Home California Legislation to Decriminalize Possession and Personal Use of Psychedelics Passes Senate Public Safety Committee

Legislation to Decriminalize Possession and Personal Use of Psychedelics Passes Senate Public Safety Committee

by ECT
Senator Scott Wiener

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation, Senate Bill 519, which decriminalizes the possession and personal use of certain psychedelic drugs, passed the Senate Public Safety Committee by a vote of 4-1. Research from top medical universities shows that these substances can have significant benefits, particularly for treating mental health and substance use disorders, and decriminalizing their personal use is part of the larger movement to end the racist War on Drugs and its failed and destructive policies.

The following substances are included in SB 519: psilocybin, psilocyn, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“MDMA”), Lysergic acid diethylamide (“LSD”), ketamine, Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT”), mescaline (excluding peyote), and ibogaine,

SB 519 also expunges any criminal records for people convicted of possession or personal use of these substances. Finally, SB 519 establishes a commission charged with producing recommendations to the Legislature regarding which regulatory system it recommends California adopt for personal use of these specified substances in the future.

This legislation follows similar, successful efforts to decriminalize these substances in Washington, D.C., Oakland, and Santa Cruz, as well as the successful 2020 Oregon ballot measures that decriminalized personal use of all scheduled substances, and authorized the creation of a state-licensed, psilocybin services program over the next two years.

Studies show that psychedelics show great promise in the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. Recent clinical trials studying MDMA as a treatment for PTSD led the FDA to distinguish MDMA-assisted therapy as a “Breakthrough Therapy”: two-thirds of study participants no longer qualified as having PTSD after experiencing MDMA-assisted therapy. In a 2018 clinical trial, MDMA treatment showed promise in treating chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in military veterans, firefighters, and police officers. In a 2020 study, MDMA used in combination with therapy showed the potential to reduce anxiety in patients facing life-threatening illnesses. In both 2018 and 2019, the FDA issued Breakthrough Therapy distinction to psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”).

In two different clinical trials, psilocybin was shown to reduce symptoms in patients with treatment-resistant depression. A John Hopkins study showed a decrease in depression and anxiety in cancer patients using psilocybin, and another showed promise for smoking cessation. There is also research indicating that LSD may be an effective treatment for anxiety and alcoholism. Observational studies have also documented the use of ayahuasca (which contains DMT) and ibogaine as potential treatments for substance use disorder. There’s also evidence that psychedelics can help with smoking cessation.

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, our mental health and addiction crises are worsening. With so many people dealing with unemployment and financial distress, a lack of community and social isolation, and loss of friends or family to COVID-19 — anxiety, depression, overdose and suicide rates are up across the country. And with prisons and jails serving as COVID-19 hotspots, it’s critical that we look to alternatives to criminalizing and incarcerating people who are using psychedelics to heal.

SB 519 is co-sponsored by veteran service organizations: Heroic Hearts Project and Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS). Heroic Hearts is an organization that connects veterans to psychedelic therapy for treating complex trauma. In the past few years, Heroic Hearts has become an international voice for veterans demanding effective mental health treatment options. VETS is an organization working to end the veteran suicide epidemic. VETS provides resources, research, and advocacy for U.S. military veterans seeking psychedelic-assisted therapies for traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, and other mental health conditions.

SB 519 is co-authored by Senator Josh Newman (D- Fullerton) and Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-San Jose), Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward).

“It’s time to take a science and health-based approach to drugs, including psychedelics,” said Senator Wiener. “The War on Drugs has been an abject failure. It hasn’t made us safer. It hasn’t reduce drug use or addiction. But it has cost taxpayers a massive amount of money, in addition to tearing apart communities. The evidence is clear: Psychedelics can be transformational for those struggling with mental health and addiction challenges, and we need to empower people to access alternative mental health treatment, rather than criminalizing them for doing so.”

“So many veterans, like myself, have been left with lasting trauma after their service,” said Jesse Gould, the Founder and President of the Heroic Hearts Project. “Decriminalizing psychedelic therapy to allow these promising treatments is essential in supporting and addressing the current mental health crisis among our veterans.”

During today’s committee hearing, legislators heard from Jose Martinez, an Afghanistan veteran who became an amputee during his time of service. Martinez has used psilocybin therapy as a way to overcome his trauma from his time in Afghanistan and as a way to help mitigate some of his pain he has had as a result of becoming an amputee.

“Psilocybin therapy helped me take control over my life again,” said Martinez. “After my time in Afghanistan and adjusting to a new life after sustaining life-changing injuries, psychedelics helped me through the physical and mental pain that I suffered as a result. Without access to this type of treatment, I wouldn’t be where I am here today.”

