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California Legislature Strips Psychedelics Decriminalization from Senate Bill

A California law that would have made psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms, LSD and MDMA illegal was struck from the California legislature last week. Instead, lawmakers amended the bill to study the matter.

Senate Bill 519 by Senator Scott Wiener would have permitted the possession and use personal possession of mescaline (ibogaine), MDMA, and/or psilocybin. Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, has said that the legislation would have helped address the disproportionate enforcement of the state’s drug laws while allowing for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, which have been shown to have potential as treatments for serious mental health issues including addiction, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Wiener introduced the legislation to the California Senate in its original form last year. The bill passed narrowly. However, Wiener was opposed to the legislation by the State Assembly and he delayed a vote until now. On Thursday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee reviewed the bill and passed an amended version that removed the decriminalization provisions for psychedelics. The new language in the bill authorizes only a study.

The amendments were made without any debate or discussion. Sacramento Bee characterized as “California’s shadiest rules for lawmaking,” whereby the Appropriations Committee determines which of hundreds of bills that include costs for the state will advance to a vote of the full Assembly. He did not know about the changes until the following day and said that he would bring the bill back next year.

“I’ve now confirmed that SB 519 – decriminalizing possession and use of small quantities of certain psychedelic drugs – was amended by the Assembly Appropriations Committee to remove the decriminalization aspect of the bill,” Wiener said in a statement from his office. “As a result, the soon-to-be-amended version of SB 519 is limited to a study. While I am extremely disappointed by this result, I am looking to reintroducing this legislation next year and continuing to make the case that it’s time to end the War on Drugs. The promise of psychedelic drugs is that they aren’t addictive and can be used to treat addictions. We are not giving up.”

Wiener’s spokesperson claimed that the bill would be withdrawn from review.

The Decriminalization of Psychedelics for Mental Health California

Wiener stated that the law would enable people with mental conditions such as anxiety and PTSD to enjoy the mental health benefits of psychedelics when he introduced it in 2021. Although many advocates for drug policy and mental well-being supported it, some resisted provisions that could limit the amounts of psychedelics to be made illegal.

“I understand the frustration from advocates over possession limits added to the bill, and my preference would have been not to have possession limits at all,” Wiener said last year, adding that the legislation stood a better chance of passage with the limits. “But sometimes you have a choice about, do you want to pass a meaningful bill, or do you want to insist on the perfect and pass no bill?”

Law enforcement groups that had originally opposed Wiener’s bill had reportedly eased their position and were willing to compromise. A spokesperson for Wiener’s office said that he was “prepared to scale the bill back” in response to concerns that were raised over the legislation, including limiting the measure to entheogenic plants and fungi, which would remove LSD and MDMA from the decriminalization bill.

The Appropriations Committee defeated SB 519 despite bipartisan support from the legislature and there being no opposition. This is the Sacramento Bee noted that 58% of Californians support psychedelics decriminalization and the bill was on a path to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for approval. However, the bill has been stripped of any decriminalization provisions. This means that veterans with severe mental illnesses and other people with severe mental illness will need to wait at most one more year to be able to take psychedelics as relief.

“The problem, as with all moral victories in politics, is that real people suffer from the delay. Like the cancer-stricken veterans who waited years for Congress to expand health care coverage to include burn pit exposure, those with PTSD will have to wait longer until they can safely access psychedelics in California that could save their lives,” Yousef Baig, assistant opinion editor of the Sacramento Bee,An editorial was written. “The same applies to people with addiction disorders or other mental illnesses who struggle to find relief. All they have to do is survive until California lawmakers realize that their crooked practices have consequences.”