2023 is set to be an eventful year in psychedelics law reform. Oregon finalized its administrative rules after a 2-year process and is now accepting license applications. Colorado is digging into the implementation of the voter-passed Natural Medicine Health Act and just announced the advisory board appointments.
Nearly half of US states are engaged in psychedelics law reform with active legislation filed in a dozen of those states in 2023’s legislative session, and a majority of states may legalize psychedelics by 2037. In this Bulletin, we’ll discuss California’s pending psychedelics legislation, SB 58, to give you a clear idea of what’s in the bill and what’s not. We’ll also mention New York’s two bills to highlight what we see as a broader conversation about two (of many) paradigms of access: (1) medical/therapeutic and (2) decriminalization.
Before we dive into the legislation, we want to bring forward one of the many lessons we’ve learned from being so intimately involved in cannabis reform for the last decade in hopes we can see a very different result with psychedelics.
“Building The Plane While Flying It”
Cannabis folks – remember that one? In cannabis, we’ve seen regulating agencies with little to no experience – let alone, relationship – with cannabis “doing their best” but largely not meeting the needs of the ecosystem, antiquated and punitive tax lawsthat no business can survive, and mega-companies that heavily drive policy and put their interests over small businesses, disenfranchised groups and people.
These same concerns are at the forefront of, at least some, policy conversations in the psychedelics ecosystem, and some of these conversations also include stakeholders and dialogue around the many complex and intersectional areas within psychedelics law reform including, among others, healthcare, pharmaceuticalization, health equity, affordability, biopiracy, Indigenous rights, and criminal justice reform.
What we learned from cannabis is what can get left at the wayside when we “build the plane while flying it.” If we don’t write things into law, if we don’t make sure the people who are writing and implementing the laws reflect all stakeholders of the to-be-regulated system equally, if we don’t put ethical practices into a business’ foundational structure, then the inertia of the status quo – with all its systems of power, business-as-usual, and market-dominators – take hold.
Going slow to go fast
We also recognize that there are so many compelling reasons to move fast. Namely, the ever increasing global mental, planetary health, and disconnection crisis that psychedelics show radical promise to help address. But, just as with a psychedelic experience where preparation and integration are really 99% of the work, we think an equally diligent focus on an inclusive stakeholder process must be present in all psychedelics law reform conversations, which means going slow to go fast and moving at the speed of trust. We’ve already seen from cannabis what it looks like to just go fast.
California & SB 58: A “Natural Medicine” Revise
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is leading the charge on SB 58, which would legalize possession, preparation, noncommercial transfer, and transportation of limited amounts of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, and mescaline, excluding Lophophora Williamsii (peyote)(“Natural Psychedelics”). This is a “natural medicine” revise of last year’s bill, SB 519. SB 58 recognizes the ever-increasing mental health crisis, the disproportionate rate at which low-income and BIPOC communities are more likely to be impacted by this crisis, the abject failure of the War on Drugs (really, the War on People), and the well-documented therapeutic and medicinal benefits of these substances. The bill also acknowledges that ceremony and community are an important container “to enhance the outcomes and increase the safety of spiritual practice, emotional healing, and responsible personal growth.” Here’s a breakdown of what the bill does and doesn’t do:
What the bill doesn’t do:
What the bill does do:
Paradigms of Relationship: New York As A Case Study
New York’s two recently-filed psychedelics reform bills highlight two of the paradigms of access (we like “relationship”) within the psychedelic law reform movement: (1) decriminalization and (2) medical and therapeutic. Before getting into New York’s bills, it’s important to note that there are many paradigms for accessing and being in relationship with psychedelics, and these aren’t neat boxes but may overlap.
These paradigms include, but are not limited to: the use of psychedelics as sacraments within a religious context; the relationship Indigenous Peoples have with sacred medicine in nearly every continent around the globe; community and ceremonial use that might combine existing lineages, trauma-informed, and certain western healing modalities (this may fall into religious use, but may also be distinguishable); and harm reduction-informed festival spaces where people are consuming to celebrate and connect. We also think New York’s two separate bills are also notable in contrast to Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act, which takes a dual approach – regulated therapeutic use + decriminalization.
Decriminalization – Assembly Bill A00114
Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal’s bill legalizes the possession, use, cultivation, production, creation, analysis, gifting, exchange, or sharing of psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline, excluding mescaline derived from Lophophora Williamsii(peyote), for people 21 years of age or older, and allows gifting but no sales. Among other things, the bill also allows people to provide psychedelic services for remuneration; protects religious and spiritual use, psychedelic supportive services, and risk mitigation services; prohibits holders of professional licenses and certification from being subject to professional discipline or loss of a professional license for personal use; prohibits mental health, substance use disorder or behavioral health services from being denied on the basis they are covered in conjunction with Natural Psychedelics; prohibits employers from taking adverse action against employees for lawful personal use of Natural Psychedelics when not at work.
Medical/Therapeutic – Assembly Bill A8569A
Assemblymember Pat Burke’s bill would create a pilot program for the medical use of psilocybin in the context of psilocybin-assisted therapy for residents of New York state. This bill is limited to “lawful medical use” by patients who meet to-be-determined criteria. Only mental health counselors, psychoanalysts, physicians, physician assistants, registered professional nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and licensed clinical social workers could qualify to be psilocybin facilitators, and they would need to complete a to-be-developed course that would be offered by the Department of Health.
It will be interesting to see how things unfold in New York, California, and the many other states engaging in psychedelics law reform.
If you have any questions about these, or any other issues, please contact our office at 877-257-2442.
Ethical principles were published by an international group of Indigenous leaders and knowledge carriers to provide guidance to western psychedelic researchers and practitioners. NorthStar’s summary provides a helpful overview.
Join Nicole Howell and Ariel Clark with MAPS at the fourth Psychedelic Science conference the week of June 19th in Denver, CO, as they discuss various topics including “Designing a Post-Prohibition Future” and “Introduction to Psychedelic Law Practice and Policy for Attorneys.
Support Benefit Honoring and Sia, the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative, and raise awareness to protect Lophophora williamsii with the purchase of the “Protect Lophophora” Tee. Lophophora williamsii is part of traditional Indigenous ceremonies, in their words, “to humble ourselves below the sacrament and pray up through the plant and then the feathers of the eagle will take our petitions to the almighty.” Each of these elements is represented in the design, with a focus on the sacred number 4 in the grouping of plants. Half of proceeds will be used for indigenous-led conservation.
Join Ariel Clark for “Living The Way: How The Psychedelic Industry Can Support Indigenous Environmental Initiatives” at Convergence LA on Friday, March 31, 2023 at L.A.’s iconic Wisdome venue in Los Angeles, California.
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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