“There is a growing catalogue of sophisticated scientific research that shows that psychedelic therapy may help many that are suffering from trauma and depression who have yet to find relief from talk-therapy and pharmaceutical drugs alone,” said Robert Grant, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco who is currently performing research focused on novel transformative interventions for depression and anxiety, including ketamine and MDMA assisted psychotherapies.

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Dawn Apr 8, 2021 - 3:11 pm

I have some friends who live in Colorado who went through a psychedelic procedure with a “guide” and they were featured on 60 MINUTES in a segment which aired in 2018 and then was updated and repeated. The emphasis was that this procedure should NOT be done by a person alone and needs to have a trained person as a guide. It changes people’s lives, as the program showed.

Take wiener out of office now!!!!!!!! Apr 8, 2021 - 3:50 pm

WHY THE HELL IS IT OK FOR THIS GUY TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE DONT HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THERE ACTIONS!!!!! Why is it ok for this hell hole called California to be a lawless land!!!!!! Stop making California less and less safer !!!! That’s All this is doing!!!!.

Stephen Lore Apr 8, 2021 - 3:53 pm

I remember this being shown on 60 MINUTES and Anderson Cooper went through this and said it really opened up his eyes. Some woman, who had cancer, who went through this said she was not afraid of death anymore. People who had a lot of negativity throughout their lives, became more positive thinkers. I think someone in Santa Cruz has been crusading for this.

THANK YOU SCOTT WIENER!!! Apr 8, 2021 - 11:52 pm

Thank God California is finally waking up to realize that the War on Drugs has done nothing but tear families apart, fill up the For-Profit jail system, and allow the police to harass, discriminate and destroy people’s lives. Psychedelics should in no way be criminalized. The idiots that think it will make California less safe need to educate themselves. This has nothing to do with people being accountable for their actions, the only problem with Psychedelics is they are illegal, take that away and this is no need for accountability. The FDA has designated Psilsybin (Mushrooms) and MDMA (Ecstacy) as medical “game changers” in the fight against many different conditions including PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety, just to name a few. In fact, some of the worlds greatest scientific breakthroughs and inventions have been discovered through the use of Psychedelics, including one of the most widely used methods in molecular biology of DNA replication, a technique known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction), by the late Noble Prize-winning DR. Kary Mullis, as well as many of the Apple Computer innovations that have revolutionized the world. Imagine a world where people can actually use these tools to create the next inventions and world-changing ideas without the fear of being jailed and having their lives ruined by law enforcement. Its time the Police were held accountable for their actions and taking away the stigma attached to psychedelics. It’s such Bullshit that the big pharmaceutical companies can make billions a year by dealing actual drugs like Oxycodone, Xanax, Seconal, and Valium, etc., but if someone does acid or mushrooms they are considered a druggy. The passing of this law will actually make California much safer, safer from persecution from law enforcement who are out to ruin American lives using antiquated laws that make no sense!!!! THANK YOU SCOTT WEINER and all the other Senators who support this bill!!! California is an AMAZING place to live, and this law will make it even better!!! P.S. To all the whiney little B***ches that think California is such a hell hole, you can get the F**k out!

Gloria Apr 9, 2021 - 1:43 am

Yes! There was story in the East Bay Times on the Santa Cruz person and I know I saved the article, but have to find it. I would go through such a session like it was shown on 60 MINUTES. I hope they repeat it.

LoveableCurmudgeon Apr 9, 2021 - 4:16 am

It’s about time to end our obsession with drugs. Legalize it all, control the settings, and end the bottomless pit of throwing good money at the drug war. It would be far cheaper to legalize and regulate. And our prisons wouldn’t be filled with sick people, rather be reserved for actual criminals

Phil Burton Apr 9, 2021 - 2:54 pm

Some friends of mine traveled to Colorado and went through this process! It was amazing the changes I saw in them. A few who really had no direction in life and were not ambitious, because very focused and changed their entire outlook in a very positive direction. One who was always complaining, redirected his energies to be able to actually solve problems. This happened after only one session. It was like someone cleared the “cobwebs” in their brains. I can’t wait to go through it myself.

The Truth Apr 9, 2021 - 5:17 pm

Dear Thank you and loveable

Please list your home address so all the tweakers and addicts can come hang out in your neighborhood.

Also I will have the hospitals bill you directly for all the medical issues associated with legalizing narcotics. I can also ask Contra Costa County mental health to see if they can bill you too. Seems fair…

Very naive posts by clueless Thorpe-ist

Ava Chang Apr 11, 2021 - 1:16 pm

I hope 60 Minutes shows this segment again. It explains why one needs a “guide” to go through the process. I’ll contact them and request it.

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