State Senator Scott Weiner, who represents San Francisco, recently introduced bill SB 519 in the California Senate. The proposal would decriminalize personal use and possession of substances such as psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, DMY, ketamine, ibogaine, and mescaline. The bill also officially recognizes the medical applications of all these substances.
The bill follows the lead of places such as Santa Cruz, Oakland, and the District of Columbia in decriminalizing psychedelics. Weiner’s proposal goes further in allowing the cultivation, distribution, and ‘social sharing’ of mushrooms, DMT, LSD and ibogaine. Sales are still not allowed. If the bill passes, it would also be another step toward decriminalizing all drugs, a move Oregon took in November.
Speaking to the Guardian, Senator Weiner said that jailing people just for possession or using drugs is unacceptable and that it should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal issue.
The bill makes a point of noting the medical benefits of psychedelics. The drugs are already widely in use for treating various mental health disorders. ‘Psychedelic-assisted therapy’ is being used by medical professionals who extoll the benefits of the drugs in dealing with issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also being prescribed in Canada to help terminally ill patients deal with pain and end-of-life anxiety.
Due to a peyote shortage for indigenous practitioners, the native community asked for the drug to stay criminalized. Peyote is sacred to the indigenous tribes and is also an endangered plant. Consequently, the bill won’t decriminalize peyote or mescaline that has come from peyote.
The bill would also lead to creating a regulatory body to oversee psychedelic-assisted therapy in the treatment of mental health disorders.
California is not the first to be taking this route. In 2019, Denver and Oakland both decriminalized mushrooms. New Jersey recently signed a bill loosening the penalty for those found with less than an ounce of psychedelic mushrooms – downgrading possession from a third-degree crime to a disorderly person offense. Similar bills have been passed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Somerville, and Cambridge in Massachusetts.
The reason for the change is the acknowledgment that the old ways weren’t working. Senator Weiner said, “the war on drugs has been a complete failure. It hasn’t stopped people from using drugs, and it hasn’t stopped addiction.”
The bill would also expunge criminal records for those previously convicted of possessing or using psychedelics.
The bill has yet to pass, and the legality of these drugs varies considerably across the country. If you need psychedelic substances, it is strongly recommended that you consult a legal professional to check the local laws. The rules might be changing, but they are doing so at an uneven pace across the country – it is essential to know where you stand.