California Bill Proposes Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Workgroup

California recently failed at least twice in passing sweeping statewide psychedelic decriminalization bills: a) SB-58, which Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed last year, and b) SB-519, which didn’t garner enough support in the assembly the year before. It’s now trying something much more modest – convening a workgroup to study psychedelic assisted therapy.

The bill at issue is AB-941. Assembly Member Marie Waldron originally proposed the bill last year as a bill to authorize licensed counselors to administer psychedelic assisted therapy. However, the bill was nearly completely rewritten in early January 2024 to both convene a workgroup, and to delay the original proposals until the legislature enacts a regulatory framework.

The parameters of the workgroup would be to study and make recommendations on creating a regulatory framework for psychedelic assisted therapy for psilocybin, ibogaine, and other controlled substances approved by the FDA. More specifically, the bill requires the workgroup to study at least the following subjects:

(1) Research on the safety and efficacy of using each of the controlled substances specified [above] in a therapeutic setting for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health conditions.
(2) Long-term impact of supervised psychedelic or dissociative drug use with seeking and misusing other substances, including alcohol, cannabis, illicit substances, and unregulated psychedelic or dissociative drugs.
(3) Perceptions of harm of psychedelic or dissociative drugs following enactment of decriminalization both on a personal use and therapeutic use level.
(4) Impact of different regulatory frameworks on different health outcomes among vulnerable populations, including people with substance use disorders, and minority or disenfranchised groups.
(5) Regulated use models for the controlled substances specified [above] from other jurisdictions.
(6) Content and scope of educational campaigns that have proven effective in accurate public health approaches regarding use, effect, and risk reduction for the substances specified [above], including, but not limited to, public service announcements, educational curricula, appropriate crisis response, and appropriate training for first responders and multiresponders, including law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire service, and unarmed coresponder units.
(7) Policies for minimizing use-related risks, including information related to appropriate use and impacts of detrimental substance use.
(8) Appropriate frameworks to govern the therapeutic use of controlled substances, including qualifications and training for therapists or facilitators.
The workgroup will also need to develop policy recommendations for the legislature by January 1, 2026, which will include at least the following:
(1) Development of a statewide program or programs for the training of individuals providing psychedelic-assisted therapy.
(2) Development of a statewide credentialing process for individuals providing psychedelic-assisted therapy .
(3) The content and scope of educational campaigns and accurate public health approaches regarding use, effect, risk reduction, and safety for the substances specified [above].
(4) Policies for minimizing use-related risks, including information related to appropriate use and impacts of detrimental substance use.
(5) Policies for the regulation of controlled substances specified [above], including responsible marketing, product safety, and cultural responsibility.
(6) Policies for the safe and equitable production, access, use, and delivery of the controlled substances specified [above].
As mentioned above, the bill still contains some of the original provisions authorizing psychedelic assisted therapy, but those would not take effect until a regulatory framework is adopted.
That said, the bill does contain the following provision:
“Subsequent to the Legislature’s adoption of a framework governing psychedelic-assisted therapy using the substances described [above], it is the intent of the Legislature that the transfer of a substance described [above], without financial gain, in the context of psychedelic-assisted therapy, be decriminalized.”
In other words, while fully authorized psychedelic assisted therapy is not guaranteed to ever be authorized, certain psychedelic assisted therapy would be decriminalized. This is just a guess, but I don’t think this provision is likely to make it into the final version of the bill. Governor Newsom made clear in his 2023 veto of SB-58 that he would not sign off on full-scale decriminalization, but instead wanted a regulatory program. If this language does end up in the final bill, then it’s possible it gets vetoed just like SB-58.
It’s still far too early to tell what the bill will look like and if it will pass, but advocates will be happy that the legislature is picking up the baton so early into 2024. Stay tuned to the Psychedelics Law Blog for more updates.