Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent veto on Saturday of SB 58, proposed by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), has sparked disappointment and frustration among advocates for criminal justice reform and mental health treatment. The bill aimed to decriminalize the personal use of certain psychedelics in California, which many believed could have significant positive impacts on individuals struggling with mental health issues and the criminal justice system. However, Newsom’s vetoing of the bill has halted this potential progress.
The use of psychedelics, such as psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT, for therapeutic purposes has been gaining more attention in recent years. Studies have shown promising results in treating conditions such as depression, PTSD, and addiction.
Additionally, advocates argue that criminalizing these substances’ possession and personal use adds to the burden on individuals struggling with mental health issues and perpetuates the disproportionate impact of drug laws on marginalized communities.
With this in mind, SB 58 aimed to decriminalize the possession and personal use of certain psychedelics for adults over the age of 21, which would have been a significant step towards recognizing the potential benefits of these substances and providing alternative treatment options for those in need. However, Newsom’s veto has paused this progress and sparked meaningful conversations about the future of psychedelic legislation in California.
What Would SB 58 Accomplish?
Senate Bill 58, proposed by Senator Scott Wiener, aimed to decriminalize the possession and personal use of psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT for adults over the age of 21 in California. The bill received widespread support from veterans groups and criminal justice reform advocates who saw it as a crucial step towards addressing mental health issues and reducing the negative impact of drug laws.
Under SB 58, individuals caught in possession of these substances for personal use would not face criminal charges or penalties. This would have allowed a shift towards treating addiction and mental health issues as public health concerns rather than criminal offenses.
While the bill did not legalize the sale or distribution of psychedelics, it aimed to remove the fear of criminal charges for individuals seeking alternative treatments and reduce the disproportionate impact of drug laws on marginalized communities. This approach aligns with a growing movement towards decriminalization and addressing the root causes of substance abuse and mental health issues.
Under SB 58, the limits of possession would’ve been set at :
- Mescaline up to 4 grams
- DMT 1 gram
- Psilocybin: One gram, or up to 1 ounce of “a plant or fungi containing psilocybin”
- Psilocyn: One gram, or up to 1 ounce of “a plant or fungi containing psilocyn.”
Newsom’s Veto Of SB 58
Despite widespread support for SB 58, Governor Newsom ultimately chose to veto the bill. In a statement issued by his office, Newsom expressed concern about the potential risks associated with decriminalizing these substances without proper therapeutic guidelines in place.
Newsome’s reasoning for the veto stems from SB 58 not having “therapeutic guidelines,” stating, “California should immediately begin work to set up regulated treatment guidelines – replete with dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, rules to prevent against exploitation during guided treatments, and medical clearance of no underlying psychoses.”
“Unfortunately, this bill would decriminalize possession prior to these guidelines going into place, and I cannot sign it. I urge the legislature to send me legislation next year that includes therapeutic guidelines. I am, additionally, committed to working with the legislature and sponsors of this bill to craft legislation that would authorize permissible uses and consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place.”
This veto has surprised many, as Newsom has been supportive of marijuana legalization and previously signed a bill decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms for medical research purposes. However, this shows that there is still significant stigma and fear surrounding using psychedelics, even for therapeutic purposes.
Overall, Newsom’s reasoning for vetoing SB 58 highlights the need for further education and research on these substances’ potential benefits and risks. It also brings attention to the importance of addressing mental health through evidence-based policies rather than relying on outdated drug laws.
Response from Bill’s Author and Advocates
Senator Scott Wiener, the author of SB 58, expressed disappointment with Newsom’s veto. In a statement, he stated that “”This is a setback for the huge number of Californians — including combat veterans and first responders — who are safely using and benefiting from these non-addictive substances and who will now continue to be classified as criminals under California law,” he added that the veto was “A huge missed opportunity for California to follow the science and lead.”
Gov Newsom vetoed SB 58, our bill to decriminalize mushrooms & other naturally occurring psychedelics.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) October 7, 2023
So for now, folks who benefit from these non-addictive substances remain classified as criminals under CA law.
Our fight is not over. We’ll be back with legislation next year. pic.twitter.com/Dehiz9mG0K
The veto has also sparked frustration among veteran groups advocating for access to psychedelic treatments for PTSD and other mental health issues. They see Newsom’s decision as a setback in their fight for alternative treatment options and are determined to continue pushing for change in California.
“The response from the veterans community is overwhelming sadness and frustration,” Jesse Gould, a veteran Army Ranger and founder of Heroic Hearts, told The LA Times.
He added that despite this defeat, veterans have “faced worse” and that the community will continue to “fight to provide access to life-changing treatments for all Californians.”
While Newsom’s veto of SB 58 may disappoint many, there are still potential next steps in the push for psychedelic legislation. Newsom has suggested that he is open to signing a future bill that includes therapeutic guidelines, showing that he acknowledges the potential benefits of these substances.
Meanwhile, Senator Wiener has stated that he will continue to push for psychedelic reform in California, potentially including broader decriminalization of psychedelics in the future. This aligns with the growing movement towards decriminalization and addressing mental health through evidence-based policies.
Furthermore, advocacy groups and individuals are continuing to fight for access to psychedelic treatments and pushing for policy change. As more research and success stories emerge, the conversation around psychedelics will likely continue to evolve and potentially lead to changes in legislation. For now, the veto of SB 58 may be seen as a setback. Still, it has also brought attention to the importance of further education and exploration of alternative treatments for mental health issues.
Overall, the veto of SB 58 by Governor Newsom is a significant setback for the push toward psychedelic reform in California. The bill aimed to decriminalize the personal use and possession of psychedelics, potentially providing access to alternative treatments for mental health issues. However, Newsom’s reasoning for vetoing the bill highlights the need for further education and guidelines on the use of these substances.
Despite this setback, there are still potential next steps in the push for psychedelic legislation, with Newsom open to signing a future bill with therapeutic guidelines. Senator Wiener has also expressed his determination to continue pushing for reform and potentially broader decriminalization in the future. Additionally, continued advocacy from groups and individuals shows that the conversation surrounding psychedelics is evolving and gaining more attention.
While the veto of SB 58 may be disappointing for many, it has also brought attention to the potential benefits of alternative treatments and the need for evidence-based policies in addressing mental health. The fight for access to psychedelic therapy continues, and with ongoing research and advocacy, there is hope for progress in the future. Ultimately, the goal should be to provide individuals with the autonomy to choose natural and effective treatments for their mental health.
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