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California Decrim Bill SB58 Passes State Senate

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California Decrim Bill SB58 Passes State Senate

SB 58, the California bill which would decriminalize certain psychedelics in the state was narrowly passed by the state Senate in a 21-16 vote during a floor hearing on May 24, 2023. 

If passed, the legislation would decriminalize psilocybin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, and mescaline (excluding peyote). The bill is sponsored by Heroic Hearts Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting military veterans struggling with mental trauma with therapies based on plant-based psychedelic medicines. 

Senator Scott Wiener (D) speaking.

While SB 58 retains much of the language included in SB 519 when that legislation went in front of the Senate in June 2021, several major changes have been made. Some compounds, including MDMA, LSD and ketamine, are no longer included in the bill, and possession limits have been added for each substance. The working group which was proposed in the previous version of the bill is gone as well. Supporters of SB58 are hopeful that the current version of the legislation, which focuses more explicitly on plant-based psychedelics, will be more successful. 

Now that SB 58 has passed in the Senate, it will need to be heard by the Assembly Public Safety Committee. In the previous session, SB 519, the prior version of the bill, was required to go through the Public Health Committee as well. The revised language allows SB 58 to forgo this committee. 

Another committee that may need to consider SB 58 is Appropriations, which is the Assembly’s fiscal committee. That same committee gutted SB 519 at the end of the last session, leading Senator Wiener to pull the legislation. In the Senate, SB 58 was able to forgo the appropriations committee due to its negligible cost. 

Provisions in SB 519 that called for the working group and an expensive expungement of arrest records were removed in SB 58. Lobbyists for the bill are hoping for a similar decision in the Assembly. Should the legislation be passed by both houses of the legislature, it will be sent to California governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for signature. 

Twenty-six returning Senators (all but three) voted on SB 58 the same way they voted for SB 519 despite changes to the legislation. Those who changed their vote include Sen. Henry Stern who voted “yes” on SB 58 after not registering a vote on SB 519; Sen. Bob J. Archuleta, voted “yes” on SB 58 after voting “no” on SB 519; and Sen. Dave Min who did not register a vote on SB58, after voting “No” on SB519. All three are Democrats.

Final votes for SB58.

Among the ten freshman senators who joined the legislature this session, six: Alvarado-Gil, Ashby, Nguyen, Niello, Smallwood-Cuevas, and Wahab voted “no.”Three, Menjivar, Padilla, and Seyarto voted “yes”, and one, Blakespear, abstained. 

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