California Climbs Aboard the Psychedelic Spaceship

California Psychedelic

The state of California is joining its own cities of Oakland and Santa Cruz and a host of other cities and states across the country in introducing a bill to the state legislature to decriminalize certain psychedelics. 

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) a “global” leader in psychedelic research released the following press statement

“Today, California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 519 to decriminalize certain psychedelics in the interest of public health and safety and to address some harms of the War on Drugs. The bill would decriminalize MDMA, LSD, DMT, psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, and mescaline and create a commission to recommend frameworks for legal psychedelic use. Peyote, an endangered plant, is excluded to protect traditional Native American spiritual practices. Substance analysis, a proven overdose prevention tool also known as “drug-checking,” would be decriminalized; criminal records related to use and possession of these substances would be expunged. This bill is among a raft of recent reforms to drug policy including:” 

Oregon’s Measure 110 to end criminalization of drug possession and increase funding for and availability of drug education and treatment

Oregon’s Measure 109 to legalize and regulate supervised psilocybin experiences

New Jersey’s A 5084 / S 3256 to decriminalize possession of up to 1 ounce of psilocybin

Measures to reduce law enforcement priority of use and possession of certain psychedelic substances and reduce criminal penalties in Washington, DC, Oakland, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, Denver, CO, Ann Arbor, MI, Cambridge, MA, and Somerville, MA

Introduction of similar measures in Hawai’i, Massachusetts and Florida with several additional states and municipalities expected to follow

This is huge. California, although the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 did not start its journey completely drug friendly.

There were years of shock and horror when arrests for weed were so high that the passing of the The Marihuana Tax Act, which made cannabis federally illegal, did not make a difference. 

“In 1932, approximately 60% of all narcotics arrests in LA involved marijuana. In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act made cannabis federally illegal. In reality, its passing wasn’t hugely significant in California since the state was already punishing users, cultivators, and sellers.”

But things began to change and California began to evolve into the free spirited trailblazer it’s known for now and the first marijuana legalization group was formed in the United States. 

“In 1964, the attorney for Lowell Eggemeier – a man arrested for a cannabis crime – established LEMAR (LEgalize MARijuana). It was the first marijuana legalization group to be formed in the United States. Soon afterward, the Saturday Evening Post wrote a piece describing how almost half of the state’s population had tried weed.”

California tried as early as 1972 to legalize pot with Proposition 19. Unfortunately it was voted down 66.5%.,_Proposition_19_(1972)

Things began to change on a municipality by municipality basis. Much like now with Oakland and Santa Cruz.

The 1973 Berkeley Marijuana Initiative I created quite a stir and began to show the sentiment of the people when it came to changing existing laws.

“The 1973 Berkeley Marijuana Initiative I forbade police officers from making weed-related arrests unless the city council approved.”

Fast forward to 1979 and the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative II “ensured that marijuana offenses such as possession, transportation, sale, and cultivation of cannabis became the lowest priority for police officers.”  yet all was not quite in the years in between. The Moscone Act was passed in 1975 “making possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use a citable misdemeanor rather than a felony.”

San Francisco spearheaded the movement to legalize medical marijuana in the early 1990s. In 1991, almost 80% of voters approved Proposition P, a measure that allowed the medical use of marijuana in San Francisco.

“The following year, the city’s board of supervisors passed a resolution that urged the district attorney and police commission to make marijuana crimes the lowest priority offenses. The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club was formed in 1992 and sold marijuana to medical patients.”

The future was upon California and in 1996, California became the first state in the union to legalize medical cannabis with the historical Proposition 215.

“In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to a majority of states by 2016. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use.”

Oakland set the stage for adult use of cannabis, just as Oakland set the stage for decriminalizing psychedelics in the state in June 2019.

Oakland became the first city in the state to regulate and tax cannabis for adult use in 2005.”

The countrywide momentum was moving ahead as it is now with psychedelics. California’s first attempt at full adult use cannabis legalization was shot down by the voters in 2010. 

“Even so, it seemed as if nothing could stop full legalization in California. In November 2010, residents went to the polls to vote on Proposition 19. If it had passed, the Golden State would have been the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use. However, Prop 19 was defeated as 54% of voters went against it. Medicinal marijuana growers and law enforcement opposed the measure.” 

But other states moved forward. 

“However, these setbacks only delayed the inevitable. Colorado and Washington both legalized marijuana recreationally in December 2012.”

