A California Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession and facilitated use of certain psychedelics is officially heading to the Assembly floor after being approved by a third committee in the chamber, albeit with several substantive amendments.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee also cleared a separate Senate-passed measure on Friday that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use. The panel adopted technical amendments, so it will need to return to the Senate for concurrence before moving to the floor.
The psychedelics legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) advanced through the panel after members adopted a number of changes, which, according to the chairman’s brief description, would “strike provisions regarding transfer of substance, modify provisions decriminalizing therapeutic use, make other amendments to delay the decriminalization of personal use and reduce personal possession amounts, among other changes.”
Wiener previously expressed some concerns about the measure’s path in the Assembly, calling it a “challenging road” at one point, but he told Marijuana Moment on Thursday in advance of the hearing that he and supporters were “hoping for a positive outcome”—and the committee delivered on that hope.
If the bill passes the full Assembly, it will still need to go back to the Senate for concurrence on changes made in the second chamber before potentially reaching the governor’s desk.
A previous Assembly committee amended the legislation to delay implementation of the legalization of facilitated, communal use of psychedelics “until a framework for the therapeutic use, which would include community-based healing, facilitated and supported use, risk reduction, and other related services, of the specified controlled substances is developed and adopted.”
Our bill to decriminalize personal use of mushrooms & plant-based psychedelics (SB 58) is nearing the finish line.
As this retired narcotics officer explains: We need to pass this bill & stop criminalizing these substances, which aren’t addictive & can make people healthier. pic.twitter.com/NYMSuHDKlr
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) September 1, 2023
It was also changed to require the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to create a workgroup tasked with studying and making recommendations to the legislature about the establishing a regulatory framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelics in facilitated settings. The workgroup would need to submit its report with findings and recommendations by January 1, 2025.
The bill is a more narrowly tailored version of a measure that Wiener led last session that passed the Senate but was later abandoned in the Assembly after members watered it down significantly.
SB 58 would legalize the “possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation of” specific amounts of psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for personal or facilitated use. Notably, “synthetic” psychedelics like LSD and MDMA would not be legalized, unlike the provisions of the previous version of Wiener’s legislation.
Beside personal possession being legalized, the bill would also specifically provide for “community-based healing” involving the entheogenic substances. It previously included “group counseling” as well, but an author’s amendment that was adopted in June removed all references to counseling. It also made a series of technical changes to clean up the legislation.
The bill would also repeal state law prohibiting “any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material which contain psilocybin or psilocyn.” The state ban on drug paraphernalia for the covered substances would also be eliminated under the legislation.
The proposal contains at least two key changes from the measure that advanced last session.
First, is excludes synthetic psychedelics like LSD and MDMA from the list of substances that would be legalized and focuses only on those that are derived from plants or fungi.
When the prior version of the legislation was in jeopardy near the end of the 2022 session, Wiener sought to make a deal to save it by removing synthetics in an attempt to shift law enforcement organizations from being opposed to neutral on the bill. That move was opposed by advocates and ultimately did not produce a passable proposal.
Peyote is also excluded from the bill’s legalized substances list, which is responsive to concerns raised by some advocates and indigenous groups about the risks of over-harvesting the vulnerable cacti that’s been ceremonially used.
Under the second major change to the bill from last year’s version, it no longer includes a provision mandating a study to explore future reforms. The senator had said that the study language was unnecessary given the high volume of research that’s already been done and continues to be conducted.
The “allowable amount” section of the bill allows for the following psychedelics possession limits:
Psilocybin—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocybin”
Psilocyn—2 grams, or up to 4 ounces of “a plant or fungi containing psilocyn.”
Asked whether he expects that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would support the legislation this session if it clears the hurdles in the Assembly and arrives on his desk, Wiener told Marijuana Moment in June that “it’s unclear to me,” as the governor is “not expressing any opinion pro or con.”
Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee also approved a Senate-passed bill on Friday that is meant to bolster protections for workers who use cannabis off the job. The panel adopted technical amendments to the measure from Sen. Steven Bradford (D), however, so it will go back to the Senate for concurrence.
The bill would build on existing employment protections enacted last session that bar employers from penalizing most workers for using cannabis in compliance with state law off the job.
“It is unlawful for an employer to request information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis,” the bill text says.
Current law as enacted last year says that it is unlawful for employers “to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalizing a person, if the discrimination is based upon” off-duty marijuana use or drug tests that reveal cannabinoid metabolites.
There are exceptions to the policy for workers “in the building and construction trades,” as well as those that require federal background checks and security clearances.
The Appropriations Committee took up a number of other cannabis bills on Friday, including those dealing with environmental regulations, local equity licensing, water resources and health warnings.
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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Meanwhile in California, state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced a new program this week aimed at curtailing the illicit market, and he also argued that the high tax rate for cannabis in the state is partly to blame for why illegal sales are continuing.
Bonta’s office has also been soliciting input from local government and cannabis industry groups as it works to finalize an opinion on the potential legal risks of authorizing interstate marijuana commerce under ongoing federal prohibition, documents obtained by Marijuana Moment show.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.