The California State Senate passed a psychedelic decriminalization bill by a vote of 21-16 on Tuesday.
Sen. Scott Wiener’s (D) bill proposed to decriminalize possession of psychedelic substances including psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, and mescaline.
“SB 519 passing the California Senate is a huge milestone for this legislation, and I am thrilled that more and more people are seeing the benefits of decriminalizing psychedelics,” says Senator Wiener in his press release.
The ‘Controlled substances: decriminalization of certain hallucinogenic substances’ bill asks the California Department of Public Health to establish a working group to study the recommendations on the state’s regulatory system for equitable access. The report would be due by January 1, 2024.
“Psychedelics show great promise in helping people deal with complex trauma, depression, anxiety, and addiction,” Sen. Wiener says.
“It makes no sense to criminalize the use of psychedelics. The War on Drugs has failed us, and criminalizing these substances doesn’t make anyone safer. It’s time to move away from failed drug criminalization policies and toward a science- and health-based approach,” he says.
Under this bill, the California statute that restricts the cultivation or transportation of psilocybin spores or mycelium “capable of producing mushrooms” would also be repealed.
The bill is co-sponsored by combat veteran service organizations Heroic Hearts Project and Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS).
Wiener’s bill has garnered strong support from California lawmakers, activists, and psychedelic advocates in the past few months. The legislation was approved by a key committee in mid-May after clearing two Senate committees in April.
The Senator excluded peyote from the decriminalization bill, citing “the nearly endangered status of the peyote plant” and its significance in Native American spirituality.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous community, including Native American Churches and the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI), have raised concerns over the language of the California bill, saying it is counter-productive in regards to preserving both the peyote cactus and the traditions surrounding it.
Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for clinical use, and to decriminalize all drugs under Ballot Measures 109 and 110 during the November 2020 election. Sen. Wiener announced soon after that he would introduce a similar reform in California. “Cities like Washington, D.C. and states like Oregon have led the way, and now it’s California’s turn,” he said.
Last week, Texas’ psychedelic study bill was sent to Governor Greg Abbott for a final signature. The bill proposes to study therapeutic benefits of psychedelic substances including psilocybin and MDMA for military veteran PTSD.
Ritika is a Toronto-based reporter. She writes about drug policies and developments in psychedelics.