Bill to decriminalize psychedelics shelved in California Legislature – San Francisco Chronicle

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would have decriminalized the use of some psychedelic drugs has stalled in the California Legislature — at least for this year — after its author pulled the proposal.

The measure, SB519 by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would have allowed the possession and personal use of hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD, MDMA and other psychedelics, which supporters argue have therapeutic mental health benefits.

It was one of dozens of bills that fizzled Thursday, without debate, as the Assembly and Senate appropriations committees moved hundreds of bills through a procedural bottleneck for legislation with significant fiscal impacts.

Wiener shelved the measure, apparently believing it didn’t have the votes to advance. But he said his effort to overhaul decades-old drug laws isn’t over, and he will try to push the bill again in January.

“Decriminalizing psychedelics is an important step in ending the failed War on Drugs,” Wiener said in a statement. “Our mental health crisis is worse than ever, and psychedelics have shown great promise in treating mental health issues from PTSD to anxiety and depression.”

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, talks during a Senate session in 2018. California lawmakers will wait until next year to consider decriminalizing psychedelics.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, talks during a Senate session in 2018. California lawmakers will wait until next year to consider decriminalizing psychedelics.

Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press 2018

A movement to decriminalize, or even legalize, psychedelics has grown across the country in recent years as researchers have determined psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component of so-called magic mushrooms, and other drugs could be used to treat depression and anxiety.

Several cities across the country, including Oakland, have moved to decriminalize natural psychedelics derived from plants and fungi.

Wiener’s bill would not have decriminalized the sale of psychedelics. But the measure was opposed by law-enforcement associations, which argued that allowing the use of impairing drugs could lead to more substance abuse and arrests.

Meanwhile, many of the other high-profile bills before the appropriations committees advanced on Thursday, which means the measures now go to the Assembly or Senate floor.

Some bills advanced with substantive changes, including SB2 by Sen. Steve Bradford, D-Gardena (Los Angeles County), which would create a statewide process to strip police officers of their badges when they break the law. The Assembly Appropriations Committee amended the measure to allow the proposed oversight board to suspend officers’ licenses, not just revoke them entirely, and to require members of the board to undergo training.

The committee also amended SB380 by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, which would have eliminated the 2026 sunset for California’s assisted death law and made it permanent. That sunset will now be extended until 2031, which the committee said was necessary to give the state time to assess the effects of other provisions in the measure that would streamline the process for terminally ill patients to seek lethal medication from their doctors.

Among the measures shelved on Thursday were a handful of environmental bills, another blow to activists who’ve complained that the Legislature has become a dead-end for green policy efforts. Among the scrapped bills:

• SB551, by Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, would have created a position for a state “EV czar” to help speed up California’s transition to electric vehicles. The czar would have led a new California Zero-Emission Vehicle Authority.

AB478, by Assembly Member Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would have required that recycled plastic be used to help make thermoform plastic containers, such as berry boxes and clamshells. The bill would have required a minimum of 30% recycled content by 2030.

SB18, by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would jump-start the state’s movement to green hydrogen by requiring state agencies to factor the fuel into their climate plans. Hydrogen is a zero-emission fuel that can be used to power vehicles, machinery and power plants. Skinner’s office said she will keep pushing the measure.

Dustin Gardiner and Alexei Koseff are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email:, Twitter: @dustingardiner, @akoseff

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