California State Senate member Scott Wiener joined the flourishing psychedelic community of Clubhouse to offer an update about decriminalization in the state and explain the thought process behind SB 519.
That bill would eliminate criminal punishments for the possession of psychedelic drugs for personal consumption and social exchange for grown-ups, including for community healing and group counseling, or other such services. The drugs in consideration are psilocyn, psilocybin, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, ibogaine, LSD, MDMA, and ketamine.
SB 519 would not affect DUI laws or employer rights in the workplace, and it contains the legalese about what should be done about school zones and minors.
Wiener has long been leading the debate on matters such as affordable housing as well as a mechanism in the tax structure of California to offer free medical marijuana to those in need. Wiener has been looking at the new decriminalization attempt closely for some time now.
The senator has been reading about the progress surrounding psychedelic drugs for some time now. So, he also noticed that some US cities were taking measures to adopt a drug decriminalization model.
There have been many things to follow for senators like Wiener. In California, Santa Cruz and Oakland have stopped treating psychedelic plant and fungi propagation as a criminal offense. Both Massachusetts- and Michigan-based cities became part of the movement in the recent past. In 2020, voters in Washington DC helped to bring the discussion to Congress, which then passed Initiative 81 through a majority vote. Then in February this year, Oregon turned into the first US state to completely put the process of decriminalizing the possession of some quantities of drugs into practice.
Wiener feels that California should join the debate at a state level, plus he applied for the bill.
The process of educating on the decriminalization movement is just started in the California State Legislature, said Wiener. Therefore, it has been great for him to acquaint himself with individuals who have long been doing that as well as the US veterans and their families who have gained from it. An idea such as psychedelic drug decriminalization is introduced for the first-ever time in the state Legislature. Therefore, some of Wiener’s colleagues have not had much exposure to the idea. For that reason, it is important to offer information and educate legislators one at a time.
Those senators have had success until now, but Wiener knows that the legislative houses are not certain to pass the law this year. If they do not pass it in 2021, Wiener and his colleagues would keep trying.
It is now moving forward through the California Senate committees to have their seal of approval without any grassroots opposition. Anyhow, the last major test prior to the state senate debate will have to do with appropriations. The bill’s expungement section has its main financial component. The expungement process is likely to cost over 20 million US dollars. In the event it stops the progress of the bill, then it is likely to be approached in the form of a separate law, said Wiener.
The senate members are doing whatever they can to offer information to not just the legislative house’s leaders but also the chair and members of the US Senate Committee on Appropriations. Those outreach efforts from the senators include meetings with their veterans, said Wiener. The senator also recognized the Decriminalize Nature campaign for the effort and input it has made in the entire process.
Wiener also talked about the challenges that activists face after taking note of their great work. As for Wiener, people associate psychedelic decriminalization with stereotypes such as the psychedelic version of LSD reefer madness or the so-called Burning Man.
Wiener described Burning Man as a fantastic event, but those who are afraid of psychedelics do not pay attention to others who get mental benefits from the drugs. Therefore, the senators have been attempting to make a case for psychedelic decriminalization to their leaders. As for Wiener, it does not make sense to arrest individuals for possessing psychedelic substances. Why? Because the said type of arrest would affect struggling individuals with better lives thanks to those products.
The audience has expressed their concern that peyote is not part of the bill. Wiener said that excluding it from the bill was the toughest aspect of it since several valid pieces of opinion are there about that subject. People thought that including it in the bill would play a part in recreational drug tourism. He also stated that federal government protection would be acknowledged for American Indians who use the excluded substance for their religious purposes.
Wiener said that things are moving in the senators’ direction, referring to the new studies with big headlines on mushrooms, LSD, and MDMA that are featured in publications such as the NY Times. People read about the studies and realize that there is great promise in that regard. Therefore, Wiener expects that the bill would be signed into law in 2021 itself. He also believes that it would happen, albeit not this year.