Decriminalize psychedelics in California – LA Daily News

I spent 21 years as a police officer in Redondo Beach focusing on protecting the health and safety of my community. I’ve managed gang units, have been heavily involved in violence reduction, and ran a special investigations unit that included the narcotics team. In my field of work, I’ve seen how destructive outdated drug laws can be to our communities. That’s why I am urging Assembly members to vote Yes on Senate Bill 519, to decriminalize psychedelics in California.

Decriminalizing psychedelics will allow law enforcement officials to prioritize serious threats to public safety and redirect resources away from ineffective drug “control” strategies to strategies that actually work —  all while reducing our law enforcement and incarceration costs. Our public safety officers can then use these resources to investigate serious crimes and to build better relationships with the communities we serve.

Our current system fails to acknowledge the medical uses of psychedelics. Veterans have spoken to the value that psychedelic treatments have had on combating their trauma, both physical and mental, from serving our country. For a group whose suicide rates are 1.5 times higher than the average US adult population, we should be exploring these options, not criminalizing them.

SB 519 is grounded in research. Pioneering research from Johns Hopkins University and University of California Los Angeles have found that psychedelics can be effective at treating anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychedelics can even be effective where other traditional mental health treatments have failed.

Moreover, safety is a critical component of SB 519. The bill includes a work group to develop strict safety guidelines that will ensure that psychedelic therapy programs are safely regulated in California to promote the access of healing in licensed clinical settings.

As a former law enforcement professional and narcotics officer, it is clear to me that decriminalizing psychedelics will improve public safety in California and expand our public health professionals’ options for treating patients who struggle with their mental health.

Eighty-three percent of Americans say the drug war has failed. As a former officer, I know it has failed because we treat people who use drugs like criminals rather than like patients. Refocusing on public health strategies is the only way forward.

Lt. Diane Goldstein (Ret.) is  a 21-year police veteran of the Redondo Beach Police Department and executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). 

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