Possession of psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD and DMT would be legalized in California under a new Senate bill introduced Wednesday.
Legislation introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D) and three other Assembly members also provides compensation for individuals with criminal records for possession or use. A task force will also be established to study possible future regulatory systems for psychedelics and report back to the Legislature by January 1, 2024 to make recommendations on this issue.
MDMA, ketamine, mescaline and ibogaine are among the other substances that would be covered by the proposal, which also includes social responsibility.
Policies should be based on science and common sense, not fear and stigma, Wiener said in a press release. The war on drugs and mass incarceration is a destructive and failed policy, and we must end it. Moreover, given the severity of our mental health crisis, we should not criminalize people who use promising drugs to treat mental illness.
The senator’s office has stated that the bill does not contemplate a cannabis model or lay the groundwork for the sale of psychedelics, but rather proposes to end the failed war on drugs in the treatment of psychedelics, while building on science and research on psychedelics to create the potential for a therapeutic framework that could help people struggling with the effects of depression, anxiety, PTSD and other health conditions.
Although the bill is described by lawmakers and proponents as simply decriminalization, a formal legislative analysis of the proposal shows that it would make personal possession and public use of these substances legal.
Meanwhile, a group of activists in California recently announced plans to put an initiative to legalize the use and sale of psilocybin to a vote in 2022. The group, which favors decriminalization in California, said it would first try to convince lawmakers to pass the reform and then go directly to the people if lawmakers fail to act.
This bill is part of a larger effort to end the war on drugs, which has disproportionately affected disadvantaged communities of color, said Assemblyman Evan Low (D), who co-sponsored the Wiener Act. Our bill helps put us on the path to decriminalizing drug addiction, so we can focus on treating drug addiction instead of paying for jail cells and ignoring the larger problem.
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The new bill, SB 519, would not legalize mescaline, which is derived from the peyote cactus. According to the Wiener agency, it is an endangered and protected species due to habitat loss, illegal poaching and other cultural and ecological reasons.
Carlos Plazola, president of the National Council for the Decriminalization of Nature, said the legislation places a strong emphasis on social justice and equal access for traditionally marginalized communities, while creating multiple opportunities for mental health treatment.
This new effort by the California legislature, which Wiener first witnessed in November, comes at a time when activists are ramping up the pressure to pass psychedelic reforms in cities across the state and across the country.
Since Denver became the first city in the United States to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms through a citizen initiative in 2019, the national movement has grown rapidly.
Six other cities – Oakland, St. Croix, Ann Arbor, Washington, Somerville and Cambridge – have decriminalized possession of a broader collection of plant- and mushroom-based psychedelics since Denver’s arrival.
In November, Oregon voters approved major initiatives to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes and decriminalize drugs in general.
People need to be able to seek alternative treatments for conditions like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, and we need to make evidence-based treatments available to those who need them, Wiener said. Cities like Washington and states like Oregon, and now it’s California’s turn.
Thanks to two incredible sponsors #SB519 – @WeHeroicHearts & @VetsExploring – who are helping veterans with mental trauma access psychedelic treatment. Many veterans struggle with mental health issues and psychedelics help them.
– Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) February 18, 2021
Weiner is not the only state legislator to follow the activists’ lead.
Recently, a Republican congressman from Iowa introduced a bill to remove psilocybin from the list of controlled substances and another to allow seriously ill patients to use psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, MMT and other drugs.
In Texas, the legislature has introduced a bill that would require the state to explore the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine in the treatment of certain mental illnesses.
Lawmakers in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Washington State and Virginia are also considering bills on psychedelics and drug policy reform for the 2021 session.
Decriminalization of drugs is a necessary first step in repairing the damage done by the decades-long public health disaster caused by the war on drugs, says Natalie Lila Ginsberg, director of policy and advocacy for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research. Criminalization has not reduced drug use – in fact, drug use has increased over the last 50 years. However, in countries such as Portugal, where drug policy has shifted from a criminal justice to a public health approach, drug-related deaths and illnesses have declined dramatically.
California activists prepare to legalize psilocybin mushrooms by 2022
The photocells are courtesy of Carlosemaskipe and Apollo.
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