LOS ANGELES — California is on the verge of becoming the latest state to decriminalize psychedelics for personal and therapeutic use, building on a growing movement across the country to rethink the so-called war on drugs. The bill, introduced Thursday by state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat who represents San Francisco, would decriminalize substances such as psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ketamine, DMT and mescaline. Psilocybin, a hallucinogen found in certain types of mushrooms, and ketamine are already being used in psychedelic-assisted therapy by patients and doctors who extoll the health and wellness benefits of psychedelics to treat mental health disorders, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill excludes the use of peyote, an endangered plant, to ensure its availability for traditional Native American spiritual practices, according to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, a global psychedelic research and education organization.”The war on drugs has been a complete failure,” Wiener said. “It hasn’t stopped people from using drugs and it hasn’t stopped addiction.”Psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and peyote remain illegal at the federal level and are classified as Schedule 1 drugs, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Last year, voters in Oregon and Washington, D. C., approved measures to allow for the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms, which are already being prescribed to help some terminally ill patients in Canada cope with pain and end-of-life anxiety. The cities of Denver and Oakland, California, each adopted resolutions in 2019 decriminalizing mushrooms. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill earlier this month loosening the penalty for anyone found possessing up to an ounce of psychedelic mushrooms. That bill downgraded small amounts of the substance from a third-degree crime to a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or a 6-month prison sentence, rather than a 3- to 5-year sentence. Similar bills to reduce criminal penalties for psychedelics have also been passed in Santa Cruz, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Cambridge and Somerville in Massachusetts.“Psychedelic use can come with some risks, but criminalization only increases those risks by creating an unregulated market in which difficult-to-verify dosages and the presence of adulterants like fentanyl threaten public health,” said Ismail Lourido Ali, policy and advocacy counsel at MAPS. California’s bill would also expunge criminal records for people with prior convictions related to possession of psychedelics. And it would create a commission to recommend a regulatory body tasked with overseeing psychedelic-assisted therapy for the treatment of mental health disorders.
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