A proposal that would allow the possession, cultivation, use, and “sharing” of most psychedelic drugs in California was formally introduced in the state Legislature on Thursday.
SB 519, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco in the state Senate, would permit the personal possession and “social sharing” of psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, ketamine, MDMA, mescaline, and ibogaine.
It’s also a deliberate step towards ending the drug war and eliminating criminal penalties for possessing any drugs in the state, the legislation’s sponsor said.
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Recent research and an increasing number of anecdotes suggest that psilocybin, MDMA, and other psychedelic drugs have potential in treating intractable mental-health conditions, including depression, PTSD, and end-of-life anxiety.
If passed, it would also allow past criminal charges for psychedelic possession to be expunged from individuals’ records.
Wiener hopes, it will also pave the way for Oregon-style across-the-board decriminalization to become law in California, America’s most populous state.
“People should not be going to jail for possessing or using drugs,” said Wiener, in an interview with The Guardian. “It’s a health issue, not a criminal issue, and I hope that we get all the way there.”
Wiener’s proposal follows several successful decriminalization efforts at the city level in California. City Councils in both Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, a university and surf town about two hours to the south, have passed resolutions asking police to stop arresting people for possessing certain psychedelics.
Wiener’s law goes further. SB 519 would amend the state criminal code to specifically permit both the cultivation and distribution of certain psychedelics—though it does not permit sales.
The bill allows “social sharing” of mushrooms, LSD, ibogaine, and DMT.
“Social sharing” is defined as the “giving away” or “consensual administering… not for financial gain.”
The bill also declares that the “planting, cultivating, harvesting, or processing of plants” that produce certain psychedelics “shall not be a violation of local law.”
It’s unclear what hope Wiener’s proposal has politically. Though California was the first state to allow the medical use of cannabis, four states legalized adult-use marijuana before the Golden State—and all this was accomplished via voter initiatives, not elected lawmakers.
Across the country, most drug-policy reform initiatives have become law via ballot initiative rather than the lawmaking process.
The law deliberate omits peyote, a substance found in certain cacti and sacred in several indigenous religious traditions, from decriminalization. Federally recognized Native tribes already have limited permission to use peyote; the belief is that omitting peyote will discourage non-Native people from exhausting already depleted cactus patches where peyote can be found.
I’m an award-winning investigative reporter and I've covered the legalization movement and the cannabis industry with a political economy lens for more than a decade.