Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced this week that he would be moving forward this year with a bill to decriminalize multiple psychedelic drugs and giving his odds of getting it passed at 50/50.
Senator Wiener authored Senate Bill 519 last February, to decriminalize possession of psychedelic drugs such as dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine (psychedelic substance), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (psychedelic hallucinogen), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy, molly) for personal use and social sharing. 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.
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. Legal amounts to possess would also be strictly set, with limits being up to 15 grams for ibogaine, 4 grams of MDMA, 2 grams for DMT, psilocybin, and psilocyn, and only one-hundredth (0.01) of a gram for LCD.
Throughout the first half of 2021 the bill was amended multiple times, with alterations such as ketamine being dropped as a decriminalized drug changing the bill in the hopes that it would attract more legislative supporters. Supporters also pushed forwards benefits of some of the drugs, specifically how they could help mental illnesses such as PTSD, in the hopes that they could attract the support of more middle of the road Democrats and Republicans.
However, during the Senate vote in June, SB 519 only passed 21-16 with 3 abstentions, with the July Health Committee vote coming down to one vote before three Assembly members switched to abstaining onthe vote. These narrow approvals finally ran out with the Assembly Appropriations Committee vote. With not enough votes projected, Wiener pulled the bill and announced that it would be returning next session.
In an interview with Marijuana Moment on Monday, Wiener made it clear that the bill would indeed be back, with supporters trying to grow legislative support and the Senator hoping to make further amendments before the first committee votes
“The focus has been our coalition, our veterans who have been advocating and organizing around the bill. They’re meeting with Assembly members to build more support. That’s really what’s happening.”
“It’s too soon to say whether additional changes will be added. That process will happen in July or early August.”
Among the many issues currently pausing passage of the bill are concerns over which drugs are included in the final bill, what possession limits will be, and who exactly would be covered under SB 519.
“I understand the frustration from advocates over possession limits added to the bill, and my preference would have been not to have possession limits at all,” added Senator Wiener. However, the opposition against the bill would be stronger with no limits, with Wiener concluding, “But sometimes you have a choice about, do you want to pass a meaningful bill, or do you want to insist on the perfect and pass no bill?”
Wiener also noted that he thinks with the renewed effort, the bill will have a 50/50 chance of reaching Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk later this year.
However, advocates of decriminalization, spearheaded by the Decriminalize California group, are not putting all their eggs in one basket and currently have a signature campaign for the legalization of psilocybin mushrooms. If enough signatures are gathered by March, it will be a proposition to be decided on by voters in November.
“There has been more and more of a push here in the last few years to start making other drugs legal following marijuana,” explained former police officer and drug counselor Marty Ribera to the Globe on Tuesday. “They’re obviously getting impatient with legislative action, so they’re trying more and more different things to get it done.”
SB 519 is expected to be reheard in the Legislature in the coming months.
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