California considers decriminalizing psychedelic drugs

A California lawmaker wants the state to decriminalize possession of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics as part of an agenda to ratchet down the war on drugs.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, plans to introduce a decriminalization bill in the Legislature next year. He was working on it with Assembly members Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Sydney Kamlager, D-Los Angeles.

"Any substance can be harmful, so I’m not suggesting that anything is like nirvana," Wiener — who said he doesn’t personally take psychedelics — told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But we know that psychedelics can be used safely. We know they appear to have significant medicinal uses."

Magic mushrooms, touted as a consciousness-expanding drug in the 1960s, have been used in religious or spiritual practices in some cultures for centuries and possibly thousands of years. The mushrooms contain psilocybin, which is responsible for their psychedelic effect. Some researchers believe psilocybin and other drugs show promise in treating depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.


• DC voters approve decriminalizing ‘magic mushrooms,’ other psychedelics

• Oregon becomes 1st state to decriminalize hard drugs

Oakland, Santa Cruz and Denver all have effectively decriminalized possession of psychedelic mushrooms. Oakland’s City Council resolution last year also covered other plants and fungi containing psychoactive substances. Washington, D.C., voters passed a similar measure last week.

Also last week, Oregon became the first state to make psilocybin legal when voters approved its supervised use for mental health treatment. The Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the American Psychiatric Association argued against the proposal. “We believe that science does not yet indicate that psilocybin is a safe medical treatment for mental health conditions,” the groups said.

Wiener hasn’t decided on what approach his decriminalization measure would take but told the Chronicle he was leaning toward Oregon’s approach, while also allowing the use of other psychedelics, such as LSD.

Wiener’s measure would be part of his broader agenda to scale back some anti-drug laws. Wiener said he also planned to introduce a measure permitting San Francisco and Oakland to experiment with supervised “safe-injection” sites where users could take drugs safely and to reintroduce another measure to end mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. The Legislature failed the measure this year, but last year did approve another proposition that eased some mandatory sentences.

"The war on drugs has been a disaster, in terms of bloating law enforcement, tearing apart communities, criminalizing addiction and spending enormous amounts of money on prisons," Wiener said. "We need to end the war on drugs. Possession of drugs should just not be a crime."

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