A new bill introduced Wednesday in the State Senate would legalize several psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin “magic” mushrooms.
Senate Bill 519, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would make psilocybin (magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (psychedelic drug DMT), ibogaine (psychedelic substance), mescaline (psychedelic hallucinogen), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine (“dissociative anesthetic”), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy, molly,) legal to possess for personal use and social sharing. SB 519 would also set strict limits on who can use the drugs, penalizing those who are under the age of 21 for using drugs, as well as possessing the drugs on school property.
Those with prior criminal offenses for possession and use would have also have their records expunger under the bill, with the California Department of Public Health to come up with regulations and therapeutic uses of the legalized psychedelics by 2024.
According to Senator Wiener’s office, the bill will not follow the cannabis model to form a retail trade of the drugs. Instead, Senator Wiener wrote SB 519 as a way to end the mass incarceration that occurred during the war on drugs, as well as to increase scientific and medical testing to help those suffering from mental health conditions such as PTSD and depression.
“Policy should be based on science and common sense, not fear and stigma,” Senator Wiener said in a press release. “The War on Drugs and mass incarceration are destructive and failed policies, and we must end them. Moreover, given the severity of our mental health crisis, we shouldn’t be criminalizing people for using drugs that have shown significant promise in treating mental health conditions.”
Other legislative supporters of the bill gave similar reasons for legalization, with many emphasizing the effects that criminalization of psychedelics have had on minority communities.
“This bill is part of a larger push to end the failed War on Drugs, which has disproportionately harmed underserved communities of color,” added Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell). “Our bill helps to lead us on a path to decriminalizing substance abuse so we can focus on providing addiction treatment instead of paying for jail cells and ignoring the larger problem.”
Opposition quickly forms against SB 519
While there have been some support of SB 519, many fellow legislators, law enforcement officials, and numerous public safety groups have come out against the bill, with many noting the dangers that psychedelics can bring.
“The dangers of psychedelics, more commonly called hallucinogens, are well documented,” former police officer and current drug counselor Marty Ribera explained to the Globe. “I read through this bill. Where are the parts that mention bad trips? Or the depression the drugs bring to users? Or, in the case of magic mushrooms, the inability to tell between the hallucination and real life? What about the deaths and injuries they cause. What about the long-term psychosis that many users develop? They’ve been banned for a reason.
“I asked 7 doctors about this bill before the interview, and they all thought it was a joke to legalize all of these. They all did say that any medical benefits should be studied, but making them legal for medical testing and just flat out making it legal across the board are two wildly different things.
“They’re trying to make this about the war on drugs, but this is a public safety issue. These kinds of drugs are much more impairing than alcohol or marijuana, and legalizing would not only increase the danger but cause testing problems. There is still no solid metric for testing for marijuana driving while high, and all of these thrown in would just be hell on police.
“We should test and look into medical testing legalization only. If taking some mushrooms really does help, say, a returning soldier who has PTSD, like some studies are beginning to show, then let’s be scientific and create viable limits. SB 519 says it’s scientific, but in reality, it’s just reckless because it legalizes everything at once. Not safe, very limited, controlled testing that would be the smart thing to do. But full blown legalization.
“The sheer stupidity of this bill is overwhelming.”
SB 519 is due to be brought up to a committee in the coming weeks.