A California Senate committee has approved a bill to legalize possession of certain psychedelics and facilitated use of the substances.
The legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D), which was refiled in December after a more expansive version was derailed last session, cleared the Senate Public Safety Committee in a 3-1 vote on Tuesday and next heads to the Appropriations Committee.
Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker recently filed a new, narrower Assembly bill aimed at providing access to psychedelic therapy for military veterans. It hasn’t yet been scheduled for any committee action.
The broader measure that is advancing 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 “group counseling and community-based healing” involving the entheogenic substances.
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 eliminated under the legislation.
“These are not addictive drugs. And 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,” Wiener said at Tuesday’s hearing.
“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. “This is an important step for California. This is about making sure that people have access to substances that they need that are not addictive.”
Witnesses who testified in favor of the legislation include representatives of the Heroic Hearts Project, the California Public Defenders Association, the City of West Hollywood, a clinical psychologist, a harm reduction expert, a nurse practitioner facing deportation over psychedelics possession and more. Opponents include the California District Attorneys Association and the San Diego district attorneys office.
The prior version of the legislation passed the full 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.
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 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.”
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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.
Meanwhile, a separate bill from Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R) was introduced last month to legalize psychedelics-assisted therapy for military veterans.
Specifically, it would allow licensed clinical counselors to administer controlled substances—including but not limited to psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ketamine and ibogaine—to veterans for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury or addiction.
People who receive the treatment would need to go through a minimum of 30 sessions each lasting at least 12 hours, with at least two two counselors present for each session.
Advocates are optimistic about the prospect of Wiener’s psychedelics legalization bill 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.
Just last week, a Minnesota House committee took up a bill to establish a task force to study and advise on the potential legalization of psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine.
Texas lawmakers recently filed a series of new bills aimed at promoting and expanding psychedelics research in the state.
This month, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a bill to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin while providing legal protections against prosecution for people with eligible conditions who possess the psychedelic.
Also this month, a Rhode Island House committee held a hearing on a bill that would remove penalties for the use and possession of psilocybin and allow the home cultivation of psychedelic mushrooms for personal use.
The Washington State Senate recently passed a bill to create a task force supporting research into psilocybin and develop a pathway for legal access to the psychedelic.
Hawaii’s Senate and House passed three psychedelics research bills earlier this month.
Missouri lawmakers also cleared a GOP-led bill in committee this month to facilitate research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine.
Those are just a few examples of the types of reforms that legislators across the country are considering this session.
An analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last year concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.
A national poll published this month found that a majority of U.S. voters support legal access to psychedelics therapy and back federally decriminalizing substances like psilocybin and MDMA.
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