A California bill opens the door for psychedelic therapy following the unsuccessful attempt to legalize ‘magic mushrooms’

The movement to legalize psychedelics in California is shifting towards a new strategy, focusing on incremental measures to allow these drugs in therapeutic contexts after previous attempts for broader legalization have faltered. Following the failure of an initiative to decriminalize magic mushrooms and psilocybin-containing products for the 2024 ballot due to missed signature submission deadlines, and Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of a bill aimed at decriminalizing certain natural psychedelics last year, the Legislature is now considering narrower approaches. A forthcoming bill is anticipated to propose legalizing psychedelic-assisted therapy, while another bill recently passed the Assembly health committee, allocating funds for a work group to study the potential benefits and risks of psychedelic therapy. Assembly member Marie Waldron (R-San Diego) highlighted California’s severe mental health crisis during a recent hearing, emphasizing the need for effective solutions.

Accessing the data will enable us to develop effective policies regarding the utilization of psychedelics in clinical environments. These therapies hold the promise of saving numerous lives.

In vetoing the bill to decriminalize psychedelics last year, Governor Newsom expressed his preference for the state to develop regulated treatment guidelines rather than broadly sanctioning their use. He urged California to promptly initiate this process. During Tuesday’s testimony, state Senator Scott Wiener, who authored the vetoed psychedelics bill, appeared alongside Assembly member Waldron, stating their partnership in advancing psychedelic therapy legislation. Wiener announced plans to introduce a Senate bill later in the month or early February, aligning with the governor’s veto message to legalize and establish the framework for psychedelic-assisted therapy. Waldron clarified that her bill wouldn’t decriminalize psychedelics, nor would it authorize treatment with them. She cited Oregon and Colorado as examples of states that have already decriminalized these substances, urging California to follow suit. Emphasizing the need for a comprehensive framework, Waldron highlighted the formation of a workgroup consisting of clinical practitioners to streamline these efforts.

Assembly member Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist, sought clarification on the term “clinical setting” during discussions. Expressing confusion, Weber repeatedly asked for specifics regarding the focus of the group’s study and whether it would rely on randomized controlled trials or anecdotal evidence. She also expressed skepticism about the PsychedelicsBuys outlined in the bill, which mandates the conclusion of the work group’s efforts by 2026. Similarly, Pilar Schiavo (D-Chatsworth), who did not support Wiener’s bill in the past, raised concerns about the ambiguity regarding who would conduct the studies within the work group. Meanwhile, outside of the Capitol, Decriminalize California launched a ballot measure advocating for unrestricted cultivation, distribution, and consumption of magic mushrooms and psilocybin-containing products, but it failed to gather enough signatures by the January 10 deadline. Despite multiple requests, the campaign did not provide comments to The Times. Another initiative, calling for the creation of a state agency to regulate psychedelics and fund research into their therapeutic applications, is still in the signature-gathering phase, aiming for the November ballot. This initiative must submit 874,641 valid signatures by the March 20 deadline.