Emerging Medicines, Psychedelic Law Reform &
What’s In California’s Decriminalization Initiative

Emerging Medicines

Another psychedelic renaissance is well underway. Fueled by science and medicine, traditional healing practices, plant-teachers and psychonauts, and our increasing awareness of the spiritual and desire for personal growth. Scientists and doctors at NYU, Yale, Harvard, John Hopkins, and other institutes around the world are conducting research and clinical trials and are publishing peer-reviewed articles on psychedelics. Psilocybin and other psychedelics are showing promising results for various conditions like therapy-resistant depression, PTSD, anxiety, end of life distress, and substance abuse disorders related to alcohol, opioid and tobacco, among others. Twice in 2019, the FDA granted “breakthrough therapy designation” to speed up the research and approval of psilocybin therapies to treat major depressive disorder (“MDD”).

Many of these psychedelics are on the Federal Controlled Substances list as Schedule I (psilocybin, LSD, MDMA). Some, like ketamine, are Schedule III. Meanwhile, an increasing number of countries world-wide are decriminalizing and/or regulating various psychedelics through different legal regimes (Canada, Netherlands, Jamaica, Austria, Costa Rica, Portugal, Brazil, among others). Right now, California and Oregon groups are gathering signatures for psilocybin decriminalization and regulation initiatives to qualify for the November 2020 ballot and, last year, a GOP lawmaker in Iowa introduced measures for psychedelics to make them more accessible for medical purposes. Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Denver have deprioritized certain psychedelics and Oakland and Denver are looking closely at what regulation might look like.

This is the first, in a series of Green Frontier Bulletins, discussing these emerging medicines and law. We’ll start with California’s Decriminalization Initiative. Plus, today is the deadline for signature gathering, so let’s look at what’s inside the proposed initiative.

Psychadelic Mushrooms & California’s 2020 Decriminalization Initiative

The California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative (“the Initiative”) proposes amendments to the Health and Safety Code to “advance cognitive liberty and implement a comprehensive, statewide scheme” legalizing and regulating psilocybin mushrooms. The Initiative would decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms for personal, spiritual, religious and dietary use. Because of the variability of psilocybin in the over 180 mushroom species, no personal possession limits are specified. Adults (18+) would be able to grow mushrooms at home for personal use and give away mushrooms to other adults for free. 

The regulatory framework would allow for the establishment of “Psilocybin Mushroom Businesses” along the lines of cultivation, manufacturing, processing, transportation, distribution and sale of psilocybin mushrooms. The Initiative aims to regulate psilocybin (aka psychoactive) mushrooms analogous to non-psychoactive, agricultural mushrooms. The program would be administered by the Departments of Food and Agriculture and Public Health. Mushrooms could be sold at dispensaries or any licensed retail business in California. On-site consumption, public consumption and events, and farmers markets would also be allowed and regulated. Mushrooms sold or grown for religious, therapeutic or medical purposes would not be taxed. Taxes on Psilocybin Mushroom Businesses would “not exceed the amount charged or assessed for comparable non-psilocybin Mushroom related businesses.”

Taking notes from obstacles faced by California’s cannabis licensing challenges, the Initiative provides that local regulations of psilocybin mushrooms may not be “so excessive or burdensome” and aims to flip local control such that jurisdictions could only ban or limit the number of Psilocybin Mushroom Businesses by a ballot initiative process during a statewide election held in November.

The Initiative also calls for the expungement of criminal records of non-violent offenders convicted of buying, selling, growing, manufacturing or possessing psilocybin mushrooms.
Research and clinical trials for the therapeutic application of mushrooms would be allowed by licensed healthcare practitioners. Mental health professionals with specialized training in psychedelic-assisted therapy would be allowed to administer mushrooms.
The California Initiative still needs to collect enough signatures to qualify for the November 3, 2020 ballot. The California Initiative must collect enough signatures by April 21, 2020. You can read the proposed language for the Initiative HERE and you can visit Decriminalize California’s website HERE.

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