California and the decriminalization of psychedelics: what’s going on with Scott Wiener’s Senate bill?

State Senator Scott Wiener (D) lobbied for the introduction of Bill 519 since 2021 when San Francisco joined other cities seeking local decriminalization of psychedelics.

This bill is now ready to be discussed further in the follow-up meeting of the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee in the coming week. If the committee approves it, the bill would be returned to the Assembly for consideration.

The proposalwho legalize possession of “specified amounts” of certain psychedelics (many of which are currently in clinical trials) by people 21 years and older, has already been adopted by the Senate and has already been discussed in two other Assembly committees, making changes and corrections to the original document. Nevertheless, the bill was suspended in August 2021 by its Democratic sponsor, in order to gain wider support.

In addition to legalizing the possession, gift and transportation of specific amounts of psychedelics, the legislation would remove criminal prosecution for possession for adults 21 and older.

A reminder: while the original bill included provisions on the sealing of records and re-sentencing, this wording was changed by Senator Wiener in one of the previous Assembly Committees.

Finally, the bill would encourage the State Department of Public Health to form research group to make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly “concerning the regulation and use of the substances made lawful by this bill”.

If the appropriations committee passes the legislation for ground review and that it arrives at the plenary chamber, it should return to the Senate to obtain the approval of the amendments of the Assembly, and only then could it be presented to California Governor Gavin Newsom (D).

A short summary of what happened recently in legal battleground of psychedelics:

  • The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee has included research into psychedelics as a treatment as part of spending bills for fiscal year 2023.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez filed a bill for the further development of psychedelic research as a treatment for the military, which was put in order by the House Rules Committee for the Defense Authorization Act of 2023 national (NDAA).

  • A response letter on behalf of Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged the relevance of further advancing the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy in light of the ongoing mental health crisis.

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has proven its growing interest in psychedelic studies, supporting 57 psychedelic projects with a total budget of $34.4 million.

  • Both houses of Congress have aligned and introduced complementary bills supporting the right of end-of-life patients to access psychedelics under federal right-to-try laws.

Photo courtesy of Geralt on Pixabay.

Norman D. Briggs