A California Democratic senator says he will be filing a revised psychedelics bill next year alongside an Assembly Republican that will focus on providing regulated therapeutic access—a departure from his prior legislation to more broadly legalize substances like psilocybin that the governor vetoed this past session.
Sen. Scott Wiener (D) said on Friday that the bill he’s planning to introduce next year with Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R), a former minority leader of the GOP caucus, will be crafted in a way that’s responsive to the veto message Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) sent when rejecting his psychedelics legalization measure last month.
Newsom, who has touted the “profound” therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics to treat severe mental health conditions, said he vetoed SB 58 because it would have removed criminal penalties for possession and cultivation without first implementing guidelines for regulated access. He urged the legislature to “immediately begin work to set up regulated treatment guidelines—replete with dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, rules to prevent against exploitation during guided treatments, and medical clearance of no underlying psychoses.”
Wiener is taking the governor up on that invitation, writing in a post on X that he will be sponsoring “bipartisan legislation allowing regulated therapeutic psychedelic use as in Colorado,” without legalization components “outside the regulated context.”
In vetoing our psychedelics bill @GavinNewsom signaled a path forward we’re eager to pursue. Next year I’ll partner w @MarieWaldron75 on bipartisan legislation allowing regulated therapeutic psychedelic use as in Colorado, but w no decriminalization outside the regulated context. pic.twitter.com/aDskrncEcS
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) November 3, 2023
Colorado’s psychedelics law, which is being implemented following voter approval of a reform initiative at the ballot last year, isn’t strictly about therapeutic access. It legalizes, without explicit possession limits, psychedelics including psilocybin, ibogaine and mescaline and separately tasks regulators with establishing a regulatory framework for supervised use at “healing centers.”
“Per the governor’s message, our bill will focus on providing access to regulated psychedelic therapies administered by licensed and vetted facilitators,” Wiener said. “The question of decriminalizing personal use & possession will be left for subsequent efforts.”
Many combat veterans & first responders across California are suffering from PTSD, depression, cluster headaches & other ailments resistant to existing treatments. They need access to these breakthrough psychedelic therapies & we’ll keep fighting for it.
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) November 3, 2023
“Many combat veterans & first responders across California are suffering from PTSD, depression, cluster headaches & other ailments resistant to existing treatments,” he said. “They need access to these breakthrough psychedelic therapies & we’ll keep fighting for it.”
Newsom did leave the door open to working with lawmaker to “consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place.”
But the veto of SB 58 still came as a significant disappointment to advocates who felt that the measure had already been effectively vetted and revised over two sessions. They point out that Newsom has historically championed drug policy reform, including marijuana legalization before it enjoyed widespread bipartisan support.
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The governor also vetoed harm reduction legislation sponsored by Wiener last year that would have established a pilot program for overdose prevention sites in the state.
Meanwhile, there are two active campaigns to put psychedelics reform on California’s 2024 ballot. There were previously three, but one campaign withdrew its initiative to create a $5 billion state agency tasked with funding and promoting psychedelics research last week.
Decriminalize California, another campaign trying to qualify a measure for next year’s ballot, recently got approval from state officials to begin collecting signatures for its initiative to legalize psilocybin, including adult-use sales. Activists with the group have tried twice to put the reform on the ballot in prior cycles, but they’ve come up short, due in no small part to signature gathering complications during the pandemic.
A different campaign has also emerged in California, with advocates recently filing a ballot initiative with state officials that would create a right “to obtain and use psychedelics for medical, therapeutic and spiritual purposes” with the recommendation of a doctor. It would also allow adults to possess and use the substances in their home as well as cultivate entheogenic plants and fungi on private property.
While Newsom vetoed the psychedelics legalization bill from Wiener, he did sign off on legislation last month that would allow doctors in the state to immediately start prescribing certain currently illicit drugs like psilocybin and MDMA if they’re federally rescheduled.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.