California legalized marijuana in 2016 and psychedelics could be next thanks to a new bill sponsored by San Francisco state senator Scott Weiner. The bill, SB 519, proposes to not only legalize the possession of a number of widely used psychedelics, but also expunge the criminal records for those who were previously convicted for possession of these substances. Here’s what you should know about the proposed law and the movement to legalize psychedelics nationwide.
What Does SB 519 Propose to Do?
It’s important to recognize that the law doesn’t create a legal marketplace for people to sell or produce these substances, only to possess them and share them socially. The one exception is that it would immediately become legal to cultivate and sell mushrooms.
Of course, it would be impossible for people to possess drugs without manufacturing, cultivation and sales taking place, so the Department of Public Health would also be tasked with creating a group to study and make recommendations on how to promote safe and fair access to these drugs in a legal manner.
And though it would become legal for adults to use and share these drugs for free, new provisions would be added to the law to illegalize possession for those under 21 and for anyone on school grounds. Providing psychedelics to someone under 21 would also be a crime. It would also continue to be illegal to drive under the influence of these drugs. These provisions are all similar to the laws involving the use of marijuana.
It’s also important to note that anyone who had previously been convicted of a crime related to the possession (but again, not manufacturing, transportation or sales) of the psychedelics covered by the law would have their convictions dismissed and their records sealed. Anyone currently serving time related to these offenses at the time the law passed would be released from jail as well. Interestingly, since most people charged with possession for personal use of these drugs enters diversion programs which leave the charges off of a person’s criminal record, most people who have convictions related to these crimes won’t actually need an expungement.
What Psychedelics Would be Covered by the Law?
Not every drug that has hallucinogenic effects would be legalized under SB 519. The specific substances that would be legalized are psilocybin and psilocyn (both found in magic mushrooms), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline, ibogaine, ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA aka molly or ectasy). One substance notably missing is peyote, which is because the peyote cactus is endangered and used for Native American spiritual practices.
It’s worth mentioning that just like marijuana, these substances will remain illegal on a federal level so the DEA could continue prosecuting people caught possessing, manufacturing, cultivating or transporting these substances, particularly if someone attempts to transport the drugs across state or federal borders.
Why Legalize Psychedelics?
To some extent, purely because illegalizing them hasn’t done any good. “The war on drugs has been a complete failure,” Wiener said. “It hasn’t stopped people from using drugs and it hasn’t stopped addiction.” Like marijuana, most psychedelics are non-addictive. Although there are potentially harmful individual and public safety threats in people using psychedelic drugs, regulating drugs gives the government more power promoting well being than criminalization. If we treat drug dependency and addiction as public health issues, our resources can be more effectively used to treat the root cause of drug use. It’s been well proven that punishing drug users with jail doesn’t decrease drug use and is often counter productive.
“Psychedelic use can come with some risks, but criminalization only increases those risks by creating an unregulated market in which difficult-to-verify dosages and the presence of adulterants like fentanyl threaten public health,” said Ismail Lourido Ali, policy and advocacy counsel at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
More importantly, research is increasingly indicating that these substances are useful for treating a number of psychological issues including depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mushrooms, in particular, have also been shown to have a number of therapeutic benefits for treating pain as well as reducing the number of headaches experienced by those who have migraines and cluster headaches
On top of that, both Oregon and Washington D.C. have already legalized magic mushrooms with no negative effects to public health.
What Happens if the Bill Fails?
Just like efforts to legalize marijuana, this first attempt to legalize psychedelics will most likely fail. However, it could make the public more aware of the potential benefits of legalization. As a result, a proposition could be added to the ballot in the future to let voters decide on the measure instead.
In fact, the Decriminalize California group has already began collecting signatures to add a bill to the November 2022 ballot to legalize the use, cultivation, possession, distribution and transportation of shrooms.
Unfortunately, for the time being, these substances are still illegal and anyone caught with them can face criminal charges. If you have been accused of any type of drug crime, please call attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.