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Advocates Push for California Psychedelic Decrim Bill to Reach Crucial Vote

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Advocates Push for California Psychedelic Decrim Bill to Reach Crucial Vote

The California state bill that would decriminalize a number of psychedelic substances, SB 519, will receive its first hearing date for the 2022 legislative session after being paused in the State Assembly. 

The bill will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on August 3 where it is expected that the bill’s authors will push SB 519 to the Assembly Suspense File. The legislation, which was made a two-year bill last year and held by the committee, must now be sent to the Suspense File before it can continue its path through the Assembly. Sources close to SB 519 are hoping to whip up support for the legislation prior to an August 12 deadline, before pushing for a vote on the floor of the Assembly. 

The coalition supporting SB 519 has scheduled lobby days for August 3-5, where the bill’s supporters will have the opportunity to make a case with lawmakers directly. Advocates are encouraging Assembly members to support the legislation ahead of the August 12 deadline, which marks the last day that the Appropriations Committee can meet to discuss pending legislation.

“Before August 12th, educating legislators is key,” said Ben Unger, a lobbyist with New Approach PAC. “Our goal is to make sure each legislator knows what this bill does, the research behind psychedelic treatment, and the people – veterans, end of life patients, etc – the bill can help. We have found that if legislators learn the facts from experts and hear from those that have healed, they support the policy.”

SB 519 would decriminalize the possession, use, cultivation and social sharing of a number of specified amounts of controlled substances including: psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), LSD, and MDMA. It would also decriminalize associated paraphernalia and remove prohibitions related to the testing and analysis of controlled substances (i.e. drug checking services).

SB 519 does not allow for sales or commercial use of substances decriminalized by the legislation, nor does it create a regulatory framework or allow for what it defines as financial gain. The bill also doesn’t allow for possession or use by anybody under the age of 21 or on school property, and sharing substances with anybody under the age of 21 remains criminalized. Additionally, peyote, which is endangered, is excluded from decriminalization to protect traditional Native American spiritual practices, relying instead on existing federal allowances.

The clock is ticking on SB519. If the legislation isn’t voted to the floor of the Assembly by August 12, it will die in committee and a new bill will need to be introduced in the 2023 legislative session.

Among the challenges reportedly being faced by the coalition supporting the bill is a recent power struggle in the Assembly which has created tension among some of the bill’s chief proponents and long-time Assembly Majority Speaker Anthony Rendon. 

The incident, which some have referred to as an attempted coup within the state’s Democratic Party, occurred when Assembly Member Robert Rivas announced in late May that he had the support of enough Assembly members to oust Rendon and take on the role of leader of the Assembly himself. Rivas finally agreed that Rendon will continue to lead the Assembly until at least the end of the current legislative session, but according to the LA Times, the outcome of this struggle is unclear.

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