SACRAMENTO — California on Tuesday moved another step closer to decriminalizing psychedelics — amid a debate over whether their prohibition is an outdated remnant of the War on Drugs — after the author removed a substance from the bill that opponents said can be used as a date-rape drug.
The bill would allow those 21 and older to possess for personal use and “social sharing” psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component of so-called magic mushrooms. It also covers psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline excluding peyote, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, often called ecstasy).
“People’s lives are literally transformed because of these substances,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, though he amended his bill to remove ketamine from the list.
Keeping the potential date-rape drug “would have just confused what you ultimately want to get accomplished,” said the Assembly Public Safety Committee’s chairman, Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who otherwise supported the bill.
Psychedelics have emerged as “an extremely promising approach to a variety of mental illnesses,” testified Dr. Robert Grant, who studies ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for depression and anxiety at the University of California, San Francisco, which is creating a research center in August to study their use. “Certainly people should not be incarcerated for seeking a healing path with these medications.”
The bill bars sharing with those under age 21 or possessing the substances on school grounds. It would remove the state’s ban on cultivating or transferring mushroom spores or other material containing psilocybin or psilocyn.
Even if California makes the bill law, the drugs would still be illegal under federal law.
It cleared the Assembly Public Safety Committee, 5-3, with proponents touting the benefits to military veterans and others they say can benefit from the use of psychedelics to treat trauma. The measure already passed the state Senate on a 21-16 vote and now heads to the health committee before it can go to the full Assembly.