Story at a glance

  • Efforts to end the war on drugs, including psychedelics, are gaining momentum across the United States.
  • Oakland and Santa Cruz, Calif., and the District of Columbia have all decriminalized psychedelics, and Oregon recently became the first state to decriminalize all drugs.
  • New legislation proposed by a lawmaker in California would decriminalize possession and personal use of a number of psychedelics that can be used for medical treatment.

The state of California could be one step closer to decriminalizing all drugs if lawmakers approve new legislation that would start with psychedelics. 

State Sen. Scott Wiener introduced a bill Wednesday to decriminalize a number of hallucinogenic substances, allowing personal use and "social sharing" of the drugs, which include psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and ketamine, as well as related drug paraphernalia for those 21 and older. The bill would also dismiss and seal both pending and prior convictions for what are now criminal offenses. 


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“People should not be going to jail for possessing or using drugs,” Wiener told The Guardian. “It’s a health issue, not a criminal issue, and I hope that we get all the way there.”

 

This month, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize all drugs, reclassifying the possession of small amounts of drugs as a civil violation. Other major cities, including Oakland and Santa Cruz, Calif., as well as Washington, D.C., recently decriminalized psychedelics, which are a subset of hallucinogenic drugs that emerging research suggests could be safely used for medical treatment. 


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One of those drugs is psilocybin, which can be found in "magic mushrooms" and other fungi, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated "breakthrough therapy" for further research. While research is still relatively new, Oregon has already approved psilocybin therapy to adults who can safely benefit, including those suffering from anxiety, depression and substance use disorder, under the oversight of the state's health authority and an advisory board. 

Research on Schedule 1 drugs is governed strictly by the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, but state legislators hope that legalization will allow researchers to learn more. But ending the war against drugs isn’t simply a public health issue, but also a social issue. In California, Black residents are still more likely to be booked and arrested on drug related offenses, although the gap has shrunk since the passage of Proposition 47, which converted a number of drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, in 2014.


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Published on Feb 18, 2021