Health Care

California lawmakers approve psychedelics decriminalization bill

California is on its way to becoming the third state in the country to decriminalize psychedelics after the state Assembly passed a bill that would allow adults 21 and older to possess and use small amounts of plant and mushroom psychedelics.

Senate Bill 58, introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) in 2021, was passed in a 42-11 vote Wednesday and would make several naturally occurring psychedelic substances —including psilocybin and psilocin, the psychoactive ingredients in hallucinogenic mushrooms, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and mescaline (excluding peyote) — legal within the state. 

In addition to decriminalizing personal possession and cultivation, the bill also aims to establish “community-based healing” practices that promote group therapeutic use of psychedelics.  

In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Wiener celebrated the legislation passing. The senator’s first attempt previously failed when an earlier version of the bill that also passed the Senate stalled out in the Assembly last year. 

“The Assembly just passed our psychedelics decriminalization bill (SB 58),” Wiener wrote. “It’s supported by veterans, 1st responders, and health professionals.”

Backers of the push to decriminalize psychedelic drugs have drawn attention to the promising mental health benefits offered by certain entheogenic plants and fungi. Preliminary data from The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research has shown psilocybin therapy can reduce major depressive disorder symptoms for up to a year. 

“California’s veterans, first responders, and others struggling with PTSD, depression, and addiction deserve access to these promising plant medicines,” Wiener said in a press release.

“We know these substances are not addictive, and they show tremendous promise in treating many of the most intractable conditions driving our nation’s mental health crisis. It’s time to stop criminalizing people who use psychedelics for healing or personal well-being.”

Meanwhile, recent surveys show there is growing nationwide support for reforming psychedelic drug use. According to the results of the first UC Berkeley Psychedelics Survey, 61 percent of registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, while nearly half said they were in favor of removing criminal penalties for personal use and possession.

The passage of S.B. 58 in California comes after two other states made history by enacting legislation to decriminalize psychedelics. In 2020, Oregon voters approved The Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, otherwise known as Measure 109, which was the first law in the U.S. to establish a regulatory framework for receiving psilocybin. Two years later, Colorado followed suit by legalizing five natural psychedelic substances. 

The bill will return to the Senate for approval before it makes its way to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). If Newsom signs it, S.B. 58 is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Tags psychedelics psychedelics decriminalization Scott Wiener