California governor vetoes bill to decriminalize psychedelics

Dried psilocybin mushrooms.
Mushrooms dried and displayed in glass bowl. Dried psilocybin mushrooms. Rich Townsend/Getty Images/iStockphoto

California governor vetoes bill to decriminalize psychedelics

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(The Center Square) – California governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have legalized psychedelics, saying that decriminalizing them before creating guidelines for their safe use would be unwise.

SB 58, authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would decriminalize the possession, preparation, obtaining, or transportation of mescaline, DMT, psilocybin, and psilocyn — plant-and-mushroom-based psychedelics Wiener’s office claim are “non-addictive and have a high safety profile— for personal use for individuals 21 or older beginning on January 1, 2025. The bill also would have decriminalized therapeutic use of these substances after the state legislature adopted a framework governing therapeutic use.

“Psychedelics have proven to relieve people suffering from certain conditions such as depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other addictive personality traits,” wrote Newsom in his veto letter for the bill. “California should immediately begin work to set up regulated treatment guidelines – replete with dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, rules to prevent against exploitation during guided treatments, and medical clearance of no underlying psychoses. Unfortunately, this bill would decriminalize possession prior to these guidelines going into place, and I cannot sign it.”

A similar measure by Wiener, which would have also decriminalized synthetic psychedelics and drugs such as LSD, MDMA and ketamine, passed the Senate but failed in the Assembly in 2021.

“Every day that criminal penalties prevent veterans from accessing psychedelic plant medicines is a day their lives are at risk,” said Jesse Gould, veteran and Founder of the Heroic Hearts Projects, in a statement supporting SB 58. “Psychedelics helped heal the unseen scars from my service in the War on Terror after traditional medicine failed me for years. Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to educating veterans in the safe and effective use of psychedelics. Removing criminal penalties for the use of these substances will help that work, not hurt it.”

In his veto letter, Newsom hinted that for Wiener, the third time could be the charm.

“I urge the legislature to send me legislation next year that includes therapeutic guidelines. I am, additionally, committed to working with the legislature and sponsors of this bill to craft legislation that would authorize permissible uses and consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place,” Newsom wrote.

The potential path for psychedelics proposed by Newsom — of medical use followed by studies and regulations before decriminalization and eventual recreational use — would closely follow that taken by marijuana, which was first approved in 1996 under the Compassionate Use Act for “cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.” Over 20 years, as use became more widespread and regulated, marijuana was eventually made fully legal for recreational use in 2016 with voter approval of Proposition 64.

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