A second California Assembly committee has approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession and facilitated use of certain psychedelics, bringing it one step closer to the floor.
The legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) advanced through the Assembly Health Committee in a 9-2 vote on Tuesday. This comes about two weeks after it was approved by the Public Safety Committee and two months after it cleared the full Senate. The measure must now go to the Appropriations Committee before potentially moving to the floor.
“Research shows that these substances can have significant benefits particularly for people experiencing mental health and addiction challenges,” Wiener told panel members before the vote. “This research started in the 1960s and unfortunately, it was completely shut down by the war on drugs. Over the last decade, the research has started again and it is extremely promising.”
Our bill to decriminalize possession & use of plant/mushroom-based psychedelics (SB 58) just passed its final policy committee, the Assembly Health Committee, on a bipartisan vote.
Thank you, colleagues!
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) July 12, 2023
Tuesday’s vote is a welcome development for advocates, as Wiener said last month that the bill was up against a “challenging road” toward passage given its referral to the Health Committee, where the chances of approval were less certain.
The measure had been amended by the prior committee to delay implementation of the legalization of facilitated, communal use of psychedelics “until a framework for the therapeutic use, which would include community-based healing, facilitated and supported use, risk reduction, and other related services, of the specified controlled substances is developed and adopted.”
Members of the Health Committee also adopted an additional amendment on Tuesday that requires the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to create a workgroup tasked with studying and making recommendations to the legislature about the establishing a regulatory framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelics in facilitated settings.
The workgroup would need to submit its report with findings and recommendations by January 1, 2025.
The bill is a more narrowly tailored version of a measure that the senator led last session that passed the Senate but was later abandoned in the Assembly after members watered it down significantly.
SB 58 would legalize the “possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation of” specific amounts of psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for personal or facilitated use. Notably, “synthetic” psychedelics like LSD and MDMA would not be legalized, unlike the provisions of the previous version of Wiener’s legislation.
Beside personal possession being legalized, the bill would also specifically provide for “community-based healing” involving the entheogenic substances. It previously included “group counseling” as well, but an author’s amendment that was adopted in June removed all references to counseling. It also made a series of technical changes to clean up the legislation.
The bill would also repeal state law prohibiting “any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material which contain psilocybin or psilocyn.” The state ban on drug paraphernalia for the covered substances would also be eliminated under the legislation.
The proposal contains at least two key changes from the measure that advanced last session.
First, is excludes synthetic psychedelics like LSD and MDMA from the list of substances that would be legalized and focuses only on those that are derived from plants or fungi.
When the prior version of the legislation was in jeopardy near the end of the 2022 session, Wiener sought to make a deal to save it by removing synthetics in an attempt to shift law enforcement organizations from being opposed to neutral on the bill. That move was opposed by advocates and ultimately did not produce a passable proposal.
Peyote is also excluded from the bill’s legalized substances list, which is responsive to concerns raised by some advocates and indigenous groups about the risks of over-harvesting the vulnerable cacti that’s been ceremonially used.
Under the second major change to the bill from last year’s version, it no longer includes a provision mandating a study to explore future reforms. The senator had said that the study language was unnecessary given the high volume of research that’s already been done and continues to be conducted.
The “allowable amount” section of the bill allows for the following psychedelics possession limits:
Psilocybin—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocybin”
Psilocyn—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocyn.”
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When the earlier version was moving through the legislature last session, it was gutted in a key Assembly committee to only require the study, eliminating the legalization provisions altogether. Wiener responded by shelving the legislation and holding it for 2023.
Asked whether he expects that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would support the legislation this session if it clears the hurdles in the Assembly and arrives on his desk, Wiener told Marijuana Moment last month that “it’s unclear to me,” as the governor is “not expressing any opinion pro or con.”
Meanwhile, a separate bill from Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R) was introduced in February to legalize psychedelics-assisted therapy for military veterans.
Specifically, it would allow licensed clinical counselors to administer controlled substances—including but not limited to psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ketamine and ibogaine—to veterans for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury or addiction.
People who receive the treatment would need to go through a minimum of 30 sessions each lasting at least 12 hours, with at least two two counselors present for each session.
Advocates have been optimistic about the prospects of Wiener’s psychedelics legalization bill advancing to enactment this round. Not only have California lawmakers had more time to consider the proposal since its original introduction, but there’s significantly more momentum behind psychedelics reform this session as lawmakers in states across the country across the country work to tackle the issue.
For example, the governor of Nevada signed a bill this month to create a new working group to study psychedelics and develop a plan to allow regulated access for therapeutic purposes.
The governor of Minnesota signed a large-scale bill last month that includes similar provisions to establish a psychedelics task force meant to prepare the state for possible legalization.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a bill last month to create a regulatory framework for legal psychedelics under a voter-approved initiative. He also spoke about his desire to have the legislature authorize him to grant pardons for psychedelics-related convictions last week.
Last month, a North Carolina House committee approved a bill to create a $5 million grant program to support research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and MDMA and to create a Breakthrough Therapies Research Advisory Board to oversee the effort.
A Washington State bill to promote research into psilocybin and create a pilot program to provide therapeutic access to the psychedelic for mental health treatment was also signed by the governor.
Back in California, an Assembly committee recently approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize marijuana cafes, allowing dispensaries to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval. The measure is largely consistent with a separate proposal to authorize cannabis cafes that passed on the Assembly floor late last month.
Also, state marijuana regulators announced last week that they have awarded $4.1 million to cities and counties across the state to support local cannabis business licensing programs working to address unmet consumer demand and help curb the illicit market.
The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) separately announced last month that the state has awarded more than $50 million in marijuana tax-funded community reinvestment grants.
DCC also recently awarded nearly $20 million in research grants, funded by marijuana tax revenue, to 16 academic institutions to carry out studies into cannabis—including novel cannabinoids like delta-8 THC and the genetics of “legacy” strains from the state.
California is additionally making moves to expand its marijuana market beyond the state’s borders, with regulators recently seeking a formal opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether allowing interstate marijuana commerce would put the state at “significant risk” of federal enforcement action.
The request for guidance from DCC is a key step that could eventually trigger a law that the governor signed last year, empowering him to enter into agreements with other legal states to import and export marijuana products.
Meanwhile, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote on a local proposal to decriminalize certain psychedelics on Tuesday evening.