California Lawmakers Pass Psychedelics Legalization Bill

A California bill that would legalize the personal possession and use of certain psychedelic drugs was passed by the State Assembly on Wednesday after being passed by the Senate earlier this year.

The legislation, Senate Bill 58, was introduced by San Francisco Democrat Scott Wiener late last year and was passed by the California Senate in May by a vote of 21-16. The bill then was sent to the state Assembly, where it underwent significant changes before being passed on Wednesday by a vote of 42-11. Senate Bill 58 now heads back to the Senate, where the amendments will have to be approved before the measure heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

If passed, the bill would legalize the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of the natural psychedelics mescaline and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), as well as psilocybin and psilocin, the primary psychoactive components of “magic mushrooms,” for personal use by adults aged 21 and older. Supporters of the bill say it will remove criminal penalties for possession and personal use of the drugs, which have been shown to have the potential to treat a variety of serious mental health conditions.

“California’s veterans, first responders, and others struggling with PTSD, depression, and addiction deserve access to these promising plant medicines,” Wiener said in a news release. “SB 58 has prudent safeguards in place after we incorporated feedback from three years of deep engagement with a broad array of stakeholders.”

“We know these substances are not addictive, and they show tremendous promise in treating many of the most intractable conditions driving our nation’s mental health crisis,” he added. “It’s time to stop criminalizing people who use psychedelics for healing or personal well-being.”

Bill Also Establishes Group To Study Psychedelics

Senate Bill 58 also directs the California Health and Human Services Agency to establish a working group to study psychedelics and recommend a suitable framework for regulating the therapeutic use of the drugs. The group would also investigate other issues surrounding psychedelics, including the safety and efficacy of using them to treat PTSD, depression, addiction and other mental health conditions. The group would also make policy recommendations on the safe and equitable production, distribution, access and use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes.

“Every day that criminal penalties prevent veterans from accessing psychedelic plant medicines is a day their lives are at risk,” Jesse Gould, a military veteran and founder of the Heroic Hearts Projects, told Marijuana Moment. “Psychedelics helped heal the unseen scars from my service in the War on Terror after traditional medicine failed me for years. Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to educating veterans in the safe and effective use of psychedelics. Removing criminal penalties for the use of these substances will help that work, not hurt it.”

Psychedelics And Mental Health

Clinical research and other studies into psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA have shown that the drugs have potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for serious mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, substance misuse disorders and anxiety. In January, a California biopharmaceutical company announced positive results from a clinical trial testing MDMA as a treatment for PTSD. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. A separate study published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.

While being considered by the California State Assembly, Senate Bill 58 underwent significant changes from the version passed by the Senate, including narrowing the legislation by removing provisions that would legalize ibogaine and synthetic psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA. Amendments also added possession limits to the bill, with mescaline capped at four grams and a limit of one gram set for DMT, psilocybin and psilocyn. The Senate must now approve the amended version of the bill before it can be sent to Newsom’s office for consideration by the governor.

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