Bipartisan Effort Aims to Address Mental Health and Substance Use Crises in the State
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In a bipartisan move, California lawmakers have introduced a new bill to legalize the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms for individuals aged 21 and older, under professional supervision. The proposed legislation is part of a broader agenda to tackle the state’s mental health and substance use crises.
The bill comes in the wake of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of a previous legislation that sought to decriminalize the possession and personal use of various plant-based hallucinogens, including psychedelic mushrooms. This new bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Scott Wiener and Republican Assemblymember Marie Waldron, aims to allow individuals to consume psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component in psychedelic mushrooms, under the guidance of licensed therapists. The bill would also include other substances such as dimethyltryptamine (DMT), MDMA, and mescaline.
Several other states, including Colorado and Oregon, have already decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms and established regulated systems for their therapeutic use. In California, cities like San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz have effectively decriminalized the possession of psychedelic mushrooms, providing individuals with limited amounts of these substances with legal protection.
At a news briefing, Senator Wiener emphasized the potential of psychedelics, combined with therapeutic support, to help individuals regain their health. He cited the positive impact of these substances on California veterans and first responders, highlighting their potential benefits for a broader population struggling with mental health and addiction challenges.
Assemblymember Waldron, who previously introduced a bill to study the use of psychedelic therapy, noted that the bipartisan bill aligns with Governor Newsom’s vision of providing safeguards around psychedelic therapy. Under the proposed legislation, individuals would undergo comprehensive screenings to determine their suitability for hallucinogen consumption and engage in follow-up assessments.
Furthermore, the bill aims to shift the state’s response to mental health crises away from criminalization and punishment. California already boasts a “massive network” of underground therapists offering psychedelic therapy, according to Senator Wiener. The bill would bring these therapists into the light by establishing a new state licensing board to regulate their services. It is important to note that the legislation does not permit personal possession and use of psychedelic substances, as they remain illegal under federal law.
Senator Wiener expressed a desire to act independently of federal government actions, stating that state lawmakers have the authority to authorize regulated psychedelic use, as they have done previously with therapeutic cannabis use for the treatment of cancer and HIV.
While psychedelic mushrooms gained notoriety as a mind-altering drug in the 1960s, they have been used for religious and spiritual purposes in various cultures for centuries. Recent research suggests that substances like psilocybin hold promise in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” in 2018 and published draft guidance for researchers designing clinical trials involving psychedelic drugs.
The bill is sponsored by the Heroic Hearts Project, a nonprofit organization that works with veterans to overcome trauma. Juliana Mercer, a Marine Corps veteran and board member of the Heroic Hearts Project, shared her experience of using psychedelics to manage PTSD through programs outside the U.S. Mercer explained that through education and regulation, individuals can safely access the healing potential of psychedelics without fear of negative repercussions.
The California Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education, which previously opposed the decriminalization measure, has now joined forces to support the bipartisan bill. Susan Sagy, the executive director of the group, described the bill as an approach that balances the potential benefits of therapeutic treatment with the potential risks to public health.
If the bill becomes law, proponents estimate that it would take approximately 18 to 24 months to implement the program. Additionally, the bill would establish an education program aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding psychedelics.