SB 519: What’s In and Not In

You’ve surely noticed that the wave of psychedelic law reform continues to pick up speed. Denver, the District of Columbia, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor, and Cambridge have reformed psychedelics policies, and last fall we told you about Oregon’s drug policy ballot initiatives, both of which passed. Every reform proposal has its own character (and fine print).

Here’s what’s happening in the California State Legislature. In February, Senator Scott Wiener introduced SB 519 to decriminalize certain psychedelics. Two Senate committees voted in support this month: Public Safety (4-1 vote) and Health (6-2 vote). The Appropriations Committee, which evaluates fiscal impact will hear this item on Monday, May 3 at 9:00 am. Keep reading to get the scoop on California’s psychedelic reform proposal.

6 Things to Know About SB 519

1. Some, but not all, substances would be decriminalized.
2. Non-commercial, personal use and sharing of certain substances would become lawful.

SB 519, if passed, would make it lawful for a person at least 21 years of age to possess, process, obtain, and transport the substances listed above for “personal use” or “social sharing.”

What is personal use?
Personal ingestion or other personal and noncommercial use by the person in possession.

What is social sharing?
Giving away or consensual administering of specified controlled substances by a person 21 years of age or older, to another person 21 years of age or older, not for financial gain, including in the context of group counseling, spiritual guidance, community-based healing, or related services.

What is “Financial gain”?
The receipt of money or other valuable consideration in exchange for the item being shared. What’s not considered financial gain: reasonable fees for counseling, spiritual guidance, or related services that are provided in conjunction with administering or use of an allowable controlled substance under the guidance and supervision, and on the premises, of the person providing those services.

Note: Possession on school grounds or possession by a person less than 21 years of age would not be allowed.

3. SB 519 demands that modern regulatory systems reflect what we’ve learned about “drugs.”

SB 519 calls attention to the financial and societal costs of the War on Drugs and urges a new approach to drug policy. Criminalization and other policies of the War on Drugs do not reflect a modern understanding of substance use or therapeutic benefits and consequences. Future laws need to incorporate evidence-based policy, rely on consultations with experts, and center discourse in harm reduction, reciprocity, and human rights.

4. The bill recommends a harm reduction approach.

SB 519’s findings section calls for a new paradigm. The War on Drugs has worked against public health and safety. Based on faulty logic and orchestrated political hysteria, the policies of the War on Drugs have harmed people and contributed to the dangers of drug use. We now know that criminalization doesn’t deter drug use and that the lack of honest drug education has left a legacy of misinformed citizens and policymakers, stigma, and cultural appropriation.

Harm reduction tools, on the other hand, allow users to make safer, more informed decisions about their personal use.

5. A working group would develop policy recommendations.

The working group would be convened under the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). It would recommend state regulatory systems and policies to: Promote safe, equitable access to specified substances. Appropriately allow and regulate certain controlled substances for therapeutic use, including the specification of requirements for therapists and facilitators. Regulate nontherapeutic use, including guidelines for responsible marketing. Minimize risks related to product safety, appropriate use, and impacts of detrimental substance abuse.
6. Research and evidence-based policy would be required.

To develop policy recommendations, the working group would study available research on the following topics:

Use of controlled substances in a therapeutic setting.
Use of controlled substances as part of religious, spiritual, or creative experiences.
The implications of decriminalization on public health and safety.
Other jurisdictions’ regulated use models.

How It Could Be Better

We and the California Association for Net Positive Psychedelics (CANNP) have proposed the following intent language to supplement the list of mandated considerations the working group must consider:

(a) It is the intent of the Legislature that a future regulatory structure include all of the following:

  1. Require psychedelic products to use standard, generic packaging that is black and white with standardized font size, and displays only one single brand element or logo of a discreet size.
  2. Require packaging that utilizes renewable, compostable, biodegradable, and reclaimed materials, and expressly prohibit packaging made from new plastic or nonrecyclable materials.
  3. Enforce strict limits on direct-to-consumer advertising and marketing of psychedelic products.
  4. Require all applicants, including all contracting parties with which the applicant conducts commercial production business, for commercial psychedelic product production to be organized as public benefit corporations with certified or pending B Corp Certified by B Lab, or another third-party certification or evaluation with equivalent requirements in corporate charter.


(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to respect the Tribal sovereignty of the federally recognized Tribal Nations of the State of California. The Legislature respects the decision of each Tribal nation to determine whether the above-referenced controlled substances will be decriminalized within its Tribal lands, and directs California State law enforcement agencies to respect Tribal nation laws regarding the above-referenced controlled substances. The working group established by this legislation shall include at least two elected Tribal leaders from California Tribal nations. Any regulatory system established under California law to establish a legal market for the above-referenced controlled substances shall provide a means for Tribal nations to fully participate in the regulatory system without compromising their Tribal sovereignty.


Because this bill creates a market (social sharing is a market and creates a grey economy) for to-be-legalized psychedelics, it should acknowledge the pitfalls of impending commercialization and address them head-on by mandating that future commercialization prioritize people, planet and public benefit rather than simply profit.


Mandate that public information about psychedelics focus on public health and education, not lifestyle branding. Clearly acknowledge and respect Tribal sovereignty. Prioritize social equity and reciprocity.


NO new plastic packaging. Period. Only renewable, compostable, biodegradable or reclaimed materials. 

Public Benefit

Acknowledge that traditional for-profit corporate models prioritize profit over all other considerations, and that instead, alternative for-profit, public benefit models that should be required. Many successful examples exist of for-profit business models that also benefit society by making people, expanded stakeholders, and the planet equal priorities. The working group should be mandated to require Public Benefit Corporations, or the equivalent in the corporate charter, for all future regulated companies. Key among these public benefit priorities must be commitments to supporting social equity initiatives and reciprocity. 
Learning lessons from Cannabis, these principles should be included as baselines for the regulatory system that the SB 519 working group would be tasked with recommending. For more on this, check out How Tripping Can Help us Reimagine Capitalism Ahead of Psychedelic Commercialization

How you can get involved: There are several more steps in the legislative process before SB 519 would become law. The committee stage is a good time to share comments and concerns with your state representatives. Reach out to us with questions about how this proposal impacts you or for help drafting comments to submit to legislators.


Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines presents Sacred Plants in the Americas II, A Global Psychedelic Summit

April 23-25, 2021

This global virtual summit will bring together Indigenous leaders from throughout North, Central and South America as well as researchers, practitioners, community builders and other experts from around the world.

We will discuss the potential benefits and harms of the globalization of psychedelic plant medicines and explore how we can offer reciprocity to honor the Indigenous cultures and traditions that these medicines come from. It is vital that members of the psychedelic community help support Indigenous groups and the traditional spiritual and ecological knowledge they preserve and practice.

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If you have any questions about how the above or would like to discuss how it could impact your business, please contact your attorney directly or call our main line at 877-257-2442.

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