Statement: California State Legislator Introduces Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelics

February 18, 2021

Today, California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 519 to decriminalize certain psychedelics in the interest of public health and safety and to address some harms of the War on Drugs. The bill would decriminalize MDMA, LSD, DMT, psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, and mescaline and create a commission to recommend frameworks for legal psychedelic use. Peyote, an endangered plant, is excluded to protect traditional Native American spiritual practices. Substance analysis, a proven overdose prevention tool also known as “drug-checking,” would be decriminalized; criminal records related to use and possession of these substances would be expunged. This bill is among a raft of recent reforms to drug policy including: 

  • Oregon’s Measure 110 to end criminalization of drug possession and increase funding for and availability of drug education and treatment
  • Oregon’s Measure 109 to legalize and regulate supervised psilocybin experiences
  • New Jersey’s A 5084 / S 3256 to decriminalize possession of up to 1 ounce of psilocybin
  • Measures to reduce law enforcement priority of use and possession of certain psychedelic substances and reduce criminal penalties in Washington, DC, Oakland, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, Denver, CO, Ann Arbor, MI, Cambridge, MA, and Somerville, MA
  • Introduction of similar measures in Hawai’i, Massachusetts and Florida with several additional states and municipalities expected to follow

The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the long-standing global leader in psychedelic research and education, published Considerations for the Regulation and Decriminalization of Psychedelic Substances in 2019. As expert advisors to Sen. Wiener in development of SB 519, MAPS applauds the introduction of SB 519 as an important first step in state reforms to punitive drug laws. 

MAPS staff have provided the following comments on the bill: 

“As we celebrate the success of expanding decriminalization efforts and the potential this bill holds to correct stigma and restore equity across cultural divides, we simultaneously underscore the opportunity for widespread harm reduction education. Through acknowledging that safe and responsible use includes reliance on substance analysis and measurement tools, we afford psychedelic choosers proper paths to keep themselves and their communities empowered to mitigate risk and lessen the likelihood of involvement with legal and medical services.” – Katrina Michelle, Ph.D., LCSW, Director of Harm Reduction

“This reduces the legal risk for individuals using psychedelics, reducing stigma and allowing communities to step up to offer evidence-based harm reduction services. It will make space for accurate education, which is ultimately good for both personal and public health. Although municipal reforms are an important part of the policy ecosystem and global policy reform is the eventual goal, amending state law to decriminalize personal use is an important step toward appropriately addressing the use of psychedelics for healing, spiritual development, celebration, or personal growth.” – Ismail Lourido Ali, J.D., Policy & Advocacy Counsel

“Americans’ growing recognition that the War on Drugs is a decades-long public health disaster demands policies to both correct its immeasurable damage and acknowledge the tremendous potential benefits of so many criminalized substances, including psychedelics. Public health research continues to show that criminalization makes drug use more dangerous, exacerbates social and racial inequities, and plays a key role in the erasure of countless ancestral plant medicine practices. SB 519 is a compelling step closer to a world in which no one is criminalized for drug use and substances can be used more safely, responsibly, and intentionally.” – Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, M.S.W.,, Director of Policy & Advocacy