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    The New Plan For Psychedelic Drug Decriminalization In California

    By Evan Symon

    Senator Wiener to work with Republicans on a limited therapy-only focused bill.

    The potential legalization of certain psychedelic drugs in California continued to take more odd turns in the past few weeks, with Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) recently announcing a new plan: working with Republicans to create a bill that would keep both sides happy.

    For several year, psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (psychedelic drug DMT), ibogaine (psychedelic substance), and mescaline (psychedelic hallucinogen) have been close to being decriminalized in California. Senator Wiener led the charge beginning in 2021, introducing SB 519 to the state Senate. While the use of psychedelics in helping combat PTSD and other afflictions has been seen more and more positively over the years, the ever present negative effects of the drugs had largely ended any real legalization effort.

    However, Wiener used a combined approach with SB 519, writing the bill 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. Early opposition forced Wiener to continue to amend the bill. All synthetic hallucinogens were removed to make the bill more palatable, removing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy, molly). Other troubling drugs such as ketamine and peyote derivatives of decriminalized mescaline were also taken out, with the bill ultimately being gutted almost completely, removing everything but a single study on the use of the remaining drugs. While bill fizzled out in the Assembly, it did manage to narrowly pass the Senate, leading to Wiener to try again this year.

    Introduced as SB 58 earlier this year, Wiener focused on only plant-based psychedelics in the bill. This version proved far more successful. While opposition against the bill was still high, his changes managed to win many lawmakers over. In the Assembly, it passed 43-15, but with a much larger than usual 22 Assemblymembers choosing not to vote. The bill then went to the Senate again because of the number of amendments being made since May. There it was finally passed with a 21-14 vote, but with 5 abstaining, with the bill being sent to the Governor in September.

    But, despite Governor Newsom expressing support for psychedelics for the use in medical treatments in the past, Newsom ultimately vetoed the bill. While a set back, Newsom left a door open for Newsom and supporters, saying that he would support such a bill if it had therapeutic guidelines and made clear that decriminalization was for medical use only. Wiener immediately vowed that a new bill would be in place for 2024 with such guardrails in place.

    That was until a near hijacking and crash of an Alaskan Airlines flight late last month by a pilot who had previously taken magic mushrooms put another damper on legalization efforts, highlighting the dangers of using them to the public once again. Now faced with even more opposition, Senator Wiener announced recently a new way forward – bipartisanship.

    As it turned out, Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) has had a similar bill in the Assembly for most of the year – AB 941. However, the bill severely limits how psychedelics could be used. Essentially, only licensed clinical counselors can administer psychedelic substances to combat veterans suffering from issues such as PTSD as part of a wider-scoped therapy. While the bill is currently halted after not so much a hearing, AB 941 drew immediate interest from Wiener following his bill failure due to it not only meeting Governor Newsom’s request for guidelines and making it medicinal only, but also because of support from at least some Republicans due to it being limited to a clinical degree to only veterans.

    Wiener, Waldron team up for new bill

    With Wiener still wanting some sort of legalization in place and Waldron wanting better therapy for veterans, both teamed up for a bill due to come out next year. As they have worked together on dozens of bills in the past, the team up happened with relative ease.

    “Per the governor’s message, our bill will focus on providing access to regulated psychedelic therapies administered by licensed and vetted facilitators,” said Wiener earlier this month. “The question of decriminalizing personal use & possession will be left for subsequent efforts.”

    Waldron, meanwhile, has been adamant about wanting to gather research data on psychedelic therapy for veterans, adding that “There’s been some success with psychedelic therapy in clinical settings with professionals who have the proper training. Many of them say they don’t have those thoughts anymore. If we could save lives, that’s what it’s all about.”

    Both also noted that they will be looking at Colorado’s new psychedelics law for some framework.

    Experts told the Globe on Friday that what Wiener and Waldron are saying about a new 2024 bill his completely in line with what medical experts, psychedelics supporters, and those opposing psychedelic decriminalization have been saying for years: that it needs to be medically tested and focused on therapy first.

    “We’ve been saying that that should be path for years,” said former police officer and current drug counselor Marty Ribera. “Wiener kept pushing decriminalization, but most people, including the Governor, don’t want that. What the majority of the public does support right now is that it be used in therapy in a very limited capacity with proper guidelines. Waldron was on the money this year in focusing on veterans.

    Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

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