Senator Wiener’s Psychedelics Legislation Heads to Governor’s Desk

September 8, 2023

SACRAMENTO – The Senate approved 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 an administrative process to craft policy proposals for assisted therapeutic use of psychedelics. The bill passed 21-14 and heads next to Governor Newsom’s desk for his final review. 


“Veterans and anyone suffering from PTSD and depression should not face criminal penalties for seeking relief,” said Senator Wiener. “Plant-based psychedelics are non-addictive and show tremendous promise at treating some of the most intractable drivers of our nation’s mental health crisis. After three years of consultation with law enforcement groups and medical experts, SB 58 takes a moderate approach to allowing suffering people to access plant medicine with appropriate safeguards in place.”


“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.”


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.


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.


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.