A California Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession of certain psychedelics and facilitated use of the substances is up against a “challenging road” toward passage in the Assembly, the sponsor said on Wednesday.
At a virtual event hosted by the Psychedelic and Entheogen Academic Council (PEAC), Sen. Scott Wiener (D) said that while the reform legislation advanced through his chamber, “it’s not guaranteed to pass” in the Assembly.
“But we’re going to try the very best we can,” he said.
Part of the complication, Wiener explained, is that the measure has been referred to a second Assembly policy committee before it potentially moves to Appropriations and then the floor. It may clear the Public Safety Committee when it goes before that panel on June 27, but its fate is less certain in the Health Committee after that, he said.
Wiener said in response to a question from Marijuana Moment that the secondary referral was made for “no rational reason” and “should not have happened,” as the measure would simply remove criminal penalties related to possession and use of psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine and mescaline that isn’t derived from peyote.
“That is a very hard committee for us. And so I cannot guarantee that we’re going to be able to get a majority of the votes in that committee,” he said, referring to the health panel. “We barely got it out by the skin of our teeth last year, and the committee is probably a little less favorable this year.”
The bill—which is a more narrowly tailored version of legislation that Wiener led last session that passed the Senate but was later abandoned in the Assembly after members watered it down significantly—has advanced under an accelerated process that allowed it to skip some committee consideration this year. It cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee without a hearing earlier this month and was previously approved by the Public Safety Committee in March.
As for this session, “it’s very uncertain what’s going to happen in the Assembly,” the senator reiterated. “We’re just going to do our very best to try to move forward.”
Asked whether he expects that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would support the legislation if it clears the hurdles in the Assembly and arrives on his desk, Wiener told Marijuana Moment that “it’s unclear to me,” as the governor is “not expressing any opinion pro or con.”
That said, Newsom did veto a bill from Wiener last session that would have created a safe drug consumption site pilot program in the state—a setback for harm reduction advocates.
As the sponsor has worked to shore up support for the psychedelics bill this round, he said that the opposition he tends to hear comes from members who either fundamentally disagree with the idea of decriminalization or those representing certain districts that would make it a “tough vote politically.”
“There’s a variety of reasons why people express concerns,” he said. “I also have colleagues who, despite those concerns, have been willing to listen, meet with our veterans, meet with experts and really think it through and ultimately support the bill. But it’s always been a tough pill.”
He also expressed strong doubts about the prospects of passing broader drug decriminalization beyond psychedelics under the current political landscape, even if that is a policy change that he would support. “I do not see an appetite for that in the legislature,” he said.
The senator responded to another attendee at the Wednesday event, hosted by the Psychedelic and Entheogen Academic Council, who asked about what he planned to do if the Assembly undermines the bill again. Wiener said he didn’t intend to give up the push for this policy reform and would go back to bat.
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 “group counseling and community-based healing” involving the entheogenic substances.
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 bill 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 prescribes 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.”
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
When the earlier version was moving through the legislature, 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.
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 are optimistic about the prospect of Wiener’s psychedelics legalization bill 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 on Monday 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.
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 signed by the governor.
Back in California, the Assembly recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana cafes, allowing dispensaries to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval.
Meanwhile, the Senate has also approved a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use. It would build on existing employment protections enacted last session that bar employers from penalizing most workers for using cannabis in compliance with state law off the job.
Last month, California officials announced that they’ve 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.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.