Last month, California lawmakers passed a bill that would decriminalize the personal possession of small amounts of a few plant-based psychedelics. This raised hopes that this could be the first of many reforms to unlock the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. Unfortunately, Governor Newsom vetoed the bill, citing reasons that can only be characterized as specious.”
When the California legislature passed a bipartisan bill one month ago that would decriminalize possessing and personally using certain plant‐based psychedelic drugs, I welcomed the action as building momentum toward full legalization of a class of drugs with great potential to treat depression, post‐traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and a host of other mental health disorders. Alas, over the weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill.
The legislation would have effectively allowed people to possess small amounts of psilocybin or psilocin (found in so‐called “magic mushrooms”), DMT (found in ayahuasca), and mescaline (found in peyote and other cactus plants) but explicitly would not have legalized the sale of these
products, or allowed psychotherapists or “facilitators” to administer them to people for psychedelic‐assisted psychotherapy. The bill did not decriminalize possessing ibogaine (found in the iboga shrub) or synthetic psychedelics such as LSD or MDMA.
In vetoing the bill, Governor Newsom stated:
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.
The governor’s veto message is simultaneously a non sequitur and a “catch‐22.” First, the bill didn’t decriminalize psychedelic‐assisted therapy, only personal possession. So, the governor’s concerns about “dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, and rules to prevent exploitation during treatments” do not logically connect to the language or intent of the law.
Second, there is no way clinicians can develop dosing information and therapeutic guidelines for psychedelic‐assisted therapies when the drugs remain illegal and essentially off‐limits to clinical research. Yet that’s how medical science works: clinical researchers perform trials using varying doses and treatment modalities, report their findings, and thus develop and refine dosage and therapeutic guidelines.
Despite decades of clinical research providing evidence of psychedelics’ therapeutic potential, the Drug Enforcement Administration decided that psychedelics have “no currently accepted medical use.” It classified them as Schedule 1 drugs, another example of “cops practicing medicine.”
By placing psychedelics on Schedule 1, the DEA erected many regulatory obstacles for researchers wishing to conduct clinical trials that could yield information regarding the efficacy, dosage, and therapeutic guidelines of plant‐based or synthetic psychedelics. Additionally, plant‐based psychedelics, as well as synthetics such as LSD or MDMA, are off‐patent. While pharmaceutical companies can still patent the processes by which they extract or synthesize psychedelics, they have little incentive to seek DEA approval for clinical psychedelic research.
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