A bill to legalize psychedelics is on a trip to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.
On Thursday, the California Senate gave final approval to a bill legalizing certain psychedelics for people who are 21 or older. If Newsom signs the bill, it will go into effect in 2025 and make it legal to possess or grow plant-based psychedelics, including psychedelic mushrooms.
Newsom has not said where he stands on the bill, but he has mostly been a critic against the war on drugs, having been a leading voice to legalize cannabis in California and reduce nonviolent offenses like drug crimes to misdemeanors rather than felonies. Last year, however, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed three California cities to operate supervised drug-consumption sites in efforts to combat fatal overdoses.
“We respect the legislative process and don’t typically comment on pending legislation,” a Newsom spokesperson told Marijuana Moment on Thursday. “The governor will evaluate the bill on its merits when it reaches his desk.”
Veterans are particularly invested in the issue, given mounting research showing how psychedelics can aid in treatments for mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder. “We hope that Governor Newsom agrees that veterans should not be criminalized for seeking healing through psychedelic substances and signs this bill into law,” Jesse Gould, former Army ranger and founder of veterans advocacy group Heroic Hearts Project, told The Intercept in a statement. He added that the U.S. has a long way to go in supporting treatment for military veterans. “We hope that more politicians step up to the plate and back their words of supporting the troops with real action. With the veteran suicide epidemic, veterans do not have the luxury of time to wait.”
Jon Kostas of the Apollo Pact, a group dedicated to making psychedelic-assisted treatments more accessible, argues that going through national avenues like the Food and Drug Administration would prove more effective than legalization in getting psychedelics to those who need it. Kostas was the first participant in a New York University clinical trial treating alcohol use disorder with psilocybin-assisted therapy. He credits the therapy with curing his alcoholism and saving his life.
“If they really want people to get access to it, if they really want to make these therapies affordable, the best way to do this is going through a federal level so insurance covers this,” Kostas said. “I’d love to see Medicare or Medicaid cover this. I’d love to see the VA cover this. And you’re not going to get that by legalizing this for recreational use.”
So far, Colorado and Oregon are the only states that have fully legalized the use of mushrooms. In Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., introduced an amendment in 2019 to expand research into psychedelics but was shut down by a majority of Democrats and nearly all Republicans. Ocasio-Cortez joined forces with Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, last year to attach amendments to the annual military spending bill to increase access to psychedelic treatments to veterans and active service members, as well as to expand research into psychedelic substances. Last summer, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched a number of clinical trials involving psychedelic drugs, which have shown promise in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The California bill names four substances: psilocybin, psilocin, dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, and mescaline.
The bill would decriminalize the use of the substances for noncommercial, personal use, as well as for the purposes of “group community-based healing” and “risk reduction.” The bill directs the state’s health and human services agency to create a working group that would make recommendations about the use of the substances in a therapeutic setting before legalization commences in 2025.
The bill would also allow Californians to plant and harvest an “allowable amount” of the legalized psychedelics: up to 4 grams of mescaline; 1 gram of DMT; and 1 gram of, or up to 1 ounce of a plant or fungi containing, either psilocybin or psilocin.
The bill does include some restrictions: It would make it a misdemeanor for adults to possess psychedelics on school grounds while school is in session and would fine and/or imprison those who knowingly give the substances to minors.