As California Goes...
The theme around here lately has been ‘Routes to Access.’
The contrived boundary around psychedelics and other artificially illegal substances by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is formidable. It complicates and impedes personal freedom, scientific research, and facilitating safe and responsible use.
Just in the last few weeks, we have touched on
These are hopeful avenues that legally skirt the restrictions of the CSA but are not guaranteed.
This week saw the return of Senate Bill 519 in California, a state-wide decriminalization proposal that was tabled last year to garner more legislative support.
As Goes California…
California Senate Bill 519 to decriminalize the possession, cultivation, and non-monetary exchange of several psychedelics cleared another hurdle this week as it moved through the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Bill 519 would be the largest decriminalization effort yet to pass if passed. Several cities and municipalities have instituted decriminalization programs, but no states have codified them into state law.
If it were to pass, it would set a massive precedent and hearken back to the first state medical cannabis program—Proposition 215, The Compassionate Use Act of 1996—instituted by California almost thirty years ago.
The proposed bill is still several steps away from becoming state law, but if it goes through, California would be the first state to explicitly decriminalize psychedelics with sufficient breadth to codify a market of psychedelic services into state law.
Scott Weiner’s Radical Pragmatism
The author of Bill 519, Democratic state senator Scott Weiner, spoke with several outlets, including The Microdose and The Sacramento Bee, about the bill and the rationale, which is simultaneously radical and pragmatic.
As Weiner told The Microdose (emphasis added):
“I'm a believer in trying to propose bills that could pass. There's a strong case to make that a big step would be to stop arresting people for possessing or using. We don’t have to solve the problem in the first step. The first step is to stop arresting people. And then we can take it from there. As for the task force, that’s to advise the legislature on next steps, which is full legalization, certification of therapists and other items…
Legalization and creating a legal market is a much more nuanced and complicated issue, and it's something that I support, but it is a much heavier lift. The purpose of this bill is to say, let's take what we know is the right thing to do — to decriminalize possession and use — and let’s study and evaluate the other things we should consider for creating a legal market, like certifying therapists. Let's do the thing we know is right immediately, and then we can focus on evaluating the more complicated stuff.”
The War on Drugs has been a scourge on society and a massive humanitarian crisis that needs to be overturned—a decriminalization bill from the largest state in the Union might be a significant step in the right direction.
Psychedelics-as-a-Service & Real-World Research
Above, I alluded to ‘psychedelic services,’ a phrase taken from Oregon’s Measure 109, and the thinking is that allowing the cultivation, consumption, and exchange —but not the sale—will create a gray market of services like trip sitting, guiding, facilitating, group ceremonies to emerge.
Of course, all of this is already happening. But how does decriminalization change the risk of providing these services and how people discover and access them?
Does decriminalization allow for the leap from word-of-mouth to Google Search1, thus making them more accessible for people not tuned into local psychedelic scenes?
Furthermore, decriminalization will presumably make real-world research more viable. Thus the question is, what can be learned and what data can be captured from this “unlocked” gray market about the safe, responsible, and equitable access and facilitation that can inform the next step of legalization?
The prospect of real-world evidence in such an environment is the basis of the 2020 paper—Can pragmatic research, real-world data and digital technologies aid the development of psychedelic medicine?—which has significantly impacted my thinking about this landscape.
The basic premise is that as regulations against psychedelic use lessen, the opportunities to capture real-world evidence are increasing. Simultaneously, the tools for such data capture (smartphone apps, wearables, digitalized patient reported outcome measures like psychedelicsurvey.com) are increasingly ubiquitous.
From the paper’s abstract (emphasis added):
“Favourable regulatory assessments, liberal policy changes, new research centres and substantial commercial investment signal that psychedelic therapy is making a major comeback. Positive findings from modern trials are catalysing developments, but it is questionable whether current confirmatory trials are sufficient for advancing our understanding of safety and best practice. Here we suggest supplementing traditional confirmatory trials with pragmatic trials, real-world data initiatives and digital health solutions to better support the discovery of optimal and personalised treatment protocols and parameters. These recommendations are intended to help support the development of safe, effective and cost-efficient psychedelic therapy, which, given its history, is vulnerable to excesses of hype and regulation.”
