Senator Wiener’s Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelics Passes Assembly Public Safety Committee

June 27, 2023

SACRAMENTO – The Assembly’s Public Safety Committee passed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 58, which decriminalizes possession and use of a set of naturally occurring psychedelics, including psilocybin, psilocyn, Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT”), mescaline (excluding peyote), and ibogaine. The bill passed 5-2 and heads next to the Assembly Health Committee.

This legislation follows similar, successful local efforts to decriminalize these substances in Washington, D.C., Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, as well as successful Oregon and Colorado ballot measures. In 2021, Senator Wiener’s psychedelics decriminalization legislation, SB 519, passed the Senate. It passed two Assembly Committees but then stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“Psychedelics are non-addictive and show great promise in helping people struggling with mental health and addiction challenges, and it’s time to stop criminalizing its possession and use,” said Senator Wiener. “Following long engagement with a range of stakeholders, we’ve limited the bill to 5 naturally occurring substances and ensured that facilitated use will be guided by best practices determined by the state. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Assembly Health Committee to ensure veterans and all Californians can access these treatments for mental health and addiction issues and for personal use.”

Studies show that psychedelics have great promise in treating mental health and substance use disorders. In two different clinical trials, psilocybin was shown to reduce symptoms in patients with treatment-resistant depression. A John Hopkins study showed a decrease in depression and anxiety in cancer patients using psilocybin, and another showed promise for smoking cessation.  In both 2018 and 2019, the FDA issued Breakthrough Therapy distinction to psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”).

Observational studies have also documented the use of ayahuasca (which contains DMT) and ibogaine as potential treatments for substance use disorder. There’s also evidence that psychedelics can help with smoking cessation.

Research has shown that decriminalization of psychedelics does not impact public health or safety. In 2021, a review panel under the Denver City Council reported that decriminalizing psilocybin in Denver has not presented any measurable public health or community safety risks. Since decriminalizing the possession of psychedelic plants and fungi in 2019, the Council reported a low number of arrests, and no known hospitalization nor emergency treatment data related to these substances.

Research also shows the substances included in this bill do not lead to addiction. The U.S Journal Psychopharmacology found that in a peer-reviewed and controlled study of 44,000 Americans with a history of opioid use, using psilocybin was associated with a 27% reduced risk of past year opioid dependence and a 40% reduced risk of past year opioid abuse.

For veterans, many of whom live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), access to psychedelics can be lifesaving. Veterans die by suicide at a rate of 1.5 times the general public. That’s why Veterans Affairs is studying psychedelic therapy, and why so many veterans are advocating for the decriminalization of psychedelics.

SB 58 ends the harmful practice of criminalizing access to these substances despite their potentially life-altering benefits. It decriminalizes the personal use and possession of a set of naturally occurring psychedelics, and decriminalizes facilitated use once guidelines have been issued on how users can practice it safely and effectively.
SB 58 is sponsored by Heroic Hearts Project, a veteran service organization. Heroic Hearts connects veterans to psychedelic therapy for treating complex trauma, and has become an international voice for veterans demanding effective mental health treatment options. Read more about SB 58 here.