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A California lawmaker on Monday introduced legislation to decriminalize the possession and use of natural psychedelics including psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms. The bill, introduced by state Senator Scott Wiener, follows similar legislation the San Francisco Democrat introduced last year that was eventually gutted by the legislature in August.

The bill likely faces opposition from law enforcement groups wary of the potential safety risks of easing restrictions on psychedelic drugs, according to media reports. But the measure is backed by mental health professionals and veterans groups that want to allow access to the potential benefits of the compounds.

“Psychedelics have tremendous capacity to help people heal, but right now, using them is a criminal offense,” Wiener said in a statement. “These drugs literally save lives and are some of the most promising treatments we have for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction.”

Psychedelics And Mental Health

Clinical research and other studies into psychedelics such as psilocybin have shown that the drugs have potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for serious mental health conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. A separate study published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.

The legislation introduced on Monday, Senate Bill 58 (SB 58), would decriminalize the possession and use of small quantities of natural psychedelic drugs including psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The bill does not legalize the sale of psychedelic drugs. Chad Harman, CEO of psychedelics-focused biotech firm Psycheceutical, said that SB 58 “is a huge advancement for the progress of the psychedelic movement.”

“A careful review of the science and facts surrounding these potentially life-saving compounds is exactly what we have been fighting for, and now the State of California is showing signs of being on board,” Harman wrote in an email. “Not only does this decriminalization bill confirm growing momentum and acceptance from the scientific and medical communities, but it could set the precedent needed for other states to follow suit.”

Bill Follows Similar Measure Introduced Last Year

The measure is similar to legislation introduced by Wiener last year, although the new bill does not include synthetic psychedelics such as LSD or MDMA (ecstasy) that were included in the previous version. The earlier measure, Senate Bill 519 (SB 519), was stripped of its decriminalization provisions by a legislative committee, leaving legislation that only funded a study of the proposal.

“While I am extremely disappointed by this result, I am looking to reintroducing this legislation next year and continuing to make the case that it’s time to end the War on Drugs,” Wiener said in an August statement after learning of the changes made to SB 519. “Psychedelic drugs, which are not addictive, have incredible promise when it comes to mental health and addiction treatment. We are not giving up.”

Joshua Kappel, an attorney with the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that Wiener’s new bill could advance the use of psychedelics for mental health, similar to a ballot measure passed by Colorado voters in last month’s midterm elections.

“California’s SB 58 is smart drug policy. John Hopkins, UCLA, and many other universities are discovering that psychedelic-assisted therapy shows promise in treating addiction, depression, and PTSD, Kappel wrote in an email to High Times. “Similar to what the voters recently passed in Colorado through Prop 122, SB 58 decriminalizes the same natural medicines and creates a pathway for supervised therapeutic use.”

Although the bill is supported by some mental health professionals and veterans groups, it is likely to face opposition from law enforcement groups that opposed Wiener’s original bill.

“Without more evidence that these hallucinogenic drugs are no more dangerous than cannabis, we cannot support legalizing them,” the California District Attorneys Assn. wrote in opposition to the previous version of the bill. “Hallucinations can be dangerous to users and bystanders alike, and it is not clear that the benefit of legalizing these drugs outweighs the cost to the common welfare.”

 

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