A bill to decriminalize plant-based psychedelic drugs was reintroduced on Monday in a much-watered down version that previous iterations have taken.
According to Senate Bill 58, by Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco), plant-based and other natural hallucinogens such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (psychedelic drug DMT), ibogaine (psychedelic substance), and mescaline (psychedelic hallucinogen) would be decriminalized, with police being unable to charge those holding the drugs with a criminal penalty and the drug still being across the board illegal for minors.
The bill is a significantly pared down version of SB 519, first introduced in January 2021 by Weiner that would have not only legalized the psychedelics in SB 58, but also would have included synthetic hallucinogens such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine (“dissociative anesthetic”), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy, molly). However, the bill was amended heavily in 2021 and 2022, removing ketamine and other troubling parts for legislators and oppositions groups, such as law enforcement agencies. Despite the changes, the bill was still gutted in August, removing everything but a single study on the use of the remaining drugs.
However, as promised, Weiner brought the bill back on Monday, stripping it of the more controversial synthetic drugs. Wiener also kept in tact the reasons behind the bill – 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.
Weiner brings back psychedelic decriminalization bill
“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,” Wiener said in a press release on Monday. “In the past few years, the mental health and addiction crises have worsened. Since the onset of the pandemic, so many people have dealt with unemployment and financial distress, a lack of community and social isolation, and loss of friends or family — anxiety, depression, overdose and suicide rates are up across the country. With many people seeking treatment for these conditions, it’s critical that we look to alternatives to criminalizing and incarcerating people who are using psychedelics to heal.”
“For veterans, many of whom live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), access to psychedelics can be lifesaving. Veterans die by suicide at a rate of 1.5 times the general public. That’s why Veterans Affairs is studying psychedelic therapy, and why so many veterans are advocating for the decriminalization of psychedelics. Psychedelics have tremendous capacity to help people heal, but right now, using them is a criminal offense. These drugs literally save lives and are some of the most promising treatments we have for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction.”
Despite Senator Wiener’s advocacy for the decriminalization of the plant-based hallucinogens, as several Californian cities have done, as well as Oregon and Colorado recently passing similar measures, there is still a large segment of opposition against SB 58. While law enforcement groups in large part, others, including medal professionals, also oppose the bill given the significant dangers involved.
“Wiener is trying to make it sound like nothing can go wrong with taking these drugs,” explained former police officer and current drug counselor Marty Ribera to the Globe on Monday. “But he is so wrong. What about the bad trips? What about depression caused by these drugs? What about long-term psychosis? For every success story there are at least 2 others that involve a ruined life. These drugs are illegal, and criminalized, for so many reasons.”
“If anything like this were to happen, it would need to be by a case-by-case basis. Not across the state decriminalization. Remember, the use of these drugs affects other people too, like car accidents caused by them or users hurting themselves and others as a result of being impaired by them. Case-by-case in a safe environment? Maybe, but this bill is nowhere near that. And it will probably fail again as a result.”
SB 58 is to be beard again beginning in the next legislative session next month.
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