Senator Wiener’s Psychedelics Bill Passes Assembly
SACRAMENTO – The Assembly passed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 58, which removes criminal penalties for the personal possession and use of a limited set of naturally occurring psychedelics, including psilocybin/psilocyn (mushrooms), Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT”), and mescaline (excluding peyote). The bill also triggers a regulatory process to craft policy proposals for group therapeutic use of psychedelics. The bill passed 42-13 and returns to the Senate for final sign-off before heading to Governor Newsom’s desk for his final review. The Senate previously passed SB 58.
SB 58 goes into effect January 1, 2025, and applies only to possession of limited personal amounts of these naturally occurring plant- and mushroom-based substances, all of which are non-addictive and have a high safety profile.
Amendments made to SB 58 in the Assembly establish a working group under the California Health and Human Services (CalHHS) Agency tasked with issuing a recommended framework governing the future therapeutic use (including facilitated and supported use) of the substances specified in this bill. The working group must issue their report by January 1, 2025, and therapeutic use would be contingent upon future legislative action.
This legislation follows similar, successful local efforts in Washington, D.C., Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, as well as successful ballot measures in Colorado and Oregon. In 2021, Senator Wiener’s psychedelics legislation, SB 519, passed the Senate before stalling in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“California’s veterans, first responders, and others struggling with PTSD, depression, and addiction deserve access to these promising plant medicines,” said Senator Wiener. “SB 58 has prudent safeguards in place after we incorporated feedback from three years of deep engagement with a broad array of stakeholders. We know these substances are not addictive, and they show tremendous promise in treating many of the most intractable conditions driving our nation’s mental health crisis. It’s time to stop criminalizing people who use psychedelics for healing or personal well-being.”
“Every day that criminal penalties prevent veterans from accessing psychedelic plant medicines is a day their lives are at risk,” said Jesse Gould, veteran and Founder of the Heroic Hearts Projects. “Psychedelics helped heal the unseen scars from my service in the War on Terror after traditional medicine failed me for years. Since then I’ve dedicated my life to educating veterans in the safe and effective use of psychedelics. Removing criminal penalties for the use of these substances will help that work, not hurt it.”
Research has shown that removing criminal penalties for possession of plant-based psychedelics does not impact public health or safety. A recent review of data in Colorado shows that neither public health nor public safety incidents related to psychedelics increased after the state decriminalized plant-based psychedelics.
Research also shows the substances included in this bill do not lead to addiction and show promise in treating substance use disorders and alcohol dependence. 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), treatment-resistant depression, and other conditions, access to psychedelics can be lifesaving. Veterans die by suicide at a rate of 1.5 times the general public, and the number of veteran suicide deaths is more than 4 times higher than combat deaths since 9/11. That’s why Veterans Affairs is studying psychedelic therapy, and why so many veterans are advocating for the decriminalization of psychedelics.
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”).
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 limited set of naturally occurring psychedelics, and sets the stage for 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.