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California legislature takes steps to decriminalize psychedelics

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(The Center Square) – The California State Assembly Public Safety Committee approved a bill to decriminalize the possession and use of naturally occurring psychedelic substances including psilocybin, commonly known as “magic mushrooms”, and dimethyltryptamine.

After narrowly passing the California Senate and now the Assembly Public Safety and Health Committees, SB 58 must pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it goes before the entire Assembly, and again must face the Senate in its amended form to reach the governor’s desk for final approval. Amended upon reaching the Assembly, the updated SB 58 now includes language delaying decriminalization until the state adopts a framework regulating the therapeutic use of these substances.

Citing studies from Johns Hopkins and Harvard researchers demonstrating the non-addictive nature and effective medical uses of psychedelic substances, bill author Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said, “Psychedelics are non-addictive and show great promise in helping people struggling with mental health and addiction challenges, and it’s time to stop criminalizing its possession and use.”

A pared down version of 2021’s SB 519, also introduced by Senator Wiener, the updated SB 58 appears to be a direct response to the opposition from law enforcement and even some elected Democrats that led to the failure of SB 519. Notably, SB 519 which would have also decriminalized synthetic and more overtly recreational psychedelics such as methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), ketamine, and lysergic acid (LSD).

With the much narrower SB 58 achieving far broader support it still only narrowly passed the Senate 21-16. Under the new changes to delay legalization until a stronger legal framework for therapeutic use is place, it’s likely the bill as amended has a much easier path to becoming law.

Speaking to the California Globe about the challenges facing the bill, former police officer and current drug counselor Marty Ribera said, “Many are open to the idea, especially of helping veterans, but want to see a pilot program first or something similar to show there are no major risks and that it can be done safely…for many, psychedelics are a hard line to cross.”

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