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Bill To Decriminalize Psychedelic Drugs Passes Senate Health Committee

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- A bill authored by San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener aimed at decriminalizing psychedelic drugs on Wednesday passed the Senate Health Committee by a vote of 6-1, according to Wiener's office.

Senate Bill 519, which will decriminalize the possession and personal use of certain psychedelic drugs is now set head to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Wiener introduced the bill in February.

According to Wiener, research from top medical universities indicates that substances including psilocybin, psilocyn, methylenedioxymethamphetamine ("MDMA"), Lysergic acid diethylamide ("LSD"), ketamine, Dimethyltryptamine ("DMT"), mescaline (excluding peyote), and ibogaine, can have significant benefits for treating mental health and substance use disorders.

Decriminalizing the drugs for personal and therapeutic use is part of a larger movement to end policies rooted in the racist War on Drugs dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

SB 519 also expunges any criminal records for people convicted of possession or personal use of the psychedelic substances as well as establishing a commission charged with producing recommendations to the Legislature regarding which regulatory system it recommends California adopt for personal use of the specified substances in the future.

The bill follows similar, successful efforts to decriminalize these substances in Washington, D.C., Oakland, and Santa Cruz, as well as the successful 2020 Oregon ballot measures that decriminalized personal use of all scheduled substances, and authorized the creation of a state-licensed, psilocybin services program over the next two years.

Wiener had announced last November that he planned to introduce such a bill.

Wiener -- the State Senator for District 11, which compromises San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, Broadmoor, and parts of South San Francisco -- outlined the plan with a thread of several tweets posted on November 10, 2020.


"These drugs have been shown to have medicinal value treating depression, PTSD & other conditions," he said in his first tweet on the subject. "We need to stop criminalizing drug use & addiction."

Studies show that psychedelics show great promise in the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. Recent clinical trials studying MDMA as a treatment for PTSD led the FDA to distinguish MDMA-assisted therapy as a "breakthrough therapy," with two-thirds of study participants no longer qualified as having PTSD after experiencing MDMA-assisted therapy.

SB 519 is co-authored by Senator Josh Newman (D- Fullerton) and Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-San Jose), Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward).

"Criminalizing people for using psychedelics harms people's health, perpetuates the failed War on Drugs, and does nothing to make us safer, " Sen. Wiener said in the issued release. "We know that psychedelics can help people struggling with mental health and addiction. Many combat veterans use these substances to treat conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Instead of criminalizing and incarcerating people for using drugs, we need to provide treatment and support. The War on Drugs has failed us, and we need a new approach to drug policy."

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