California legislature votes to decriminalize some psychedelic drugs; bill heads to Newsom's desk

Newsom has until Oct. 14 to make a decision on the bill becoming law. If approved, it would go into effect in 2025

NBC Universal, Inc.

It's been a long trip for psychedelics in California but that journey just moved closer to legalization: A bill that would decriminalize the possession and use of some psychedelic drugs, including "magic mushrooms," is headed to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 58, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener in 2021, was approved this week in Sacramento and would make a number of natural psychedelic substances legal in the state. Not included in the legislation is lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly referred to as LSD or acid.

If the bill, which has yet to be signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, would let people over the age of 21 possess limited amounts of psychedelic mushrooms and DMT.

"… individuals would be limited to possessing four grams of mescaline, a substance found in a variety of cactus plants, one gram of DMT, a compound in ayahuasca, and one gram each of psilocybin and psilocin, which are present in hallucinogenic mushrooms," the Wall Street Journal reported.

The reactions to SB 58 are pretty mixed, to be sure.

Some mental health experts have said the measure would help destigmatize psychedelics that, in many cases, have been effective in helping to treat anxiety and depression.

James Carr is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist. His experience includes training with magic mushrooms in the Netherlands.

"I've seen people have a lot of relief from a lot of the shame that pushes the anxiety, depression and trauma," Carr said, adding, "I think that psychedelics are extremely powerful, and they can cause a lot of relief for people suffering from things like PTSD, depression and anxiety, but they also can open up a whole bunch of stuff and, unless they're used safely, they can be dangerous.”

NBC 7 asked Dr. Adam Halberstadt, the psychopharmacology director for the UCSD Center for Psychedelic Research about those dangers.

"So there's definitely some people that can be hurt by psychedelics," Halberstadt said. "They're not physiologically toxic, but it's more issues with how people behave.”

It’s those types of behavioral issues that concern some who are opposed to the bill becoming law.

"I lost my sparkly 16-year-old son, Shane Rebbetoy in a mushroom-related accident in our own home while I was here," Lisa Hudson said.

Hudson said Shayne died after taking mushrooms and running off their deck, thinking he could fly.

“I'm just so fearful that more, you know, more teenagers, more young adults, more veterans and people with mental-health issues that are actually looking for psychedelic support are going to be using these substances without having any kind of therapeutic support,” Hudson said.

If the bill passes, it would require the California Health and Human Services Agency to study the therapeutic use of psychedelics and submit a report with its findings and recommendations to the state legislature.

Newsom has until Oct. 14 to make a decision on the bill becoming law. If approved, it would go into effect in 2025.

NBC 7 has reached out to the governor's office regarding Newsom's position on the bill.

Contact Us