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California proposes legalizing therapeutic psychedelics for adults 21 and up

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(The Center Square) – California legislators proposed legalizing certain psychedelics, including psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms,” for adults 21 and over in a therapeutic setting. Some harm reduction experts, while supportive of the overall effort, say psychedelic treatment may not be ready for “prime time.”

SB 1012, spearheaded by State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would allow adults 21 and older to use psilocybin (“magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (“DMT), MDMA, and mescaline (other than peyote) in therapeutic settings administered by trained facilitators. The bill would do so by requiring the state to draft and adopt regulations for establishing licensing and registration of facilities and facilitators. Notably, the bill does not decriminalize possession of these drugs as a bill introduced by Wiener that passed the legislature and was vetoed by the governor would have done.

“When paired with therapeutic support, psychedelics show amazing promise for treating conditions that resist other forms of treatment,” Wiener said in a statement. “By providing the guidance and collaboration of a licensed facilitator in a controlled setting, SB 1012 will allow Californians to access these treatments responsibly and safely as they move through the healing process.”

The senator’s announcement also noted the FDA designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” in 2018 and 2019, a process that expedites development and review of drugs that could offer major improvement over available therapies for serious conditions, and that MDMA is undergoing FDA approval for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wiener’s 2023 bill was a scaled down version of a 2021 bill of his that would have decriminalized synthetic psychedelics and drugs such as LSD, MDMA and ketamine. That bill passed the Senate and failed in the Assembly.

Wiener says SB 1012 is a direct response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto letter on his 2023 bill, which acknowledged the potential benefits of psychedelics and urged the legislature to pursue therapeutic guidelines before pursuing decriminalization.

Meanwhile, harm reduction experts say that while encouraging legal use in a therapeutic setting is promising, the state’s history of adopting difficult licensing parameters and training requirements could prove overly burdensome.

“It looks like Sen. Wiener is following Oregon’s lead and framework. However, R Street is a bit concerned about the movement to allow psychedelic-assisted therapy through state-regulated centers, as his bill would do,” said Chelsea Boyd, a research fellow in harm reduction at R Street Institute, to The Center Square. “We’re certainly supportive of work that advances psychedelics as a treatment for mental-health conditions, although we’re not sure the treatment is ready for prime time. For instance, we have specific concerns about what will constitute appropriate training for facilitators.”