A bill that would decriminalize possession of several psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, ecstasy, and psilocybin “magic” mushrooms narrowly passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee 5-3 on Tuesday following late alterations to the bill.
Senate Bill 519 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would “decriminalize” dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine (psychedelic substance), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (psychedelic hallucinogen), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy, molly) possession for personal use and social sharing.
SB 519 would also set strict limits on possession of the listed psychedelics, penalizing those who are under the age of 21 for using drugs, as well as possessing the drugs on school property. Possession of drug paraphernalia associated with psychedelics will no longer carry criminal penalties as long as they are owned by adults. Those with prior criminal offenses for possession and use would have also have their records expunged under the bill, with the California Department of Public Health to come up with regulations and therapeutic uses of the legalized psychedelics by 2024.
However, SB 519 underwent major changes since its narrow passage in the Senate earlier this month. In earlier iterations, including the Senate-passed version, the drug ketamine was included as one of the decriminalized drugs on the list. However, enough lawmakers said that they would not vote for the bill if ketamine was to be included due to ketamine’s status as one of the most common date-rape drugs, including Assemblyman and Public Safety Committee member Reggie-Jones Sawyer (D-Los Angeles).
“Keeping ketamine would have just confused what you ultimately want to get accomplished,” explained Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer earlier this month.
Others noted that only ketamine was taken off because that was what was needed to keep the bill going forward even though concerns remained about other drugs listed in SB 519.
“We still have many that can hurt people,” explained former police officer and current drug counselor Marty Ribera to the Globe on Wednesday. “Hallucinogens can help in some cases, but they can hurt in so many more. But instead of adding a provision to test people first to make sure they can handle them and that they are the type of people that they would help, it is just straight decriminalization. It’s reckless.”
Despite the ketamine compromise and other cosmetic changes, SB 519 managed to keep enough support due to Senator Wiener continuing to emphasize health benefits, especially in cases of veterans, as well as helping to end mass incarcerations that have been one of the main effects of the war on drugs.
“People’s lives are literally transformed because of these substances,” said Senator Wiener of his bill. “It’s time we acknowledge the benefits of these substances even outside of a clinical study.”
He added in a tweet on Tuesday that “The Assembly Public Safety Committee just passed our legislation to decriminalize possession of psychedelics in California. Another step toward ending the failed & racist War on Drugs & expanding access to mental health & addiction treatment.”
The Assembly Public Safety Committee just passed our legislation to decriminalize possession of psychedelics in California (#SB519).
Another step toward ending the failed & racist War on Drugs & expanding access to mental health & addiction treatment.
Thank you, colleagues!
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) June 29, 2021
Ketamine removed from bill, other psychedelics continue to be questioned
While many health experts and patients who have shown mental improvement due to psychedelic drug treatments praised the bill earlier this month, much like previous months, some have begun to suggest that some of the drugs should be taken off the list due to their negative effects. Many testifying previously blasted ketamine’s inclusion for its role as a date rape drug, with others denouncing mescaline and LSD included due to the mental effects that hallucinations and trips can have. Others also warned against the “social sharing” provisions due to concerns of higher overdose and death rates from inexperienced users.
“Having tried all that was offered to me by military medicine, I was barely holding on. I turned to psychedelics as a last-ditch effort to survive, and fortunately it worked amazingly well,” testified former Army Ranger and president of the Heroic Hearts Project Jesse Gould earlier this month. “But LSD should be excluded because it is married to flashbacks and can result in a trip people can have for the rest of their lives.”
However, despite acknowledging the assistance that some psychedelics provide those suffering from mental trauma, lawmakers from the previous Senate votes still voted against the bill over concerns ranging from how many drugs were still on the list, to expressing the need for a provision that all usage be under the eye of a physician to ensure effectiveness, to still being opposed because o all the negative health benefits and societal problems that such a decriminalization can bring to California.
“While I favor anything that helps veterans, it has to be done in a clinical setting, it has to be done under the watchful eye of a physician to make sure there are no ill effects,” stressed Assemblyman Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta) before the committee vote on Tuesday. “This will be just like beer, you just go get the 21-year-old to give you the stuff.”
SB 519 is expected to be heard in additional Assembly committees in July, with close votes among lawmakers being expected once again due to the controversial nature of the bill.
Article was corrected to say lawmakers from the previous Senate votes still voted against the bill, rather than many Assembly members.