Psychedelics Legislation Advances in California

Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled “California May Decriminalize Psychedelics”. My post discussed a piece of legislation that was introduced (SB-519), which would decriminalize a host of psychedelic drugs. You can read about what exactly SB-519 would do in my prior post, but I want to again emphasize that the bill in its current form will not legalize psychedelics, but will instead decriminalize (i.e., reduce or remove penalties) them. You can also read more about that in my prior post.

I noted back then that this was just the introduction of the bill and that people should not get their hopes up that the bill would pass in its current form, or at all. Since then, I’ve been happy to see the bill make its way through a series of committees within the California Senate. And most recently, on June 1, the California Senate voted 21-16 to pass the bill onto the California Assembly. For those of you who aren’t keyed into the legislative process, this is a big deal. Let’s break it down.

Like the federal government, California has two legislative bodies: the Senate and Assembly (sort of like the federal House of Representatives). Bills that are introduced in one chamber will generally go through a series of committees in that body and often be amended, before being introduced for a floor vote for the entire Senate or Assembly (as applicable). If approved, the bill will move from the Senate to the Assembly or vice versa to go through a similar process. Once passed in both bodies, the bill is put on the Governor’s desk for (hopefully) signature. There are exceptions to this process, but this is the general framework.

The fact that SB-519 passed the Senate is a great sign for the bill – but it does not mean the war is won. Keep in mind that the bill only advanced with a 21-16 vote, which is not terribly high all things considered.

Not to be a downer, but there is a real chance that this bill could die in the Assembly. Many of you may remember California’s attempts to legalize CBD via AB-228 back in 2019 (I wrote about that bill so many times on this blog that I won’t even try to link to those posts). Basically, that bill made it all the way through the California Assembly with heavy amendments, and through a number of Senate committees only to die at the very end of the process.

One last point here is that during the process, a few provisions related to dismissing and sealing prior convictions were deleted. So, if the bill were to pass in its current form, it’d be missing some of the language that was in the form as introduced.

SB-519 might not pass. Or it might pass after being heavily amended. We don’t yet know. Only time will tell but we are going to keep our fingers crossed.

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