California Senate Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill

California took a step closer to decriminalizing personal possession of various psychedelic drugs as the state Senate passed a landmark bill on Monday. 

A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a pop-up cannabis market in Los Angeles in 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

(CN) — It’s been a long, strange trip for psychedelics in the state of California, but that journey inched closer to legalization Monday. 

The California state Senate passed SB 519, a bill that legalizes possession of psychedelics, 21-16 on a floor vote. The bill had already cleared three separate committees and stands a decent chance of passing the House from where it would proceed to the desk of California Governor Gavin Newsom. 

If signed into law, possession of a full suite of psychedelics would be decriminalized in California — including LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, DMT and MDMA. 

“The War on Drugs has failed us, and criminalizing these substances doesn’t make anyone safer,” said state Senator Scott Weiner, a Democrat from San Francisco. “It’s time to move away from failed drug criminalization policies and toward a science- and health-based approach.”

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

“Psychedelics show great promise in helping people deal with complex trauma, depression, anxiety, and addiction,” Weiner said Monday. 

The bill does not decriminalize the sale of psychedelics in the state. However, a group called Decriminalize California has announced plans to place the legalization of selling psilocybin mushrooms on the 2022 ballot. 

The legislation initially proposed revisiting the sentences of those convicted for possession of psychedelics while sealing criminal records, but that provision was removed from the bill during the committee process. The bill would task the California Department of Public Health with creating a working group that would 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. 

Weiner also noted that while California is one of the pioneering states in exploring decriminalization of certain psychedelics, several cities have enacted similar decriminaliztion efforts. 

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 are two cities that have successfully passed bills that decriminalize the personal use of psychedelics. 

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

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

The movement is not restricted to 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. 

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