Another California Assembly Committee Approves Senate-Passed Psychedelics Legalization Bill

A second California Assembly committee has approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession and facilitated use of certain psychedelics, bringing it one step closer to the floor.

The legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) advanced through the Assembly Health Committee in a 9-2 vote on Tuesday. This comes about two weeks after it was approved by the Public Safety Committee and two months after it cleared the full Senate. The measure must now go to the Appropriations Committee before potentially moving to the floor.

“Research shows that these substances can have significant benefits particularly for people experiencing mental health and addiction challenges,” Wiener told panel members before the vote. “This research started in the 1960s and unfortunately, it was completely shut down by the war on drugs. Over the last decade, the research has started again and it is extremely promising.”

Tuesday’s vote is a welcome development for advocates, as Wiener said last month that the bill was up against a “challenging road” toward passage given its referral to the Health Committee, where the chances of approval were less certain.

The measure had been amended by the prior committee to delay implementation of the legalization of facilitated, communal use of psychedelics “until a framework for the therapeutic use, which would include community-based healing, facilitated and supported use, risk reduction, and other related services, of the specified controlled substances is developed and adopted.”

Members of the Health Committee also adopted an additional amendment on Tuesday that requires the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to create a workgroup tasked with studying and making recommendations to the legislature about the establishing a regulatory framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelics in facilitated settings.

The workgroup would need to submit its report with findings and recommendations by January 1, 2025.

The bill is a more narrowly tailored version of a measure that the senator led last session that passed the Senate but was later abandoned in the Assembly after members watered it down significantly.

SB 58 would legalize the “possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation of” specific amounts of psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for personal or facilitated use. Notably, “synthetic” psychedelics like LSD and MDMA would not be legalized, unlike the provisions of the previous version of Wiener’s legislation.

Beside personal possession being legalized, the bill would also specifically provide for “community-based healing” involving the entheogenic substances. It previously included “group counseling” as well, but an author’s amendment that was adopted in June removed all references to counseling. It also made a series of technical changes to clean up the legislation.

The bill would also repeal state law prohibiting “any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material which contain psilocybin or psilocyn.” The state ban on drug paraphernalia for the covered substances would also be eliminated under the legislation.

The proposal contains at least two key changes from the measure that advanced last session.

First, is excludes synthetic psychedelics like LSD and MDMA from the list of substances that would be legalized and focuses only on those that are derived from plants or fungi.

When the prior version of the legislation was in jeopardy near the end of the 2022 session, Wiener sought to make a deal to save it by removing synthetics in an attempt to shift law enforcement organizations from being opposed to neutral on the bill. That move was opposed by advocates and ultimately did not produce a passable proposal.

Peyote is also excluded from the bill’s legalized substances list, which is responsive to concerns raised by some advocates and indigenous groups about the risks of over-harvesting the vulnerable cacti that’s been ceremonially used.

Under the second major change to the bill from last year’s version, it no longer includes a provision mandating a study to explore future reforms. The senator had said that the study language was unnecessary given the high volume of research that’s already been done and continues to be conducted.

The “allowable amount” section of the bill allows for the following psychedelics possession limits:

DMT—2 grams

Ibogaine—15 grams

Psilocybin—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocybin”

Psilocyn—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocyn.”

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