California Moving Forward to Legalize Psychedelics

Californians Moving Forward on Two Tracks in Effort to Legalize Psychedelics

Activists in California took another step toward legalizing psychedelics this week, as they officially filed a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms — a question they plan to put before voters in November 2022.

Calling the issue a matter of concern for citizens up and down the sprawling state, the campaign director of Decriminalize California, Ryan Munevar, submitted the “Califomia Psilocybin Initiative 2022.”

“The purpose of this act is to implement a comprehensive, statewide scheme authorizing and regulating the cultivation, processing, and distribution of Psilocybin Mushrooms,” the measure states, “and the chemical compounds contained therein for personal, medical, therapeutic, spiritual, religious, and dietary use.”

There would be no limits on personal possession, which has caused some consternation among legislators. Under it, residents would be required to be a California Registered Business to sell psychedelics and must grow them on agricultural land overseen by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

In an email to supporters, Munevar said the group voted earlier to drop amnesty and expungement provisions out of fears it would cost about $10 million to update the state criminal databases and allow the clean-up of psilocybin arrest records.

“It will be easier to Decriminalize All Drugs in 2024 similar to what Oregon did and then update the databases and get amnesty and expungement built into it,” Munevar wrote. “We will also get a lot more support for that with the other communities affected by hard drugs and it will be easier during a presidential election as opposed to a gubernatorial election.”

The initiative is separate from a similar effort moving through the legislature in Sacramento. California Senate Bill 519 passed last month, The measure sponsored by state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat, would legalize possession and sharing of certain psychedelics for adults. It’s now awaiting action in the California State Assembly.

“The purpose of this act is to implement a comprehensive, statewide scheme authorizing and regulating the cultivation, processing, and distribution of psilocybin mushrooms and the chemical compounds contained therein for personal, medical, therapeutic, spiritual, religious, and dietary use.”

Ryan Munevar of Decriminalize California

Another psychedelic advocacy group, Decriminalize Nature, expressed concern over SB 519 after limits were recently placed on the possession of psychedelics, because they argue the limits could lead to more arrests in communities of color.. The advocacy group is asking the legislature to delay action on it until next year.

“Due to an expedited timeline and lack of opportunity to educate the Health Commission on the implications of setting limits on natural plants and fungi, the Health Committee Chair has requested limits on SB 519,” the group wrote in a press release.

Even if the legislation passes California’s lower chamber, it’s not clear if Gov. Gavin Newsom — a Democrat facing a recall effort — would sign it.

All of these actions are part of a psychedelic reform movement gathering momentum in states or cities across the nation, even as the use of psilocybin remains illegal under federal law.

In 2019, Denver became the first American locality besides tribal lands to decriminalize psilocybin. The following year, Oregon voters made it the first state to decriminalize psilocybin and legalize it for therapeutic use. Other municipalities have followed, including the nation’s capital, Ann Arbor, Mich., Oakland and Santa Cruz, Calif. and Cambridge and Somerville, Mass.

Recently, legislators in red Texas and blue Connecticut approved measures to study psychedelics for their health benefits, especially in combating PTSD, anxiety and depression.

In California, the filing of the psilocybin measure triggers a 30-day public comment period, which will close Aug, 11. If everything proceeds smoothly for advocates, Munevar predicts they’ll begin collecting signatures in early September. The group will then have six months to gather 623,212 valid signatures for Psilocybin Initiative 2022 to make the ballot.

This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited or modified by The News Station. 

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. His full bio is here.

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. His full bio is here.

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