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Veterans Rejoice as CA Moves Closer to Decriminalizing Plant-Based Psychedelics



California moves closer to decriminalizing plant-based psychedelics for adults over 21, with veterans supporting the bill for its potential to treat PTSD. (Shutterstock)
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California could become the next state to decriminalize the possession and use of “magic” mushrooms and other plant-based psychedelics for adults over 21 under legislation approved by the state Assembly Wednesday. Oregon and Colorado have already approved similar measures.

Details of the Bill

The bipartisan California bill would not legalize the sale of the drugs. A coalition of veterans who support the proposal say they rely on plant-based psychedelics to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

“While pharmaceuticals certainly have a benefit to some people, it’s not having a benefit on all society,” Republican Assemblymember Bill Essayli said. “If there’s scientific data, which there is, to suggest that these could be promising therapeutics, I think people deserve an opportunity to seek those.”

The bill would require the state’s health agency to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances.

Progress of the Bill

The bill passed 42-13 and returns to the Senate for final sign-off before heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for approval. The Senate previously passed SB 58.

SB 58 goes into effect January 1, 2025, and applies only to possession of limited personal amounts of these naturally occurring plant- and mushroom-based substances, all of which are non-addictive and have a high safety profile.

Support for the Bill

“California’s veterans, first responders, and others struggling with PTSD, depression, and addiction deserve access to these promising plant medicines,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “SB 58 has prudent safeguards in place after we incorporated feedback from three years of deep engagement with a broad array of stakeholders. We know these substances are not addictive, and they show tremendous promise in treating many of the most intractable conditions driving our nation’s mental health crisis. It’s time to stop criminalizing people who use psychedelics for healing or personal well-being.”

Said Jesse Gould, veteran and Founder of the Heroic Hearts Projects: “Every day that criminal penalties prevent veterans from accessing psychedelic plant medicines is a day their lives are at risk.  Psychedelics helped heal the unseen scars from my service in the War on Terror after traditional medicine failed me for years. Since then I’ve dedicated my life to educating veterans in the safe and effective use of psychedelics. Removing criminal penalties for the use of these substances will help that work, not hurt it.”

Research on Psychedelics

Research has shown that removing criminal penalties for possession of plant-based psychedelics does not impact public health or safety. A recent review of data in Colorado shows that neither public health nor public safety incidents related to psychedelics increased after the state decriminalized plant-based psychedelics.

Research also shows the substances included in this bill do not lead to addiction and show promise in treating substance use disorders and alcohol dependence. The U.S Journal Psychopharmacology found that in a peer-reviewed and controlled study of 44,000 Americans with a history of opioid use, using psilocybin was associated with a 27% reduced risk of past year opioid dependence and a 40% reduced risk of past year opioid abuse.

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