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Newsom Vetoes California Bill Decriminalizing Psychedelics

Newsom Vetoes California Bill Decriminalizing Psychedelics

Magic Mushrooms sit in a fridge in London, England, on July 18, 2005. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Joyce Kuo

Joyce Kuo

10/8/2023

Updated: 10/9/2023

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom Oct. 7 vetoed a state bill seeking to legalize some naturally occurring psychedelics after it passed the Legislature last month.
Senate Bill 58, proposed by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would allow people 21 or older to possess, transport, or plant a certain amount of psychedelic substances—such as psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms”—for personal use starting Jan. 1, 2025. The bill passed on the Assembly floor 43–15 and the Senate floor 21–14 in early September.
In his veto message, Mr. Newsom said medical research has demonstrated that treatment with such hallucinogens can help “relieve people suffering from certain conditions such as depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other addictive personality traits,” but said regulations and guidelines should come before legalization.
“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,” the governor wrote. “Unfortunately, this bill would decriminalize possession prior to these guidelines going into place, and I cannot sign it.”
Mr. Newsom urged lawmakers to come up with guidelines next year to authorize “permissible uses” and “a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future” after thoroughly considering “the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails.”
Mr. Wiener, the bill’s author, said in an Oct. 7 statement the veto was “a huge missed opportunity for California to follow the science and lead.”
“Gov Newsom vetoed SB 58 ... So for now, folks who benefit from these non-addictive substances remain classified as criminals under CA law,” Mr. Wiener wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “Our fight is not over. We’ll be back with legislation next year.”
Several groups opposing the bill out of drug abuse and public safety concerns—the California Coalition against Drugs, California Narcotic Officers’ Association, and Organization for Justice and Equality—applauded the governor’s decision in a joint statement.
“We are excited to announce that SB58 ... was vetoed by Governor Newsom. This is a calamitous bill of this legislative year putting Californians at risk. Now everybody breathes a big sigh of relief,” the statement read.
Frank Lee, vice president of the anti-drug coalition, said in the same statement: “This is indeed good news for California! ... Drugs lead to more crimes, homelessness, and accidents and our efforts in thwarting bills to legalize illegal drugs are indispensable.”
The groups also argued psychedelics have only been proven effective in treating mental disorders in supervised settings, echoing Mr. Newsom’s concerns.
“Even in the two studies used by Wiener in pushing for SB58, namely NYU and John Hopkins University, the conclusion is that psychedelics may produce positive results only under carefully controlled conditions [and] are not ready for individual consumption and certainly not for widespread usage,” the same statement read.
Some law enforcement groups said hallucinogens can pose great dangers to users’ physical and mental health and public safety.
“Psychedelics have been shown to cause different negative consequences such as cardiac issues, seizures, depression, amnesia, acute anxiety, and hallucination, and are dangerous to users and bystanders alike,” the Narcotic Officers Association—consisting of over 60,000 law enforcement officers in California—wrote in a letter sent to the governor in September.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux—president of the California State Sheriffs Association—said the bill, if passed, could put officers in difficult situations handling individuals under the influence.
“I can tell you from 37 years of law enforcement, dealing with people who are high on hallucinogens or any other types of drugs poses severe issues ... law enforcement should not have to engage in situations where people are hallucinating,” said during a teleconference held Sept. 25 calling for rejection of the bill.
A similar bill, also introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), failed last year and would have decriminalized personal use of not only naturally occurring but also synthetic psychedelics. It was rejected by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which recommended providing funding for more research on the matter before considering legalization.
Rudy Blalock contributed to this report. 
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Joyce Kuo

Joyce Kuo

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