A California Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession and facilitated use of certain psychedelics has cleared a procedural hurdle, bringing it one step closer to a final Assembly committee vote before potentially advancing to the floor.
The measure from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday to the panel’s suspense file, a legislative formality that means it is primed for final action to determine whether it can advance to the floor. The sponsor told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday that he expects that to happen at a subsequent committee meeting on or around September 1.
Wiener previously expressed some concerns about the measure’s path in the Assembly, calling it a “challenging road” at one point, but it has already moved through two committees before Wednesday’s procedural development. If it is approved by the panel and then full chamber, it would still need to go back to the Senate for concurrence on certain amendments before potentially reaching the governor’s desk.
A previous Assembly committee amended the legislation to delay implementation of the legalization of facilitated, communal use of psychedelics “until a framework for the therapeutic use, which would include community-based healing, facilitated and supported use, risk reduction, and other related services, of the specified controlled substances is developed and adopted.”
It was also changed to require the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to create a workgroup tasked with studying and making recommendations to the legislature about the establishing a regulatory framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelics in facilitated settings. The workgroup would need to submit its report with findings and recommendations by January 1, 2025.
The bill is a more narrowly tailored version of a measure that the senator led last session that passed the Senate but was later abandoned in the Assembly after members watered it down significantly.
SB 58 would legalize the “possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation of” specific amounts of psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for personal or facilitated use. Notably, “synthetic” psychedelics like LSD and MDMA would not be legalized, unlike the provisions of the previous version of Wiener’s legislation.
Beside personal possession being legalized, the bill would also specifically provide for “community-based healing” involving the entheogenic substances. It previously included “group counseling” as well, but an author’s amendment that was adopted in June removed all references to counseling. It also made a series of technical changes to clean up the legislation.
The bill would also repeal state law prohibiting “any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material which contain psilocybin or psilocyn.” The state ban on drug paraphernalia for the covered substances would also be eliminated under the legislation.
The proposal contains at least two key changes from the measure that advanced last session.
First, is excludes synthetic psychedelics like LSD and MDMA from the list of substances that would be legalized and focuses only on those that are derived from plants or fungi.
When the prior version of the legislation was in jeopardy near the end of the 2022 session, Wiener sought to make a deal to save it by removing synthetics in an attempt to shift law enforcement organizations from being opposed to neutral on the bill. That move was opposed by advocates and ultimately did not produce a passable proposal.
Peyote is also excluded from the bill’s legalized substances list, which is responsive to concerns raised by some advocates and indigenous groups about the risks of over-harvesting the vulnerable cacti that’s been ceremonially used.
Under the second major change to the bill from last year’s version, it no longer includes a provision mandating a study to explore future reforms. The senator had said that the study language was unnecessary given the high volume of research that’s already been done and continues to be conducted.
The “allowable amount” section of the bill allows for the following psychedelics possession limits:
Psilocybin—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocybin”
Psilocyn—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocyn.”
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When the earlier version was moving through the legislature last session, it was gutted in the Assembly Appropriations Committee to only require the study, eliminating the legalization provisions altogether. Wiener responded by shelving the legislation and holding it for 2023.
Asked whether he expects that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would support the legislation this session if it clears the hurdles in the Assembly and arrives on his desk, Wiener told Marijuana Moment in June that “it’s unclear to me,” as the governor is “not expressing any opinion pro or con.”
Advocates have been optimistic about the prospects of Wiener’s psychedelics legalization bill advancing to enactment this round. Not only have California lawmakers had more time to consider the proposal since its original introduction, but there’s significantly more momentum behind psychedelics reform this session as lawmakers in states across the country across the country work to tackle the issue.
Meanwhile, a California campaign recently filed a proposed initiative for the state’s 2024 ballot that would create a $5 billion state agency tasked with funding and promoting psychedelics research that it hopes will accelerate federal legalization of substances like psilocybin and ibogaine.
California officials also cleared a separate campaign to begin signature gathering for a 2024 ballot initiative to legalize the possession, sale and regulated therapeutic use of psilocybin.