Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Passes State Senate

A doctor at a los angeles hospital.

The upper house of the California State Legislature has approved a draft law to decriminalize most psychedelic drugs that do not belong to the list of vulnerable species.

Senate Bill 519 would legalize the possession of psilocybin, dimethyltryptamine, ibogaine, psilocin, mescaline, LSD, methylenedioxymethamphetamine, and ketamine for personal consumption for people aged above 21 years. The bill had been progressing through state senate committees since this February.

The enactment comes nearly 2 years since Oakland city moved to make psychedelics decriminalized. State Senate Members Scott Wiener, Sydney Kamlager, and Josh Newman, plus Assemblypersons Bill Quirk and Evan Low all championed this bill.

The drugs show much promise in treating people’s complex trauma, addiction, anxiety, and mental depression, Wiener said after it passed the Senate. Criminalizing psychedelic use does not make sense, said Wiener, while adding that it makes no one safer. As for Wiener, it is time to go away from policies of drug criminalization that did not work to a health- and science-based approach. Describing the bill clearing the upper house as a milestone for the legislation, Wiener said that he feels thrilled that an increasing number of individuals see the advantages of decriminalizing the drugs.

Wiener’s office backed the senate member’s take with various pieces of information, including the following.

  • The present FDA research about methylenedioxymethamphetamine as a therapeutic breakthrough
  • Two clinical trials in which psilocybin reduced treatment-resistant depression’s symptoms
  • A study from John Hopkins where psilocybin cut down anxiety and depression levels in people with cancer

In a recent town hall meeting on Clubhouse, Wiener said that the removal of the expungement legalese for financial reasons was unfortunate, despite things looking good. The bill may be a great step, but it would still have been good if important Section 11356.8 parts made the cut.

An individual under punishment for their conviction, by open/negotiated plea or trial, would have been innocent if Section 11402 or 11350.1 was in effect during the offense. So, they may appeal for the dismissal or recall of sentence in front of the court that judged them guilty in their case to ask for dismissal or resentencing in keeping with that section.

That would have considerably contributed to getting individuals from the jail they entered for possessing the drugs that seemed to be about to enter decriminalization. There have been many cannabis-related family reunification cases over the last few years. Seeing that trend moving to psychedelic drug offenders serving victimless crime punishments would be nice. Nevertheless, the latest bill enactment is a big step towards the above-mentioned objective. Even as Wiener prefigured the problems, the senator said that he could perform something at different times to tackle the expungement matter later.

In May 2021, when talking about the bill, the senator emphasized that it may be argued that the toughest part of its formation was how to manage peyote. Wiener found that people who were for and against the matter had several valid points. Eventually, it was excluded to prevent making the peyote-related species more likely to move from their vulnerable species to the list of endangered species because of drug tourism. Further, federal law already protects American Indian religious practitioners, so they are covered in the event they wish to use peyote.

After the bill’s passage, LA Weekly talked to Larry Norris and Decriminalize Nature’s Executive Director Carlos Plazola. Norris not only works on the legal campaign but also serves as ERIE’s Joint-Founder and Executive Director. Wiener acknowledged Plazola and Norris’s efforts in May 2021, besides the work that veterans do.

Plazola described the enactment as ‘great’, plus a big victory for the nation. He said that from this point, it is possible to go east and get further decriminalization in non-California states. He is also optimistic regarding what would occur in the State Assembly, plus hopeful that Governor Abbot could sign the bill at any time in the future.

When LA Weekly asked Plazola and Norris whether they felt the state Senate would be more challenging to pass as compared to the Assembly, both said yes. Plazola believes that conservatism exists in the state Senate to a greater extent.

When it comes to the main surprises since this February, Plazola said that those include the reality that much good feedback about the topic came from elected officials. There may have been some amount of testimony for that, but it is still surprising as far as Plazola is concerned. There has also been much readiness to learn about what the law is really all about. For people like Plazola, what is exciting regarding it is that the bill includes both the entheogenic herbs and fungi. That is what they are focused on when it comes to decriminalized nature.

On the other hand, Norris was happy to see that the bill includes a particular model he described with the phrase ‘grow and gift’. Norris feels that this would make equitable access possible.

LA Weekly asked them whether they regard peyote’s exclusion as a reasonable move because the bill covered a lot. Plazola said that Senator Wiener’s decision regarding removing peyote is understandable. That is because there is no solution, with nobody presenting a feasible solution to keep peyote from being depleted in Mexico’s endemic habitat. At the same time, he said that they would keep pursuing peyote cultivation’s decriminalization.

Plazola stated that many different indigenous groups in Mexico are seeing an incredible number of peyote products being depleted.

Most of those products come to the United States of America for the American Indian church’s utilization, said Plazola. Therefore, he said that decriminalizing peyote’s cultivation is our solution.

Anyhow, Plazola told LA Weekly that everything else about the bill made him very happy and grateful. As a closing remark, Plazola and Norris stated that people should contact Decriminalize Nature when wanting to participate in the ongoing grassroots endeavor to get this law passed in the state Assembly.