San Francisco Lawmakers Consider Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure
San Francisco lawmakers have filed a resolution to locally decriminalize psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca. The measure also pushes for broader statewide reform.
The legislation, sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston (D) and Hillary Ronen (D), was introduced on Tuesday. If enacted by the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco would be the largest city by population in the U.S. to deprioritize enforcement of laws prohibiting entheogenic substances.
The whereas section of the resolution discusses the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, as well as their traditional role as catalysts for “profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth.”
It also references a Senate-passed bill from state Sen. Scott Weiner (D) that would legalize possession, cultivation and sharing of small amounts of certain psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and DMT for adults 21 and older. That legislation has since cleared two Assembly committees and is slated for consideration by another panel in the chamber on August 3.
Additionally, the San Francisco proposal, first reported by Filter, cites local moves to decriminalize psychedelics in cities like neighboring Oakland, as well as Oregon’s 2020 vote to remove criminal penalties for low-level possession of all currently illicit drugs.
If approved by the Board, the resolution would implore police to make enforcement of laws prohibiting psychedelics-related activity—including use as well as “planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, and/or possessing” by adults “amongst the lowest priority for the City and County of San Francisco.”
It also asks that no city resources be used for “any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants listed on the Federally Controlled Substances Schedule 1 list.”
Further, it says that the Board urges the mayor to instruct state and federal lobbyists and officials in the city to support efforts to decriminalize entheogenic plants and plant-based compounds that are included in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
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A hearing on the measure hasn’t been scheduled yet, but the Board isn’t expected to take it up until after members return from an August recess.
The resolution’s introduction is the latest iteration of a national reform movement that’s seen cities and states across the U.S. work to advance psychedelics decriminalization both legislatively and at the ballot.
Denver was the first city in the country to enact psychedelics decriminalization in 2019, igniting activists and lawmakers to follow suit by mirroring or building upon the reform. In 2020, for example, Oregon voters also approved an initiative to legalize psilocybin therapy centers.
Colorado voters will have the chance to decide on a historic ballot initiative this November to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin “healing centers” where people can use the substance for therapeutic purposes.
Here are other examples of states working to advance psychedelics reform:
The leader of the New Jersey Senate filed a bill last month that would legalize the possession, home cultivation and gifting of psilocybin mushrooms for adults 21 and older—with provisions that give adults even more freedoms for the psychedelic than are afforded under the state’s current marijuana laws.
The governor of Connecticut signed a large-scale budget bill in May that includes provisions to set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment using substances like MDMA and psilocybin.
Maryland’s governor recently allowed a bill to go into law without his signature to create a state fund to provide “cost-free” access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.
A Massachusetts-based campaign, Bay Staters for National Medicine (BSNM), is also supporting a statewide reform push to force state lawmakers to file legislation to both legalize entheogenic substances for therapeutic use and otherwise decriminalize certain psychedelics.
The Maine Senate approved a bill in April to to create a medical psilocybin program in the state, but the House of Representatives refused to go along.
Also that month, Georgia lawmakers advanced a bipartisan resolution that calls for the formation of a House study committee to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and make recommendations for reforms.
The governor of Utah signed a bill in March to create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.
A Missouri House committee also held a hearing that month on a GOP-led bill to legalize a wide range of psychedelics for therapeutic use at designated care facilities while further decriminalizing low-level possession in general.
The Washington State legislature recently sent a budget bill to the governor’s desk that includes a proposal to direct $200,000 in funding to support a new workgroup to study the possibility of legalizing psilocybin services in the state, including the idea of using current marijuana regulatory systems to track psychedelic mushrooms.
In March, the Hawaii Senate approved a bill to set up a state working group to study the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and develop a “long-term” plan to ensure that the psychedelic is accessible for medical use for adults 21 and older.
Also that month, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill to decriminalize low-level possession of psilocybin and promote research into the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.
Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a pair of drug decriminalization bills in March—including one focused on psilocybin and buprenorphine that would authorize doctors to prescribe the psychedelic mushroom.
Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation in January that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.
New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.
Legislation was also enacted by the Texas legislature last year requiring the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.
Congressional lawmakers and federal agencies have also started to take serious interest in psychedelics policy.
For example, top federal health agency says it is actively “exploring” the possibility of creating a task force to investigate the therapeutic of certain psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in anticipation of federal approval of the substances for prescription use.
In January, bipartisan House lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that implored the agency to allow terminally ill patients to access psilocybin as an investigational drug, pursuant to federal “Right to Try” statute enacted under the Trump administration.
DEA is now facing another lawsuit for refusing to allow a Seattle-based doctor to obtain psilocybin for his oncology patients. Plaintiffs say that the agency is unlawfully failing to abide by federal law by denying such access under the circumstances.
Bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers filed companion bills last week that seeks to clarify the intent and application of the “Right to Try” law at the center of the case. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Nancy Mace (R-SC), are the lead sponsors of the legislation.
In May, Booker and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) separately pushed top federal officials to provide an update on research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, arguing that ongoing federal prohibition has stymied studies.
Federal health officials recently recognized that federal prohibition makes it harder to study the benefits of psychedelics, requiring researchers to jump through additional regulatory hoops.
Activists including one of the plaintiffs in the Right to Try case, Erinn Baldeschwiler, staged a demonstration outside of DEA headquarters in Virginia in May, demanding that the agency allow terminally ill patients to access psilocybin therapy.
DEA is separately being sued over repeated delays in processing requests for public records related to psychedelics and marijuana.
Following significant pushback from the research and advocacy communities, the agency recently rescinded its proposal to ban five psychedelic compounds that scientists say could hold significant therapeutic potential. DEA also cancelled a hearing it previously scheduled on the proposal.
Separately, the agency has separately increased production quotas for the production of certain psychedelics like psilocybin in an effort to promote research, but its scheduling decisions have continued to represent obstacles for scientists.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved a large-scale defense bill that includes amendments directing the Department of Defense (DOD) to carry out a study into the medical potential of psilocybin and MDMA, as well as marijuana, for military veterans with certain conditions.
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