Many states have recently passed bills to legalize weed. California was amongst the first states to legalize medical weed. Now, it seems that the Golden State could be legalizing more. California could become the second state to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other psychedelics. The bill to decriminalize psychedelics in California is SB 519. So far, it has managed to be cleared by a California Assembly Committee last week. The Assembly of Public Safety committee passed the bill with a vote of 5-3. Meaning, two more committees need to approve the bill before California is to officially decriminalize psychedelics. State Senator Scott Weiner has been a large advocate and defendant for the bill. He believes that psychedelics should not be criminalized, pointing to research suggesting it can help mental health.
Last month, the bill received the approval of the full Senate. As mentioned, the bill still requires two more approvals. One from the Public Health Committee and one from the Appropriations Committee. Then it will move to the floor, and after that, the governor’s desk.
The Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelics
If the bill passes, this could be huge for drug decriminalization in California. It would allow for adults 21 and over to possess a list of drugs. This list includes psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, LSD, and MDMA. The possession of these drugs would be allowed for personal use and “social sharing”.
Ketamine was originally on the list of drugs in this bill. Sen. Weiner amended his bill to remove ketamine from the list. This is due to the possible dangers of it being used as a date-rape drug. It seemed that this was a necessary action required to have the bill passed. The Assembly Public Safety Committee, Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer agreed. He stated that keeping the potential date-rape drug would have confused the goal of the bill.
Similarly, mescaline was another controversial psychedelic on the bill. For those who don’t know, mescaline is a psychoactive compound derived from peyote and other cacti. The way the bill is written excludes it if it’s in the form of peyote. But the possession of mescaline is allowed if it comes from other plants. Other plants with this psychoactive compound include the Bolivian Torch Cactus, San Pedro Cactus, or Peruvian Torch Cactus. The decision to remove peyote from the list was informed by native groups. Native groups have strongly pushed back against efforts to decriminalize the cacti. This is due to conversationalist reasons and because of its sacred value for their communities.
Under this bill, other rules would change as well. Specifically for psilocybin, the legislation would repeal provisions in California that prohibit cultivation or transportation.
Originally, the bill included record sealing and resentencing. Specifically for people previously convicted of psychedelic possession offenses. Unfortunately, that language was removed in its last committee stop before it reached the Senate floor. It was a part of an amendment from the sponsor, Weiner. The senator explains the reasoning behind that action. Weiner claims that the policy ended “generating a huge price tag”, based on a fiscal analysis. Additionally, he states it can be addressed in separate legislation if the main bill passes.
Although this bill may decriminalize psychedelics in California, there are still certain rules to abide by. For example, it is only legal for adults 21 and older. Meaning, those adults cannot share their substances with someone who is under 21. Additionally, you may not possess any psychedelics on school grounds. Under federal law, all these substances will still be illegal.
A group of California activists plans to take charge in the efforts to achieve retail sales. Earlier this year, Decriminalize California announced its plan to place an initiative on the state’s 2022 ballot. The initiative would legalize the use and retail sale of psilocybin. They plan to pursue reform. After that, they’ll take the issue to the people.
Military veterans are one group of the many that wish to benefit from this. Senator Wiener, the main sponsor of this bill, held a rally to gain support for the legalization bill. This rally had military veterans, law enforcement, and health officials participate and support. Weiner points to research as a reference to how people’s lives transformed because of these substances. The senator claims psychedelics have shown great promise. Specifically in the form of treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, and more. He emphasizes that this is a critical mental health and criminal justice reform bill.