Senator Wiener, Assemblymember Waldron Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Allow Supervised, Therapeutic Use of Psychedelics

February 6, 2024

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-Valley Center) introduced Senate Bill 1012, which allows adults 21 and older to use certain psychedelic substances in a therapeutic context, in a safe and controlled environment, and under the supervision of a licensed and trained facilitator. The bill does not allow the sale, personal possession, or use of psychedelics outside of a regulated therapeutic context.

When administered with therapeutic support, psychedelics have been shown to offer powerful relief to people struggling with mental health and addiction disorders. SB 1012 takes an evidence-based approach to providing access to these promising treatments. The bill covers psilocybin/psilocyn (mushrooms), Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT,” the active ingredient in ayahuasca), MDMA, and mescaline (other than peyote). It establishes a professional licensing board to train facilitators, develop guidelines, and regulate the safe and responsible therapeutic use of psychedelics. 

As with any powerful substance, the use of psychedelics comes with certain risks. SB 1012 seeks to secure access to the benefits of psychedelics for Californians while mitigating these risks by requiring that patients and practitioners collaborate to help ensure a safe experience. The bill creates a first-in-the-nation public-private fund to support a public education program to promote safety and increase understanding of psychedelic substances.

Last fall, the Legislature passed SB 58 — authored by Senator Wiener and supported by Assemblymember Waldron — which would have decriminalized the personal use and possession of certain psychedelic substances. In a message explaining his decision to veto the bill, Governor Newsom urged the Legislature to send him a bill establishing therapeutic guidelines for the use of psychedelics in California. As the Governor stated in his veto message:

“Both peer-reviewed science and powerful personal anecdotes lead me to support new opportunities to address mental health through psychedelic medicines like those addressed in this bill. Psychedelics have proven to relieve people suffering from certain conditions such as depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other addictive personality traits. This is an exciting frontier and California will be on the front-end of leading it. . . . I urge the legislature to send me legislation next year that includes therapeutic guidelines.”

SB 1012 is a direct response to the Governor’s well articulated request.

“We know psychedelic therapy saves lives, and safe and controlled access to these innovative treatments will be transformative for so many Californians seeking relief from mental health and addiction challenges,” said Senator Wiener. “When paired with therapeutic support, psychedelics show amazing promise for treating conditions that resist other forms of treatment. By providing the guidance and collaboration of a licensed facilitator in a controlled setting, SB 1012 will allow Californians to access these treatments responsibly and safely as they move through the healing process.”

“Our heroic first responders and veterans deserve a chance to heal from the unseen wounds left by their service,” said Assemblymember Waldron. “Psychedelic treatments have healed some of these heroes where traditional treatments failed, but only after our veterans made arduous overseas trips to access the treatments. We should be offering these brave public servants and all Californians access to these innovative treatments in California, and SB 1012  provides a safe and responsible path to doing so.”

A profound mental health crisis has swept the nation in recent years, and one in three Californians are now experiencing mental health challenges. Conventional treatments work for many, but some mental health issues require an approach that goes beyond psychiatric medication and talk therapy. Millions of Californians are desperately seeking alternatives. It’s also important to note that studies indicate psychedelics are not for everyone and certain underlying conditions can trigger serious adverse events.

Studies show that psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA (not a classic psychedelic, but part of the broader class of hallucinogens) 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 designated psilocybin as a Breakthrough Therapy, which expedites the development and review of drugs that demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy for a serious condition. MDMA is currently undergoing FDA approval for PTSD.

"The last few years have seen a steadily growing optimism for the promise of psychedelic therapies, in part because of the real limitations of many currently available mental health treatments,” said  Dr. Brian Anderson, MD, MSc, psychiatrist and psychedelic researcher in San Francisco. “As a physician and scientist, I see compelling evidence that psychedelics, when combined with careful screening and psychosocial support, can be an effective tool for helping people who are suffering. At the same time, psychedelics are powerful substances that carry real risks and should be used with care and respect. Psychedelics are not panaceas; individuals seeking psychedelic care for health conditions will ideally be able to access and benefit from collaboration with licensed healthcare providers when necessary. It is essential that robust public education and a system of accountability accompany any expansion of psychedelic access. SB 1012 makes important first steps towards that vision and, with community stakeholder input, stands to create a novel system of state-regulated adult access to psychedelics that can grow and improve over time."

For veterans and first responders, 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 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is studying psychedelic therapy, and why so many veterans are advocating for the decriminalization of psychedelics.

"I've experienced the tremendous healing power of psychedelics, and I've seen many fellow veterans benefit as well,” said Jesse Gould, executive director of the Heroic Hearts Project. “Daily medications and other treatments for PTSD and depression work for some, but for many, they aren't helpful. The lack of effective mental health options for those who have defended and served our nation is a crisis, and SB 1012 will enable safe, therapeutic access to a promising tool in both individual and group settings. With this legislation, California has an opportunity to become a national leader and help thousands of veterans in our state."

Research also shows the substances included in this bill 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.

“Our coalition of families and medical experts are supporting this bill, which is still in draft form, because it contains safeguards and a regulated framework for Californians to access guided use of these substances,” said Susan Sagy, executive director of the Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education. “As we have seen, while under the influence of these substances, and sometimes in the hours and days following, there is a risk of behaving in ways that can be dangerous to oneself or others. The risks can be minimized, but they can’t be eliminated. The bill’s funding for a public education campaign will make people aware of these risks and how to mitigate them with safety practices.”

Senate Bill 1012 creates the Board of Psychedelic Facilitators under the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will license and regulate professional facilitators who are trained in psychedelic-assisted therapy. Once licensed, these facilitators will provide therapeutic access  for persons 21+ to certain regulated psychedelic substances (psilocybin/psilocyn, DMT, mescaline (excluding peyote), and MDMA produced and tested by licensed entities. The use of these substances will be permitted only under the supervision of the licensed and trained facilitator. 

SB 1012 is sponsored by the Heroic Hearts Project, an organization that works with combat veterans experiencing behavioral health challenges and helps them access psychedelic therapy.

Assemblymembers Marie Waldron (R-Valley Center) and Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) are principal co-authors of SB 1012. Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles), Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Alex Lee (D-Milpitas), and Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Speaker Emeritus Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), and Senators Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), Bill Dodd (D-Napa), and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) are co-authors.