California psychedelics bill put on back burner until 2022

California psychedelics bill put on back burner until 2022

A bill that would decriminalize a wide range of psychedelic drugs was pulled until next year by its author, State Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco.

(CN) — California state Senator Scott Wiener pulled his bill Thursday that sought to decriminalize a wide class of psychedelics in a bid to allow time for further education of some of his skeptical colleagues while sparing his Democratic ally Governor Gavin Newsom from having to sign a bill with potential political costs.

Wiener said he would reintroduce Senate Bill 519, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of drugs like magic mushrooms and LSD, next year after laying significant groundwork for the eventual passage of a bill to revolutionize the legal approach to psychoactive drugs.

“While I’m disappointed we couldn’t pass SB 519 this year, I’m heartened that the bill moved as deep into the process as it did and that we have a realistic chance of passing it next year,” Wiener said. “Given that this idea had never before been introduced in the legislature, our progress is a testament to the power of the issue and the urgency of the need to act.”

Wiener, who pulled the bill ahead of the full Assembly, has argued the war on drugs has been a failure and that incarcerating people for possession of this class of drugs was poor public policy.

There is an increasing curiosity in medical circles about the medicinal potential for some psychedelics to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and other mental health disorders. Some, however, remain skeptical and argue these drugs can be abused and can compound mental health disorders, like schizophrenia, for instance.

A raft of scientific studies shows psychedelics may aid in treating a gamut of mental health issues, including treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction issues.

Democratic assembly members on the public safety committee appeared amenable to Wiener’s approach to decriminalization and voted to approve it out of committee.

“We need to relook at the war on drugs and what it actually means and how it impacts people’s lives,” said Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks during a June hearing.

But once the bill reached the public health committee, a more bipartisan opposition began to crop up.

“If it helps introduce these drugs to the street, then I am sorry I can’t support that,” said Democratic Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo during a recent hearing.

Republican opposition to the bill has been staunch, so skeptical Democrats may stand in the way of the bill’s passage.

Another factor could be the recall election for Newsom.

While the smart money continues to be on Newsom surviving the recall effort, polls have tightened. The governor has increasingly been seen as risk-averse, holding off on policies like statewide indoor mask mandates that Democratic governors have pursued in states like Oregon and Illinois as the delta variant continues to drive case counts across the United States.

Signing a bill that decriminalizes controversial drugs may not be on the docket for a politician seeking to keep from making waves in the weeks leading up to Election Day on Sept. 14.

The bill does not decriminalize the sale of psychedelics in the state.

Decriminalize California, a grassroots organization, has announced plans to place the legalization of selling psilocybin mushrooms on the 2022 ballot.

Wiener’s legislation initially proposed revisiting the sentences of those convicted for possession of psychedelics while sealing criminal records, but that provision was removed in committee. The bill would task the California Department of Public Health with creating a working group to explore the possible legalization and use of psychedelics in certain contexts.

The legislation would also repeal provisions in the California criminal code that prohibit the cultivation and transportation of spores of mushrooms associated with the psychoactive ingredient. The bill excludes mescalin due to the endangered status of peyote and the importance the drug has for many Native American communities in California and throughout the Southwest.

Oregon became the first state to legalize psychedelic mushrooms for use in therapy and also decriminalized possession of a small amount of all drugs in two ballot measures approved by voters in the November 2020 election.

In California, Santa Cruz and Oakland have passed ordinances that decriminalize the personal use of psychedelics.

Denver became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019. Three cities in Massachusetts have followed suit.

Ann Arbor, Mich., and Washington D.C. have legalized the personal use of plant- or fungi-based psychedelics.

The movement has not only hit progressive enclaves. The Texas Legislature, one of the more fiercely conservative lawmaking bodies in the country, recently formed a committee to study whether “magic mushrooms” could help veterans recover from the trauma of their war experiences.