Oakland, CA

California state senators follow Oakland's lead, legalize possession of psychedelics

Built in the Bay


(Michael Ciaglo / Getty Images)

By Huey Bergstrom

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) A bill decriminalizing psychedelics in California advanced through a state Senate committee on Tuesday, following in the legislative footsteps of Oakland, Santa Cruz and other California cities.

Additionally, the panel approved legislation that would allow communities to temporarily open safe consumption sites.

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved the legislation by a vote of 4-1. If enacted, the bill would remove criminal penalties for possessing a broad range of psychedelics including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD and MDMA, for adults 21 and older.

Crucially, the law would also expunge prior convictions that would be made lawful under the new legislation. This component of the bill, more than any other, serves as a potential harbinger for legislation to come in California.

Even if this bill is not passed, which has yet to be seen, the bill marks a legislative attitude shift from viewing the Drug War as a battle between police and criminals to a more accurate reading of a battle between the wealthy and the working.

Overwhelmingly, criminal punishment for drug possession disproportionately ravages poor communities and has shown to have little impact on the actual distribution of said drugs.

There is a sect of business owners who view illegal drugs, not unfairly, as a potential marketplace. This view hammers home another key component of this legislation: decriminalization. Decriminalization helps the people possessing small quantities rather than large corporations that seek to make a profit. When compounded with possible record expungement for those that have been convicted under draconian American Drug War laws, the potential is revolutionary.

Naturally, there will be strong opposition to any formal passing of a bill of this kind but the legislative success it's already endured speaks to the general popularity of the underlying idea, that no one should do jail time for possessing substances like this.

While there is still a long march ahead toward any kind of equitable judicial process in this country, this bill serves as a message of the potential future we could have in this country if the political will was there. That is an exciting sentiment. It gets the blood rushing to your head with ideas of a judicial future driven not by profit but by holistic recovery.

It's been proven repeatedly that drugs, especially psychedelics, are not so much a cause of economic or social issues but that they are a reflection of economic, mental or social instability. Armed with that knowledge, it becomes ever more critical to disassemble America's Drug War infrastructure. It's difficult to fully comprehend the extent that America's Drug War has ravaged on the domestic poor and the global South.

This bill is a small step, but a step all the same, towards a realignment of America's relationship with drug users and offers some users a small chance at restitution. For that, at least, Californians can look to this bill with a glimmer of hope. Maybe, one day, we can have a future that is just a bit more equitable for all.

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