Image via Ed Rosenthal
California activists have launched a two-pronged effort to bring psychedelic reform to the Golden State by the end of next year. For the first stage of this plan, psychedelic advocacy group Decriminalize California is working with state lawmakers on a new bill to decriminalize the possession and use of psychedelics. And at the same time, the group is campaigning to place a psilocybin legalization measure on the state's 2022 election ballot.
In 2019, Denver, Colorado became the first US city to decriminalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms, and the California cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland both voted to decriminalize all natural psychedelics shortly thereafter. This year, state Senator Scott Wiener is proposing a bill that would extend that decriminalization to the entire state.
This new bill would decriminalize the possession and personal use of natural psychedelics like psilocybin, mescaline, and ibogaine, but also adds MDMA, LSD, and ketamine to that list. While most individual cities' psychedelic decriminalization efforts have focused on natural compounds, Wiener's bill seeks to decriminalize any psychoactive drug that has proven medical value.
In addition to expanding access to the therapeutic use of psychedelics, the bill also seeks to end decades of failed drug prohibition. On top of ending criminal penalties for possession or personal use, the bill would also expunge the criminal records of any Californian who had previously been busted for using these drugs.
“People should not be going to jail for possessing or using drugs,” said Wiener to the Guardian. “It’s a health issue, not a criminal issue, and I hope that we get all the way there.”
While lawmakers debate the new bill, Decriminalize California is working on a separate effort to completely legalize psilocybin mushrooms by 2022. The group is campaigning to place an initiative on the state's midterm election ballot that would legalize the “personal, spiritual, religious, dietary, therapeutic, and medical use” of psilocybin, Marijuana Moment reports.
Specifically, this measure would legalize the “distribution, transportation, possession, storage, consumption, social consumption, on-site consumption, public events, farmers’ markets, and retail sale, whether or not for profit,” of psilocybin mushrooms anywhere in the state. The group proposed a similar measure last year, but were forced to abandon their efforts when the pandemic made door-to-door signature collection extremely difficult.
This year, activists are prepared for the challenges of campaigning during a pandemic, and are confident that they can collect the 623,212 signatures needed to get their measure on next year's ballot. Advocates also included a number of revisions to this year's version of the measure in order to help it succeed. The current version restricts psilocybin use to adults 21 and over, up from the 18-and-older limit in the previous version.
This measure would also allow people who had previously been convicted for using or possessing psilocybin to have their criminal records expunged. Last year's version would have directed the state to automatically expunge these records, but the current version would make expungement cases voluntary, which would be much less costly for the state.
Decriminalize California are hoping that their campaigns will be as successful as similar campaigns in Oregon, where voters legalized psilocybin-assisted therapy and decriminalized all drug possession last year.
Ryan Munevar, the group's campaign director, told Marijuana Moment that their campaign's “double-pronged approach” offers two different avenues for success. “With Scott Weiner, if he’s got good language and it’s worth backing, we’ll do it. And in the background, we’re still pushing ours, which is radically more advanced than anything else anybody’s doing right now.”