A California senator has refiled a bill to legalize possession of certain psychedelics after his last attempt was derailed in the eleventh hour of the 2022 session.
Sen. Scott Wiener (D) had made clear that he would be working the legislation and introducing it again for 2023. He did that on Friday, filing a revised psychedelics reform bill that his office officially announced on Monday.
The measure 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.
It 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 The state ban on drug paraphernalia for the covered substances would also be repealed under the legislation.
“This is not controversial among regular people,” Wiener told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Monday. “People understand that psychedelics are not causing problems—and they are, in fact, helping people and so it’s time to stop criminalizing them.”
Wiener is holding a press conference on Monday to discuss the bill, alongside military veteran advocates, a clinical psychologist and retired San Francisco police officer.
Today we’re announcing new legislation (Senate Bill 58) to decriminalize possession & use of plant-based psychedelics in California.
Psychedelics have huge promise for mental health & addiction treatment.
SB 58 is backed by a coalition of veterans & others committed to reform.
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) December 19, 2022
“Decriminalizing psychedelics is not particularly controversial among people,” the senator emphasized, noting that Oregon voters passed a historic 2020 ballot initiative legalizing psilocybin therapy and that Colorado voters passed a measure this year to legalize a wide range of psychedelics while creating a psilocybin treatment model.
Decriminalizing psychedelics is not particularly controversial among people. Oregon voters & Colorado voters have already decriminalized them. Various cities in CA & elsewhere have passed ordinances advocating for decriminalization.
It’s time for CA to move in this direction.
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) December 19, 2022
The prior version of the legislation passed the Senate and cleared two Assembly committees before Wiener decided to pull it from consideration once its main provisions were gutted by a third Assembly panel.
The new bill 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. That aligns the legislation more closely with the bulk of local psychedelic decriminalization measures that have been enacted in cities across the U.S. in recent years.
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.
“Listen, I would love to have them included. I think they should be included,” Wiener said. “But we also need to be able to pass a good bill. And, unfortunately, there are a lot of stereotypes about LSD and MDMA, and so we decided, let’s get it passed for non-synthetics—which will still be a major game changer with psilocybin, ibogaine, ayahuasca and others—and then we can come back later to address synthetics.”
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.
Second, the bill 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.
“We don’t need a study to tell us that drug criminalization is a failure and that we should decriminalize psychedelics,” the senator told Marijuana Moment during a previous interview in August.
“For over fifty years, the War on Drugs has caused overwhelming financial and societal costs,” the revised bill says. “The current United States drug control scheme does not reflect a modern understanding of the incentives, economics, or impacts of substance use, nor does it accurately reflect the risks or potential therapeutic benefits of many presently illicit substances.”
“Drug prohibition has failed to deter drug use, and has increased its danger. Criminalization of drug use has created an underground market in which difficult-to-verify dosages and the presence of adulterants increase the risks of illicit drugs,” it says. “Lack of honest, evidence-based drug education has paved the way for decades of stigma and misinformation, which have contributed to increasing the dangers of drug use.”
The “allowable amount” section of the bill prescribes 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.”
When the earlier version was moving through the legislature, it was gutted in a key Assembly committee to only require the study, eliminating the legalization provisions altogether. Wiener responded by shelving the legislation and holding it for 2023.
The Senate-passed bill, SB 519, went through the wringer before the sponsor finally decided to pull it in August. In the Assembly, it advanced through two committees, with amendments negotiated by Wiener, before reaching what many had hoped would be its final stop before the floor.
“We were optimistic that, had it gone on to the Assembly floor, it would have had the votes,” the senator said on Monday. “But unfortunately, the last committee gutted the bill. So if that happens, it is what it is—but we have really strong momentum behind the bill, with our coalition of veterans, parents and other advocates who understand the significant benefits that these substances have over people, particularly those suffering with mental health and addiction challenges. So sometimes it takes more than one try, and we’re at it again.”
He said that there’s a “very structured timeline” to advance the legislation in 2023, starting with a policy hearing in March or April. If all goes according to plan, he expects that the legislation will be enacted by September.
“Psychedelics have tremendous capacity to help people heal, but right now, using them is a criminal offense,” Wiener said in a statement announcing the bill that was shared with major California newspapers. “These drugs literally save lives and are some of the most promising treatments we have for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction. We need to end the outdated, racist, failed War on Drugs and finally pursue drug policies that help people instead of incarcerating them.”
Last month, Colorado voters approved a ballot measure to legalize certain psychedelics and create “healing centers”where people can receive supervised psilocybin services.
“California’s SB 58 is great drug policy. Research by John Hopkins, UCLA, and many other universities indicates that psychedelic-assisted therapy shows promise to treat addiction, depression, and PTSD,” Josh Kappel, a founding partner at the cannabis and psychedelic law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, told Marijuana Moment on Monday.
“Similar to what the voters recently passed in Colorado with Prop 122, SB 58 decriminalizes the same natural medicines and creates a pathway for supervised therapeutic use,” he said. “With a mental health crisis ravaging our nation, we need to make all the tools available to provide healing and hope.”