SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Sept. 8, 2023) – Yesterday, the California Senate gave final approval to a bill that would legalize several naturally occurring psychedelic drugs, including “magic mushrooms,” despite ongoing federal regulation and prohibition on the same.
Sen. Scott Weiner sponsors Senate Bill 58 (SB58). The legislation would legalize the possession of specific amounts of psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, and mescaline for personal use by adults 21 and over. It does not legalize the personal transfer or sale of psychedelics.
Under the law, adults could also possess an “amount of spores or mycelium capable of producing an allowable amount of a plant or fungi which contain a controlled substance.” The state ban on drug paraphernalia for the covered substances would also be eliminated under the legislation.
SB58 also directs the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to establish a working group to study psychedelics and recommend a regulatory framework for their therapeutic use in facilitated settings.
The law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2025.
On Sept. 6., the Assembly passed the final version of SB58 by a 43-15 vote. The Senate approved the final version on Sept. 7 by a 21-14 vote. The bill now moves to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his consideration. Weiner previously told Marijuana Moment that “it’s unclear to me” whether the governor would sign the bill and that Newsome is “not expressing any opinion pro or con.”
“California’s veterans, first responders, and others struggling with PTSD, depression, and addiction deserve access to these promising plant medicines,” Wiener said in a news release after the bill passed. “SB 58 has prudent safeguards in place after we incorporated feedback from three years of deep engagement with a broad array of stakeholders.”
“We know these substances are not addictive, and they show tremendous promise in treating many of the most intractable conditions driving our nation’s mental health crisis. It’s time to stop criminalizing people who use psychedelics for healing or personal well-being.”
Efforts to legalize psychedelics in California follow a successful ballot measure that decriminalized a number of drugs, including heroin and cocaine in Oregon. In 2022, Colorado voters passed a ballot measure decriminalizing several naturally occurring psychedelic substances. At least 14 cities including Detroit, Michigan have decriminalized “magic mushrooms.”
Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms. A number of studies have shown psilocybin to be effective in the treatment of depression, PTSD, chronic pain and addiction. For instance, a Johns Hopkins study in 2016 found that “psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.” In 2020, peer-reviewed research published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder.
Psychedelic decriminalization and legalization efforts at the state and local levels are moving forward despite the federal government’s prohibition of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains the complete prohibition of many of the drugs on SB58’s decriminalization list and heavily regulates others. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate such substances within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
In effect, the passage of SB58 would end criminal enforcement of laws prohibiting the possession of these drugs in California. As we’ve seen with marijuana and hemp, when states and localities stop enforcing laws banning a substance, the federal government finds it virtually impossible to maintain prohibition. For instance, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing or ending state prohibition, states sweep part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state and local assistance, and the same will likely hold true with other drugs.
Gov. Newsome will have until Oct. 14 to sign or veto SB58. If he takes no action, it will become law without his signature.
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