California may pass legislation decriminalizing psychedelics before the year is out. Senate Bill 519 would decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of seven psychedelic substances—including psilocybin, LSD and MDMA—for adults. Sharing and cultivation would also be allowable under the bill’s terms.
State Senator Scott Wiener introduced the bill in 2021, but ultimately paused it until 2022 to build more support among lawmakers. Now, the bill needs to pass through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, then a full Assembly floor vote, and then to back to the Senate. Wiener told Marijuana Moment he thinks the legislation has a 50 percent chance of passing in 2022.
“The committee looks entirely different this year,” Catie Stewart, Wiener’s communications director, told Filter. “So we’re working to engage with members and work closely to educate them, put them in touch with advocates and people who have been [therapeutically] impacted by using these substances.” This will include people with substance use disorder.
The bill would decriminalize possession of up to 2 grams of DMT; 15 grams of ibogaine; 0.01 grams of LSD; 2 grams of psilocybin; 2 grams of psilocin; and 4 grams of MDMA. There would be no penalties or fines for possession below those the limits for people over 21.
Personal-use thresholds are often controversial. Oregon, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of all illicit drugs in 2020, defines personal possession of heroin as under 1 gram—far less than many people use daily. State laws can mean limits vary widely; adult-use cannabis possession, for instance, is legalized for up to 1 ounce in Arizona, 3 ounces in New York and 6 ounces in New Jersey.
“Personal-use limits enable arrests of people of color and marginalized people.”
Carlos Plazola, co-founder of the group Decriminalize Nature, which successfully lobbied to make Oakland the first California city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, told Filter the organization is concerned with such limits.
“This is a problem,” Plazola said. “Because it curtails the emergence of local economy. It enables the arrest of … typically people of color and marginalized people.”
The bill’s weight limits apply to the substances themselves, not to other material that may be part of their delivery system, like LSD blotter paper. Psilocybin and psilocyn, however, are allowable in up to 4 ounces of the plant or fungi containing them.
SB 519 would also decriminalize “facilitated or supported use.” This authorizes someone to be present in a supportive role while an individual or group uses permitted psychedelics, as long as everyone is still over 21. The bill would allow the trip-sitter to charge a fee for their service, but not for the drugs themselves.
The bill does not decriminalize peyote, a cactus containing mescaline native to the southwest United States and northern Mexico, due to its endangered status and ceremonial use in Indigenous cultures.
As for whether Wiener supports California decriminalizing small-scale possession of all drugs, as Oregon did, Stewart said one step at a time. “That’s something we definitely want to do, [but] that’s not something that people would vote for at this point,” she said. “These drugs have obvious therapeutic uses and I think that’s a good starting point.”
Photograph by Conall via Flickr/Creative Commons 2.0