Legislation to legalize personal possession and use of certain natural psychedelic drugs passed the California State Assembly on September 7th, marking a milestone for the bill. Introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), SB 58 would allow adults 21 and over to possess psychedelics like psilocybin, DMT, and mescaline. The bill still requires Senate approval of Assembly amendments before potentially going to Governor Newsom’s desk.
Currently, psychedelic substances remain illegal at the federal level and in most states. However, recent research indicates psychedelics may provide therapeutic benefits, especially for mental health. The proposed law aims to remove criminal penalties for personal, non-commercial possession and use by adults. It also directs the state to study psychedelics and develop regulatory policies around medicinal use.
Background on the Psychedelics Legalization Bill
Senator Wiener first introduced SB 58 in the California Senate in December 2021. It passed the Senate in May 2022 by a 21-16 vote. The Assembly then spent months revising the bill before narrowly passing it with a 42-11 vote in September 2022.
Key details of the approved legislation include:
- Legalizes possession, storage, use, and sharing of psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, mescaline, and ibogaine for adults 21 and over. Does not allow sales.
- Decriminalizes cultivated amounts under limits – 1 g for DMT/psilocybin, 4 g for mescaline. Does not allow extraction of psilocybin/DMT.
- Directs state agencies to form workgroup on psychedelic access, education, therapy, regulations, safety and equity.
- Workgroup must provide psychedelic policy recommendations to legislature by 2024.
To become law, the amended bill must pass one more Senate vote approving Assembly changes before going to the governor. If signed, it would take effect in 2025.
Psychedelics as Mental Health Treatment
A key driver of the legislation is emerging research on using psychedelics to treat mental illness.
Studies show substances like psilocybin, MDMA, and ayahuasca hold promise for conditions including:
- Depression – Multiple studies find psychedelics improve depressive symptoms rapidly and over the long term. Lasting changes to brain activity and emotional processing occur.
- PTSD – Small clinical trials show psychedelic therapy significantly reduces trauma-related symptoms like flashbacks, anxiety, and withdrawal.
- Addiction – Research indicates psychedelics help prevent relapse and support recovery by addressing underlying issues.
While still early, current evidence shows psychedelics can be powerful adjuncts to psychotherapy for many neuropsychiatric disorders. Preliminary findings are positive enough that the FDA has granted psilocybin and MDMA “breakthrough therapy” status for further study.
If signed into law, SB 58 could expand access to psychedelic-assisted therapy for patients in need. The bill’s backers say it represents a step toward allowing medical use in a responsible, ethical framework.
Perspectives on the Legislation
Senator Wiener contends the bill strikes a balance between decriminalizing personal use while promoting safety, equity, and responsible policies around therapeutic access. But opinions on SB 58 remain mixed.
Supporters say the bill:
- Removes criminal penalties for possession and personal use.
- Could provide treatment options for veterans, first responders, and others with PTSD, depression, or addiction.
- Includes prudent safeguards and oversight for therapeutic access.
- Is a smart, progressive drug policy reform.
- More safety research is needed before decriminalizing.
- The bill fails to outline specifics on psychedelic therapy implementation.
- It lacks adequate guardrails related to potency, purity, and access.
- More time should be spent developing physical and mental health standards.
If the bill becomes law, California would join states like Colorado and Oregon in decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms. But many details around therapeutic use remain to be developed.
The Path Ahead
Before potentially being signed into law, SB 58 must pass one more Senate vote approving Assembly amendments. If it fails this vote, the bill dies.
If approved by the Senate again, the bill will proceed to Governor Newsom, who will decide whether to sign it into law or veto. Groups on both sides aim to influence the governor’s decision through advocacy campaigns.
Assuming it becomes law, licensed therapists in California could possibly begin administering psychedelic therapy as soon as 2025. However, the newly established working group would need time to develop recommendations on clinical best practices.
While no outcomes are guaranteed, supporters remain hopeful California’s bill represents an important step toward making psychedelics accessible for those who may benefit. But the debate is sure to continue as legislators work to balance safety, oversight, and access if the measure becomes reality.