Finally, Prop 64, legalized adult use marijuana in 2016 when 57% of the voters voted yes to cognitive liberty. The bill “fully legalized the sale and distribution of marijuana in dry and concentrated form”

Now, California has an opportunity to join the cities and states who are already at mission control in the effort to move psychedelic decriminalization and or legalization to the forefront of American governance.

Creating a legal framework for safe access, furtherance for a more just criminal justice system where arrests have historically been biased toward people of color, and treating substance use as the mental health issue it is rather than a criminal issue opens the door for a broader conversation for how all of these substances can be used to enhance the well being of society at large. 

“Psychedelic use can come with some risks, but criminalization only increases those risks by creating an unregulated market in which difficult-to-verify dosages and the presence of adulterants like fentanyl threaten public health,” said Ismail Lourido Ali, policy and advocacy counsel at MAPS.”

“California’s bill would also expunge criminal records for people with prior convictions related to possession of psychedelics. And it would create a commission to recommend a regulatory body tasked with overseeing psychedelic-assisted therapy for the treatment of mental health disorders.”

“In a recent study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, researchers found that psilocybin, the active ingredient found in mushrooms, combined with psychotherapy was more effective at treating major depressive disorder than traditional antidepressants.”

“A separate Johns Hopkins study prescribed patients synthetic psilocybin to help with cancer-related depression and anxiety. Eighty percent of participants said their symptoms faded, and the effects lasted six months.”

Weiner sees this as a slow moving process comparing it to cannabis legalization. Once one state starts the process other states will follow suit over a period of years. Ten years ago cannabis was illegal in most states and now most have some form of cannabis legalization. 

“Wiener sees the potential for a similar domino effect to happen with psychedelics but said that a ballot measure might be more successful if lawmakers ultimately vote against his bill, which he hopes will receive a committee hearing in the state Senate sometime in March or April, according to his office.”

“In many ways, the voters are ahead of the elected officials when it comes to criminal justice reform,” he said. “This is the first time this idea has been in the Legislature. Many of my colleagues won’t be familiar with the issue.”

I would like to think that the state legislators are not that lacking in information in the year 2021 when psychedelic companies have been making news on the stock exchanges for over a year.

And it does not seem to be lessening.

But there is a back-up plan if lawmakers shoot State Senate Bill 519 down. 

“A grassroots initiative is already gaining traction in California at the same time lawmakers are considering the decriminalization bill. Decriminalize California has set a goal of collecting 623,212 valid signatures to qualify the California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative for the November 2022 ballot.

That measure would allow adults to cultivate, possess, distribute, transport, and consume magic mushrooms in California.”

I hope it does not come to that. Why wait? I hope our lawmakers do the right thing and move the ball down the court or more specifically launch the ship into psychedelic space. It’s time to take these substances seriously and allow people the dignity to decide for themselves how to address their mental health and their cognitive liberty. I took this question to Dean of Cannabis Law and long time Defense Attorney Bruce Margolin and Founder & Director Emeritus of LA Norml and here are his comments:

“As we have seen the result of how the last 50 years of drug prohibition, and in particular, marijuana laws, in particular marijuana laws have destroyed our society and many people’s lives and have not combated the issue of drug abuse which is what our society should be concerned with not use. 

Use is the right of a free society the right under the constitution of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let’s not let this go any further now that psychedelics are becoming much more prevalent as people understand the benefits of them. Time is of the essence. In over fifty plus years in the practice of law, advocacy, and as a trailblazer for the legalization of marijuana I’ve seen firsthand how much damage  prohibition has done: the cost of police resources; distrust between the police and the public; the waste of the court system’s time from judges to juries.

Now we see the city of Los Angeles is attempting to give retribution to those who have been arrested or convicted in order to clear up their karma a little bit, so to speak.

 Let’s let California continue to be the leading edge of liberty. I recognize that drug prohibition laws only create more havoc and destruction of families because those who are arrested are oftentimes the breadwinners and then can no longer find employment or worse go to jail. Those who live in low income districts are the ones most impacted by the drug prohibition laws.

 Let’s wake up and smell the flowers and do what’s right. The government’s responsibility is to provide programs to build rehabilitation, research, and dissemination of unbiased education. It’s time to let our psychologists, therapists, and

and psychiatrists do their job.  And let education add the light of rationality. 

Shine on California, like the light of the sun in our beautiful state!”

Amen to that!

Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters)

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Dark Matters is a digital magazine covering the underbelly of what makes our world go round. From the crust of the earth to the cosmos of the universe, from Big Foot to Big Pharma, psychedelics to the supernatural, we’re diving deep into the black hole of all that is subversive—sex, drugs, and aliens.


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