San Francisco senator pushes to decriminalize psychedelic drugs

Capital Tracker reports

San Francisco state Sen. Scott Wiener wants to decriminalize psychedelic drugs, and a bill he authored to do just that is still alive halfway through this year’s legislative session.

Senate Bill 519, first introduced in February, cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 20. The committee looks at the fiscal impact of proposed bills.

Late last week, Wiener published an editorial eschewing the value of decriminalizing the drugs because, when used properly, can treat mental health and addiction.

Wiener

“It’s long past time to move beyond our outdated and racist war on drugs-era laws, and embrace humane and science-based drug policy,” Wiener wrote.

The drugs covered by the bill include “psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA),” the bill states, allowing for possession by anyone older than 21. There are provisions in the bill that allow for growing psychedelic mushrooms.

The bill also states possession on school grounds or by someone younger than 21 is prohibited.

The legislation also proposes a research advisory group that would hold hearings on “research projects concerning cannabis or hallucinogenic drugs.”

Wiener said he grew up in the D.A.R.E. era when the war on drugs was in full swing.

“Like most Americans, I grew up hearing the constant refrain that all drugs were inherently bad, that we had to ‘just say no,’ and that drug use would (and should) be punished,” he wrote.

He noted the history of criminalizing psychedelic drugs: In 1965, the U.S. banned the drugs; five years later drug scheduling classified cannabis, psilocybin, MDMA and LSD as Schedule 1 drugs.

“Their status indicates by law that they have no determined medical value — a laughable claim in 2021 — which deliberately makes it very difficult for scientists to even get permission to even study these substances,” Wiener said.

He notes scientific research has shown the drugs have medical value in treating some conditions.

“An increasing number of scientific studies show that psychedelics hold vast promise in treating mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance use disorders,” he wrote. “They also show great promise in treating substance use disorders, flipping the supposed conventional wisdom about psychedelics on its head.”

In fact, in 2018, the Veterans Administration said ketamine was available for local veterans who were struggling with PTSD and depression.

“We know ketamine has rapid and powerful anti-suicide properties,” Tobias Marton, the director of the ketamine infusion program at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center told the Times-Standard at the time. “To have another tool, a potentially powerful tool to have an impact on suicide rates is really exciting.”

The bill is now headed to a full Senate floor vote. If passed by the Senate, it would then move to the Assembly.

Capitol Tracker | San Francisco senator pushes to decriminalize psychedelic drugs

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