California bill proposes lawful use and sharing of psychedelic drugs
A broad drug reform bill has been introduced to the California state legislature proposing to decriminalize the possession and personal use of a number of psychedelic drugs, including LSD, psilocybin and MDMA. The bill proposes to expunge all criminal convictions relating to these substances and allows “social sharing” of the drugs, but not commercial sales.
Progressive drug reform continues to sweep across the United States following last November's general election in which four more states passed recreational marijuana measures. Now, Democrat senator Scott Wiener has introduced the most dramatically broad drug bill seen so far in the country.
Senate Bill 519 looks to, “make lawful the possession for personal use, as described, and the social sharing, as defined, of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), by and with persons 21 years of age or older.”
The far-reaching bill dismisses prior convictions for possession and use of those specified substances. It also calls for a commission to be formed to “research and make recommendations” regarding future regulatory conditions for therapeutic uses.
Wiener explicitly points out that the bill is not proposing a commercial recreational model, similar to the way marijuana laws have rolled out across the country. No retail mechanism is proposed in the bill. However, the bill does propose allowing what it calls “social sharing” of these controlled substances.
"Social sharing" is broadly defined in the proposed bill as, “the giving away or consensual administering” of one of the proposed psychedelic drugs. The sharing must not be “for financial gain” and can only be offered in the “context of group counseling, spiritual guidance, community-based healing, or related services.”
The bill is significantly more progressive than a ballot measure passed in November in Oregon which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of all illicit drugs. Wiener openly suggests this bill is a direct push to eliminate the “War on Drugs”, a zero-tolerance punitive policy that has dominated drug law in the United States for the better part of a century.
“The War on Drugs and mass incarceration are destructive and failed policies, and we must end them,” says Wiener. “Moreover, given the severity of our mental health crisis, we shouldn’t be criminalizing people for using drugs that have shown significant promise in treating mental health conditions. People should be able to seek alternative treatment for diseases like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and we need to make science-based treatments available to those in need. Cities like Washington, D.C. and states like Oregon have led the way, and now it’s California’s turn.”
The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) worked on developing SB 519 with Wiener. MAPS has been at the forefront of psychedelic science for several decades and led research in the therapeutic application of MDMA for PTSD, currently in advanced Phase 3 trials with FDA approval expected in the next couple of years.
“Americans’ growing recognition that the War on Drugs is a decades-long public health disaster demands policies to both correct its immeasurable damage and acknowledge the tremendous potential benefits of so many criminalized substances, including psychedelics,” says MAPS’ director of Policy and Advocacy, Natalie Lyla Ginsberg. “Public health research continues to show that criminalization makes drug use more dangerous, exacerbates social and racial inequities, and plays a key role in the erasure of countless ancestral plant medicine practices.”
Over the past few years a growing number of drug reform measures have been passed in the United States. These have mostly been small localized decriminalization bills, passed by city councils or publicly voted ballot measures. SB 519 will be the first time this kind of progressive drug reform bill has been proposed by a lawmaker on a statewide level.
Wiener hopes the bill will progress to a senate committee hearing sometime over the next month or two. But, it is unclear exactly how much support there is in government for this kind of dramatic drug reform. Weiner does admit voters are usually more progressive than lawmakers when it comes to criminal justice reform.
An activist group called Decriminalize California is already working to bypass the state’s lawmakers and put the issue to the people. The grassroots organization is building support for a ballot measure allowing California citizens to vote on legalizing psilocybin in the upcoming 2022 elections.