California Psychedelics Update

I recently published a nationwide psychedelics law roundup post. But in doing so, I realized that it’s been a while since we did a comprehensive California psychedelics update. Today, I’ll walk through the two key proposed California psychedelics laws and where they stand.

California’s push to decriminalize (almost) all psychedelics

In 2021, California Senator Scott Wiener introduced SB-519, which aims to decriminalize numerous psychedelics. The bill made it all the way through the California Senate. Senator Wiener put the bill on pause to gather more support. The legislative session ends this summer. Senator Wiener then has a few more months to garner support.

Here are some of the key features of SB-519:

SB-519 would remove some penalties

The law would remove criminal penalties for possessing a host of drugs on Schedule I of California’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act, such as DMT, ibogaine, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocyn. Again, this is not full-fledged legalization, but the removal of certain penalties for possession only. The law would not cover peyote, which already is protected for certain Native American groups under federal law.

California wouldn’t allow commercial psychedelics sales, but would allow “social sharing”

SB-519 would also allow the possession, processing, obtaining,  ingesting, “social sharing” or transport of DMT, ibogaine, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn. It would also make lawful cultivation or processing of plants capable of making these substances at a person’s property for personal use or social sharing.

It’s important to note that any kind of sharing would have to be with someone over 21 and provision to a minor could lead to penalties. Social sharing is limited to giving away or counseling the administration of these substances to persons over 21 without financial gain and in the context of things such as group counseling or spiritual guidance.

This does NOT allow for commercial sales–the law is clear that social sharing cannot be for financial gain. The one seeming exception is that the term “financial gain” does not prohibit charging fees for services such as counseling or spiritual guidance. There are similar, though more narrow, provisions for MDMA.

SB-519 would update California’s definition of “paraphernalia” for psychedelics

Existing law criminalizes drug paraphernalia. This law would provide a carveout to existing law for paraphernalia related to the personal possession, growing, sharing, or safe use of a host of substances, including DMT, LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine. The purpose of this carveout is to allow for harm-reduction tools such as drug-checking kits and other paraphernalia that can help test and ensure the safety of these substances.

Could California one day legalize psychedelics?

SB-519 would make the California Department of Public Health convene a working group to study and make recommendations regarding decriminalization and even legalization and regulation of psychedelic substances. The CDPH’s report to the state legislature will be due by January 1, 2024.

My talk with Senator Wiener

A few weeks ago, I chaired a seminar on the legal and regulatory landscape of psychedelics hosted by the Seminar Group. One of the cooler things about this was my opportunity to interview Senator Wiener. One of my key takeaways was how impressive his pragmatism is. He didn’t go right to legalization, or to decriminalization of all drugs. Instead, he chose the middle ground approach which was likely to garner more support from moderates and conservatives. It may be possible that the bill is changed even further as we progress, and if so, we can expect pragmatic changes designed to get things done.

Update on California’s voter initiative to regulate psilocybin

Decriminalize California is gathering signatures for the California Psilocybin Initiative 2022 (CPI). Decriminalize California will need to collect more than 600,000 signatures statewide in order for CPI to make it onto the ballot. If it gets enough signatures by March 15, it’ll clear that hurdle.

CPI would legalize psilocybin with very, very few restrictions. It is extremely broad in scope, much broader than Oregon’s psilocybin legalization law and even broader than California’s cannabis law. It would allow unlimited possession amounts, use by any person over 21, cultivation on private property, etc.

It would give very limited regulatory authority to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) but it makes clear that no licenses or taxes can be imposed on psilocybin except those assessed on normal non-psilocybin products.

The CPI would allow businesses on land zoned for agricultural production and approved by CDFA to start producing psilocybin on January 1, 2023 and any business with a seller’s permit to start selling psilocybin products to persons 21 and up (this could include a huge number of businesses). There would also be labeling requirements that are not that different from (but still much more limited than) cannabis labeling requirements.

The big difference between SB-519 and CPI is that CPI is a voter initiative. If it passes, it’ll be much, much harder for the government to modify later. But getting there requires more than half a million signatures than a majority vote at the ballot. And keep in mind that California has a lot more social conservative votes than most people think – Prop. 64 passed with less than 60% support, after all.

If you want to read more about California’s psychedelics efforts, check out these posts:

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