Following Landmark Achievement, California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Slated for 2023 Reintroduction

  • Senate Bill 519 would have decriminalized the personal possession of certain psychedelic substances, legalized life-saving public health interventions, and studied future approaches to increasing use of psychedelics
  • Bill sponsor Senator Scott Wiener, who enlisted MAPS to advise on the bill, led the reform closer to passage than any previous state-wide psychedelic decriminalization legislation
  • Going forward, MAPS will focus on advocating for psychedelic policy reform to include state funding for public education, harm reduction, and unarmed crisis response services.

After California Senate Bill 519 (SB 519) was reduced to a working group tasked with studying potential psychedelic policy options, bill sponsor Senator Scott Wiener announced his disappointment and intention to reintroduce comprehensive psychedelic policy reform next year. The bill, as introduced, would have decriminalized the personal use of certain psychedelic substances and created a working group to study psychedelic education, harm reduction, and the future possibility of regulated, adult-use frameworks. 

At the outset, SB 519 was one of the most comprehensive psychedelic decriminalization bills to be heard before a state legislature. The bill had been passed by the state Senate and sent to several committees in the Assembly, advancing further toward enactment than any other. However, the Assembly Appropriations Committee stripped the primary intention from the bill. In a press release, Senator Wiener remarked “I’ve now confirmed that SB 519 – decriminalizing possession and use of small quantities of certain psychedelic drugs – was amended by the Assembly Appropriations Committee to remove the decriminalization aspect of the bill. As a result, the soon-to-be-amended version of SB 519 is limited to a study.” 

Ismail Lourido Ali, J.D., a resident of California, presented live witness testimony in support of SB519 before the Health Committee of the California State Assembly.

On the heels of the update about SB 519 was news of Governor Gavin Newsom vetoing another proposed piece of drug policy legislation sponsored by Senator Wiener. SB 57 – which passed both houses – would have created a pilot program for overdose prevention sites in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles as an evidence-based intervention to curb drug overdose deaths. Senator Wiener will look to re-enter both the overdose prevention and a revised psychedelic decriminalization bill next session.

The continued criminalization of all drugs and the people who use them increases harms to public health and safety. Senator Wiener offered incremental and important steps toward ending the War on Drugs and laying the groundwork for post-prohibition policy.

SB 519 has served as a successful trial balloon for a state’s psychedelic drug policy, and we’ll take the lessons we’ve learned from this session as we look to gain more support for what was a popular and evidence-based piece of legislation.

Ismail Lourido Ali, J.D., Policy and Advocacy Director, MAPS 

MAPS’ Policy and Advocacy team worked closely with a coalition of advocates including Dr. Bronner’s, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), New Approach, Heroic Hearts Project, Sacred Garden Community, the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI), Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), and local organizations and advocates. Specifically, MAPS played a vital role in the crafting the policy framework of SB 519, including: 

  • Ensuring that personal cultivation was explicitly permitted; 
  • Exempting substance analysis supplies from paraphernalia laws, allowing people to legally test for adulterants;
  • Supporting the decision to exempt peyote from the definition of mescaline; 
  • Expanding the scope of content covered by the proposed commission; 
  • Supporting the negotiation of personal use limits (required to pass out of one committee) to a reasonable range; and 
  • At times supporting the coalition through challenging negotiations, including debates over removing ketamine from the bill. 

Going forward, MAPS and its Policy & Advocacy team looks forward to continuing to support advancement in psychedelic policy through creative but evidence-based approaches, including a renewed commitment to advocate for state-funded harm reduction and education programs. 


Founded in 1986, MAPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. MAPS is sponsoring the most advanced psychedelic therapy research in the world: Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD. Since MAPS was founded, philanthropic donors and grantors have given more than $130 million for psychedelic and marijuana research and education. MAPS has earned both the Guidestar Platinum Seal of Transparency and a 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator.