California Psychedelics Bill Stalls Out In Final Senate Committee Despite Governor’s Openness To Reform

Marijuana Moment
Thu, May 16

A California Senate committee has effectively killed a bill to legalize psychedelic service centers where adults 21 and older could access psilocybin, MDMA, mescaline and DMT in a supervised environment with trained facilitators.

After moving through two other panels over the past month, the Senate Appropriations Committee declined to send the measure from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) to the floor—yet another setback for advocates.

The “Regulated Therapeutic Access to Psychedelics Act” was drafted in a way that was meant to be responsive to concerns voiced by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) last year when he vetoed a broader proposal that included provisions to legalize low-level possession of substances such as psilocybin.

Instead, the revised bill would have provided regulated access to psychedelics in a facilitated setting, without removing criminal penalties for possession outside of that context. It did not lay out any specific qualifying medical conditions that a person would need to have in order to access the services.

“We’ve been working for four years to legalize access to psychedelics in California, to bring these substances out of the shadows and into the sunlight, and to improve safety and education around their use,” Wiener told Marijuana Moment on Thursday. “We’re in a terrible budget year, where all bills with significant costs are at risk.”

“Nevertheless, it’s disappointing for this bill not to move forward. Psychedelics have massive promise in helping people heal and get their lives back on track,” he said. “It makes enormous sense for California to lead in creating regulated access under the supervision of a licensed professional. I’m highly committed to this issue, and we’ll continue to work on expanding access to psychedelics.”

The measure had already undergone a series of mostly technical amendments before reaching committee. Wiener also agreed to revise the legislation at last month’s hearing to make it so psychedelics facilitators would have needed to have an existing professional health license, such as those for psychiatrists, social workers, drug and alcohol counselors and nurse practitioners.

Advocates were already disappointed to see the governor, who championed marijuana legalization while serving as the state’s lieutenant governor, reject the earlier psychedelics measure from Wiener last year. But the senator said he was encouraged that Newsom “constructively” recommended a dialed-back pathway to reform.

SB 1012 is a “direct response to the governor’s request,” Wiener’s office said last month.

But on Thursday, the Appropriations Committee effectively blocked the measure from reaching the governor’s desk this session.

This setback comes days after a coalition of advocates launched a new organization called the Alliance for Safer Use of Psychedelics (ASUP). The group bills itself as a collection of researchers, health professionals, educators, veterans, first responders and other experts who backed Wiener’s psychedelics bill.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Legislature has missed this opportunity after four years of debate to enact a policy that would create a responsible program and promote the safer use of psychedelics in California and create a model policy for the rest of the country,” Jared Moffat, ASUP’s campaign director, said in a press release on Thursday.

“Californians will continue to seek out psychedelics for all sorts of reasons, including to help alleviate mental health challenges like PTSD, depression and anxiety,” he said. “Many will do so without guided support and use psychedelics on their own, which increases risks. Veterans and others will continue to leave the country or go underground to seek unregulated services that may be unsafe.”

“As the Alliance, we’re committed to this issue, and will be discussing internally our path forward to continue educating the public and promoting safety after repeated inaction through the legislative process. We’re not backing down, and will keep pushing to ensure facilitated access to psychedelics becomes a reality in California and that Californians are protected from harm.”

Meanwhile, the alliance is also supporting an effort by one of its members, the Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education (CPSE), to advocate for psychedelics-related education. CPSE proposed amendments to last session’s bill from the senator, and it ultimately opposed it because of its decriminalization provisions, but it worked with the sponsors to advance the now-stalled legislation.

“With its emphasis on public health education and professional oversight, SB 1012 paves the way for informed and responsible psychedelic use in California,” CPSE Executive Director Susan Sagy said in a press release. “Without safety nets and robust education to inform of risks, the unregulated use of psychedelics is rising in the state and causing an increase in hospitalizations due to adverse effects.”

Here’s are the main provisions of SB 1012:

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R), the lead on the Assembly side, is sponsoring a separate psychedelics bill focused on promoting research and creating a framework for the possibility of regulated therapeutic access that has already moved through the Assembly this year with unanimous support.

It’s possible that lawmakers and advocates supportive of Wiener’s bill may rally for the dialed-back proposal now that broader psychedelics services legalization seems to be dead for the session.

— Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments. Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access. —

Separately, a California campaign to put psilocybin legalization on the state’s November ballot recently announced that it did not secure enough signature to qualify in time for a deadline.

Another campaign filed and then abruptly withdrew an initiative to create a $5 billion state agency tasked with funding and promoting psychedelics research last year.

A third campaign also entered the mix late last year, proposing to legalize the possession and cultivation of substances like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline. People could buy them for therapeutic use with a doctor’s recommendation. Advocates for that measure still have time to gather and turn in signatures.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has since released its review of that proposal, outlining not only the plan’s policy implications but also its potential fiscal impacts on the state—which the report calls “various” and “uncertain.”

Some California municipalities, meanwhile, are pushing forward with reform on the local level. The city of Eureka, for example, adopted a resolution in October to decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi and make enforcement of laws against personal use, cultivation and possession a low priority for police. It’s at least the fifth local jurisdiction in the state to embrace the policy change. Others include San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Arcata.

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