A Democratic lawmaker in California introduced a bill Dec. 19 to decriminalize the personal use of plant-based psychedelic drugs—such as magic mushrooms, mescaline, and psilocybin—outside of school grounds for people 21 and up.
“Criminalizing drug use and possession accomplish absolutely nothing other than to fill up our prisons with people who are addicted,” said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) outside of the state Capitol Dec. 19.
“We need to treat drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal one.”
Wiener, the author of Senate Bill (SB) 58, said that psychedelics—a type of hallucinogenic drug—“have huge promise” when it comes to helping those suffering from mental health issues such as opioid addiction, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Sen. Scott Wiener speaks in front of the California State Senate on Aug. 31, 2022. (Screenshot via California State Senate)
SB 58 will also allow the cultivation, transfer, or transportation of fungi or other plant-based materials that can serve as ingredients for these drugs, according to its text.
The bill may be heard on or after Jan. 16, 2023.
These drugs affect how people see, hear, taste, smell, or feel, and can radically affect the user’s mood and thought, sometimes resulting in psychosis, according to existing academic studies.
One veteran, Michael Young, said at the press conference he came home to the United States with severe PTSD after 10 years of counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Psychedelics help heal the unseen scars from my years of service in the war on terror,” he said.
“This sacred medicine showed me how to put myself back together again.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, hallucinogens “can cause users to see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist.” The effects of ingesting psychedelics generally begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last up to 12 hours in some cases or as short as 15 minutes in others, according to the institute.
Magic Mushrooms sit in a fridge in London, England, on July 18, 2005. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
SB 58 is a comparably moderate version of a previous bill Wiener proposed but failed to pass in 2021, which would have legalized not only plant-based but synthetic psychedelics, such as MDMAs, LSD, and ketamine.
Although it is rare for someone to die from an LSD overdose, “severe injury and death has occurred as an indirect result of using LSD, in that accidents, self-mutilation, and suicide have occurred … when people are largely unaware of what they are doing,” according to the American Addiction Centers.
The Heroic Hearts Project—a co-sponsor of SB 519 of 2021 and psychedelic advocacy group for veterans struggling with PTSD—said “psychedelic treatment options provided these veterans with a level of relief and healing that many had come to believe was no longer possible.”
Several law enforcement groups opposed the 2021 bill, including the California College and University Police Chiefs Association, California District Attorneys Association, California Narcotic Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, and Peace Officers’ Research Association of California, among other organizations.
The Peace Officers’ Research Association of California “believes many of the penalties related to controlled substances work as a deterrent or a reason for individuals to get the treatment they need to turn their lives around,” according to a statement of opposition submitted to the state Assembly Health Committee in July 2021.
“Furthermore, [the association] believes this bill will cause an increase in the selling and personal use of drugs, which will lead to greater crime and arrests in our communities,” the statement read.
Under the CURES Act, signed into law in 2016 to expand medical innovations, many hallucinogenic substances—including LSD, DMT, mescaline, and psilocybin—are classified as Schedule 1 substances, meaning they pose a high risk of abuse and are not accepted for medical use.
In September, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion calling for law enforcement to deprioritize investigations and arrests of adults found in possession of psychedelics. This was a month after an Oakland church using magic mushrooms as its form of communion was raided by police.