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California’s Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Heads to Senate Floor

California’s psychedelic decriminalization bill passed a key legislative barrier on Thursday. The bill will now move to the Senate floor within the next two weeks for a full vote.

This advancement was the result of a key decision by the Senate Appropriations Committee that could have stalled the bill for the current session.

Sen. Scott Wiener introduced Senate Bill 519 in February, proposing to decriminalize simple possession of psychedelics. If passed, the legislation “would make lawful the possession for personal use” and “the social sharing” of psychedelic plants including DMT, ibogaine, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, ketamine, and MDMA.

The Appropriations Committee passed the bill by a vote of 5-2.

The ‘Controlled substances: decriminalization of certain hallucinogenic substances’ bill demands that the California Department of Public Health establishes a working group for studying the recommendations on the state’s regulatory system for equitable access. The report would be due by January 1, 2024.

Wiener’s bill has garnered strong support from lawmakers, activists, and psychedelic advocates in the past few months. The legislation was approved by two State Senate committees in April, both a week apart. 

The Senator excluded peyote from the decriminalization bill, citing “the nearly endangered status of the peyote plant” and its significance in Native American spirituality.

However, the indigenous community, including the Native American Churches and Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI), have raised concerns over the language of the bill being counter-productive in preserving both the peyote cactus and the traditions surrounding it.

Another bill introduced by Sen. Wiener, SB-57, which proposes to establish an overdose prevention program, was approved by the panel in April. This bill would authorize the City and County of San Francisco, the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Oakland to approve entities to operate overdose prevention programs as a pilot initiative until January 1, 2027.

In a parallel attempt, Decriminalize California also launched a ballot initiative for 2022 to decriminalize entheogenic plants across the state through a public vote in February.

Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for clinical use and decriminalize all drugs under Ballot Measures 109 and 110 during the November 2020 election. Sen. Wiener announced soon after that he would introduce a similar reform in the California state legislature. “Cities like Washington, D.C. and states like Oregon have led the way, and now it’s California’s turn,” he said.

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