California Governor Signs Bills To Let Doctors Prescribe Psilocybin And MDMA If They’re Federally Rescheduled And To Change Marijuana Testing Rules

October 3, 2023 ·

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed a bill that would allow doctors to immediately start prescribing certain currently illicit drugs like psilocybin and MDMA if they’re federally rescheduled, and he also approved separate legislation to amend THC variance testing requirements for marijuana.

The governor signed off on the measures—which are just two of more than a dozen cannabis and drug policy reform proposals on his desk—on Saturday.

AB 1021, sponsored by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D), Isaac Bryan (D) and Corey Jackson (D), says that, if the federal government reschedules any Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), California health professionals will automatically be able to legally prescribe and dispense it.

This could be especially relevant to the psychedelics psilocybin and MDMA, which have been designated as breakthrough therapies by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are expected to be approved for medical use as early as next year.

Following a recent Phase 3 clinical trial, a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature last month found that treatment with MDMA reduced symptoms in patients with moderate to severe PTSD. The findings mean federal regulators could consider approving the drug for wider use as soon as next year.

Meanwhile, Newsom also has a separate bill on his desk—which he is yet to decide on—that would independently legalize certain psychedelics, including psilocybin, at the state level. He’s expressed mixed feelings about the legislation, however, arguing that while he understands psychedelics hold “profound” therapeutic potential, his perspective on drug policy reform has shifted with fatherhood.

The other bill Newsom signed on Saturday is AB 623 from Assemblymember Phillip Chen (R), which affects THC variance testing rules for marijuana products.

As it stands, according to a bill analysis, existing law “prohibits edible cannabis products from containing more than 10 milligrams of THC per serving, plus or minus 10 percent. This is to account for natural variance within products.”

“Products that exceed the allowed variance must be destroyed. The author and sponsor contend that edible cannabis products with low levels of THC potency of THC fail a test and are required to be thrown out because the amount of variance allowed is less for products with lower potency levels of THC,” it says. “Ultimately, this bill tasks the [the Department of Cannabis Control] with the responsibility to determine what the appropriate testing variances should be for those products with a lower level of THC than what is currently specified in statute as 10 milligrams to ensure that testing standards are consistent, accurate and appropriate for smaller dosing sizes.”

Meanwhile, Newsom has a slew of other cannabis proposals the legislature sent him that are pending action.

Those include measures to prevent employers from asking job applicants about marijuana uselegalize cannabis “cafes,” promote environmentally sustainable track-and-trace plant tagging, allow patients 65 and older with chronic diseases to use marijuana at health care facilities and add cannabis packaging and labeling restrictions. The governor has until October 14 to act on each of them.

Newsom has already signed three drug policy-related bills so far this session, and he’s yet to veto any. But how he will approach these other proposals is unclear, especially when it comes to some of the more ambitious measures like psychedelics legalization and marijuana employment rules. Newsom took some harm reduction advocates by surprise last session after he vetoed a bill from Wiener that would have established an overdose prevention site pilot program in the state.

The legislation Newsom has signed in recent months, meanwhile, includes a measure to grant immunity to people who possess personal use amounts of any controlled substance if they test it for adulterants such as fentanyl and they report positive tests to law enforcement positive and also provide information about where they obtained the drug. Another signed bill empowers the State Water Board to take investigatory steps against suspected illicit cannabis cultivators and participate in enforcement efforts. A third enacted measure alters background check requirements for cannabis businesses.

A number of cannabis and psychedelics bills that were introduced earlier this session, including proposals concerning marijuana advertising, psychedelics-assisted therapy, cannabis delivery service rules and the state industrial hemp program did not advance by legislative deadlines, though some crossed over to the opposite chamber before being being held in committee.

Separately, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced a new program in August aimed at curtailing the illicit market, and he also argued that the high tax rate for cannabis in the state is partly to blame for why illegal sales are continuing.

Bonta’s office has also been soliciting input from local government and cannabis industry groups as it works to finalize an opinion on the potential legal risks of authorizing interstate marijuana commerce under ongoing federal prohibition, documents obtained by Marijuana Moment show. (Full Story)

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