SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A bill that would decriminalize personal possession and use of certain psychedelics is proceeding to the state Senate for a final sign-off before heading to the governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 58 — authored by Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat — underwent significant change before reaching the floor of the state Assembly Wednesday afternoon for a vote. It passed there 42-11, and now returns to the Senate for what Wiener called a final sign-off. If the Senate approves the amendments, which could happen as early as Thursday, the bill will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.
“California’s veterans, first responders, and others struggling with PTSD, depression, and addiction deserve access to these promising plant medicines,” Wiener said in a news release. “SB 58 has prudent safeguards in place after we incorporated feedback from three years of deep engagement with a broad array of stakeholders.”
The bill, if passed into law, would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025. Those aged 21 and older could use naturally occurring psychedelics like psilocybin/psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine and mescaline. Additionally, the California Health and Human Services Agency would create a workgroup to study and give recommendations on a framework for the therapeutic use of these substances.
The workgroup would research several aspects of the psychedelics, including the safety and efficacy of using them in a therapeutic setting for treating PTSD, depression, addiction and other mental health issues. The group would also study the perception of harm that psychedelics cause after decriminalizing them for personal and therapeutic use.
Additionally, the group would be tasked with making policy recommendations, including how to safely and equitably produce, access, use and deliver the substances. Such recommendations would focus on programs for training people about providing the substances in therapeutic settings, and the content and scope of educational campaigns.
People would be limited to how much of a substance they could legally possess. They could face legal proceedings if they had the substances on school property during class or an event, or gave it to someone younger than 18.
According to Wiener, SB 58 follows in the wake of similar efforts in Washington, D.C.; Oakland; San Francisco; and Santa Cruz, along with ballot measures in Colorado and Oregon. His 2021 legislation on the same issue passed the Senate but stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“We know these substances are not addictive, and they show tremendous promise in treating many of the most intractable conditions driving our nation’s mental health crisis,” Wiener said. “It’s time to stop criminalizing people who use psychedelics for healing or personal well-being.”
Speaking Wednesday about the bill on the Assembly floor, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson — a Suisun City Democrat — said the amended version of SB 58 was much narrower than the original. It no longer includes synthetic substances, and it imposes strict quantity limits and ensures the psychedelics are for personal use only.
“California is not breaking new ground by passing this bill,” she said.
Assemblyman Bill Essayli, a Corona Republican, said he initially wasn’t going to support the bill.
However, he changed his mind, pointing to age requirements and the limits on personal use.
“Our approach to mental health in the medical community is not working,” Essayli said, adding that if psychedelics can help, people should have the chance to use them.
Jesse Gould, veteran and Founder of the Heroic Hearts Projects, said in a press release that criminalizing psychedelics puts veterans’ lives at risk.
“Psychedelics helped heal the unseen scars from my service in the War on Terror after traditional medicine failed me for years,” Gould said. “Since then I’ve dedicated my life to educating veterans in the safe and effective use of psychedelics.”
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