 and above. The bill underwent an accelerated process that allowed it to bypass further committee consideration; thus, it was moved directly to the Senate floor.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), and he explained that it is not a decriminalization effort; rather, it is simply legalization. The bill, SB 58, seeks to legalize the “possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation of” certain quantities of DMT, psilocybin, psilocin, ibogaine, and mescaline for personal or facilitated use. The specified possession limit of the psychedelics is 2 grams of DMT, 15 grams of ibogaine, and 2 grams or 4 ounces of plants or fungi containing psilocybin and psilocin.
The bill also covers community based-healing and group counseling relative to the psychedelic substance. Wiener had led a more tailored version of the bill in the last session, SB 519. It had passed through the Senate and the Public Safety and Health committees, but the Assembly Appropriations Committee gutted its main provisions. Thus, Weiner pulled it out from consideration until 2023. SB 58, on the other hand, needed to pass through only the Public Safety and Health Committee, hence its accelerated progression to the floor.
Instead of allowing the legislative process to continue, Weiner enforced Senate Rule 28.8 on the bill because it would have no major fiscal impact. The rule states that “if the Chair determines that any state costs of a bill are not significant, the measure will be sent directly to the Senate Floor for Second Reading without a hearing in the committee. There is no public analysis prepared for bills that are approved by the Chair pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8 because there is no public hearing.” As such, it cleared the Appropriations Committee without a hearing.
Lawmakers Question the Safety of Psychedelics
Despite the legal action taken by Weiner, opponents mentioned that the bill didn’t pass through the scrutiny of the Committee that picks apart drug legislation. And that if not for the Senator, the bill wouldn’t have survived.
Marty Ribera, current drug counselor to the Globe and former police officer, voiced her concern. She explained that the bill needs to be discussed because it is about the decriminalization of harmful substances, despite the medical value it may have. She said, ‘This is a complicated subject, and some of these drugs can also harm people. There is a lot to really set into stone here, but here we are going around committees just because this guy wants it passed.”
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According to her, “Psychedelics help some but harm others. We need that line, and the bill isn’t giving it just yet. It isn’t like marijuana, where we can just treat it like alcohol either. Hopefully, the Senate has enough sense to pump the brakes on this and give it the closer scrutiny it deserves.”
Alongside the possession and sharing of the listed psychedelics, the legislation allows naturally occurring psychedelics (from plants or fungi) to be cultivated specifically for personal use. Nonetheless, it doesn’t include synthetic psychedelics like MDMA and LSD. The former reading of the bill (SB 519) was at risk towards the end of the 2022 session. It aimed at legalizing synthetic psychedelics like LSD, ketamine, molly, and MDMA. In an effort to save it by getting legislators and oppositions like law enforcement organizations to be neutral on it, Wiener removed them. Advocates still resisted his attempt, so the bill didn’t have a passable proposal.
Compared with the initial SB 519, SB 58 is a more pared-down version, as the proposed decriminalization of peyote has also been removed. A proposition for future reforms was also removed. Nonetheless, the bill’s approval would revoke the state’s ban on drug paraphernalia. It would also eliminate the law that prevents the cultivation of ‘any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material which contain psilocybin or psilocin.
Senator Wiener explained that the drugs contained in the bill are not addictive. He explained that “these are drugs that have significant potential in helping people to navigate and to become healthy who are experiencing mental health, challenges substance use challenges. We know that cities in California and elsewhere have passed resolutions to categorize enforcement of these particular criminal laws as the lowest law enforcement priority.” He said the legislation is an important step because people will “have access to substances that they need that are not addictive.”
Psychedelic Therapy for Veterans
In the meantime, another bill aimed to allow psychedelic-based therapy for veterans was introduced in February by Assemblymember Marie Waldron. It would involve the administration of controlled substances to veterans by certified clinical counselors. Substances like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, ketamine, and ibogaine will be used to treat addiction, traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients would go through at least 30 sessions lasting at least 12 hours. Each patient will be assigned at least two counselors for each session.
Supporters are positive about the possible success of Wiener’s psychedelic bill. It has been observed that California lawmakers have taken their time to review the proposal since its initial reading. There has been more push on the reformed bill this time around as lawmakers across the country seek to solve the issue.
A national poll last February revealed that most U.S. voters are in favor of legal access to psychedelics treatment. In fact, a recent analysis by the American Medical Association predicts that by 2037 most states will have legalized psychedelics. Thus, it’s safe to say that the psychedelic tides are changing.