California GOP Lawmaker Expands Psychedelics Bill To Create Workgroup And Plan For Veterans’ Therapeutic Access

January 5, 2024 · Marijuana Moment

As California’s 2024 legislative session gets underway, a Republican lawmaker has filed a revised bill to create a state workgroup that would be tasked with exploring a regulatory framework to provide therapeutic access to psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine.

The legislation from Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R) would also allow health professionals to administer certain psychedelics to military combat veterans for the treatment of mental health conditions upon the enactment of such a framework.

The newly amended language represents an expansion of the bill Waldron initially introduced last year, which focused exclusively on psychedelics-assisted therapy for military veterans. But it’s a timely amendment that comes as the sponsor works with Sen. Scott Wiener (D) on separate legislation to establish a broader therapeutic access model for psychedelics in California.

Wiener has been pushing for psychedelics reform over the past few legislative cycles, with his bill to legalize certain entheogenic substances passing the legislature last year, only to be vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). In his veto message, the governor encouraged lawmakers to send an alternative proposal to his desk that focuses on therapeutic access—and that’s what Wiener and Waldron are aiming to do with a measure that is still forthcoming.

In the meantime, Waldron’s newly revised measure is designed to be more limited than what the bipartisan duo plan to soon introduce.

It would require the California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS) to establish a workgroup “to study and make recommendations on the establishment of a framework governing psychedelic-assisted therapy,” the legislative summary says.

“The bill would require that workgroup to send a report to the Legislature containing those recommendations on or before January 1, 2026,” it says. And if the legislature does enact a framework for psychedelics-assisted therapy, it would “authorize a facilitator in a licensed facility to administer specified controlled substances to combat veterans.”

Wiener told Marijuana Moment on Thursday that his partner on the broader push informed him that her revised legislation is being moved “as a backup to our bill, not in lieu” of it. He said the plan is to introduce their separate bipartisan measure later this month.

The state is at an “inflection point” on psychedelics reform, the senator said at an event last month, adding that he understood the governor’s primary contention with his last bill was with provisions to legalize low-level possession of certain psychedelics.

Meanwhile, a campaign behind a prospective California ballot initiative to legalize psychedelics filed a final revised measure with state officials last month, making a handful of changes to the proposal following a public comment period that ended late in November.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has since released its review of that proposal, outlining not only the plan’s policy implications but also its potential fiscal impacts on the state—which the report calls “various” and “uncertain.”

While adults would be allowed to legally grow, possess and use substances like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline under the measure, they would need physician recommendations to purchase the psychedelics at regulated stores.

A separate ballot proposal, meanwhile, would legalize psilocybin, including adult-use sales. That measure, backed by the group Decriminalize California, recently got approval from state officials to begin collecting signatures. Activists have tried twice to put the reform on the ballot in prior cycles, but they’ve come up short due in large part to signature gathering complications during the pandemic.

A third California campaign withdrew its proposed ballot initiative to create a $5 billion state agency tasked with funding and promoting psychedelics research in November, citing polling that advocates say led them to reevaluate whether to put resources into the effort.

Some California municipalities, meanwhile, are pushing forward with reform on the local level. The city of Eureka, for example, adopted a resolution in October to decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi and make enforcement of laws against personal use, cultivation and possession a low priority for police. It’s at least the fifth local jurisdiction in the state to embrace the policy change. Others include San FranciscoOaklandSanta Cruz and Arcata. (Full Story)

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