California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill aimed at decriminalizing hallucinogens in the state, disappointing drug reform advocates and state lawmakers who believe it would open new avenues for mental health treatment. The bill, sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener, would have eliminated criminal penalties for possessing natural psychedelics for personal use and established a group to study their therapeutic use.
In his veto statement, Governor Newsom acknowledged the potential benefits of decriminalization but argued that more work needed to be done to establish regulated treatment guidelines and prevent exploitation. He stated that decriminalization should only occur after such safeguards are in place.
Despite the setback, Senator Wiener remains determined to push for decriminalization in the future. He criticized the governor’s decision as a missed opportunity for California to follow the science and lead the nation. Wiener has previously attempted to pass a broader bill decriminalizing the use and possession of LSD and MDMA.
Interestingly, Oregon has already made significant strides in the field of drug decriminalization. The state has decriminalized small quantities of hard drugs and allows supervised use of psilocybin, commonly known as psychedelic mushrooms. This success has likely influenced the progress of California’s bill.
It is worth noting that several cities in California, including Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley, have already decriminalized natural psychedelics sourced from plants and fungi. These local initiatives have paved the way for further discussions and actions at the state level.
Advocates of psychedelic therapies are not deterred by the veto and are working towards placing initiatives on the November 2024 ballot. These initiatives aim to expand psychedelic use in California by legalizing the use and sale of mushrooms and establishing a state agency for researching psychedelic therapies.
While Governor Newsom’s veto represents a setback for drug reform advocates, the conversation around psychedelic decriminalization and its potential mental health benefits continues to gain momentum across the country.