As the editors of the Sacramento Bee noted in their supportive Op-Ed titled Psychedelic drugs hurt few and could help many. California must decriminalize them:
“Many important, long-term questions must be answered should California embrace the initial step of decriminalization this year, as Oregon did in 2020 and Oakland did with respect to psilocybin in 2019. How will an underfunded treatment system deal with an influx of new patients? What would a legal market look like? What can the state do to prevent illicit sales? What sort of public information will be made available? Will there be support for people who have bad trips?”
Thus, California, with it its bounty of universities with psychedelic research centers, heritage as a cultural hub, and now the prospect of decriminalization, could be an ideal environment for real-world research.
In the light of the movement of State Bill 519, San Francisco Lawmakers took the chance to introduce local decriminalization measures.
From Marijuana Moment:
San Francisco lawmakers have filed a resolution to locally decriminalize psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca. The measure also pushes for broader statewide reform…If enacted by the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco would be the largest city by population in the U.S. to deprioritize enforcement of laws prohibiting entheogenic substances…
…the resolution would implore police to make enforcement of laws prohibiting psychedelics-related activity—including use as well as “planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, and/or possessing” by adults “amongst the lowest priority for the City and County of San Francisco.”
Update from Oregon
Oregon’s experiment with legalized framework for psilocybin consumption may be limited to just a few counties.
From ABC KATU 2 News:
“Measure 109 gave counties the option to either opt-out or place a moratorium on psilocybin by first okaying it with their voters in November. An ordinance would have to be sent to the ballot before the statewide rules go into effect in September. Counties can also pass ordinances at any point to change time and place regulations on psilocybin.
In a data analysis project, KATU contacted all 36 counties to assess which ones intend to put the measure back on the ballot. This map shows which 24 counties have already started the public hearing process required to put an opt-out measure on the ballot.”
Notably, Colorado’s Natural Medicine Health Act (NMHA) would not allow localities to opt-out.
Section 12-170-107. Localities. from the NMHA:
“A LOCALITY MAY NOT BAN OR COMPLETELY PROHIBIT A LICENSED HEALTH-CARE FACILITY OR INDIVIDUAL WITHIN ITS BOUNDARIES FROM PROVIDING NATURAL MEDICINE SERVICES IF THE LICENSED HEALTH-CARE FACILITY OR INDIVIDUAL IS PERMITTED TO PROVIDE NATURAL MEDICINE SERVICES BY THE DEPARTMENT PURSUANT TO THIS ARTICLE 170.”
“Currently, there are three ways to legally access psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, for medical purposes.
The Charter challenge argues that each of these pathways — obtaining a personal exemption from the Minister of Health under subsection 56(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), working with a doctor to obtain an authorization through Canada’s Special Access Program or enrolling in a clinical trial — do not adequately serve the needs of patients.”
Technology Networks: Our DNA Could Affect the Potency of Psychedelics in the Brain
“A new study has identified that variation in genes coding for key receptors in our brains may alter the potency of psychedelic drugs. The research suggests that our genetics should be a factor in future clinical trials of these drugs’ therapeutic potential…
The team found that, with certain combinations of drug and receptor type, there were significant differences in the drug’s potency – for example, they wrote, “The Ala447Val 5-HT2A receptor displayed a three-fold increase in potency for 5-MeO-DMT”. One particular receptor showed a nine-fold increase in potency in response to mescaline.”
“The great twentieth century sociologist Max Weber wrote extensively about the disenchantment of modern life. He believed that since the Enlightenment, science and reason had eroded the sway of religion, spirituality, superstition and magic such that transcendent values had become increasingly unavailable to many, especially in secular cultures, which modern Australia has become. He argued that through reason the world had become transparent and demystified, and hence disenchanted.
For Weber the disenchantment of the world was the alienating and undesirable flip side of scientific progress.
Interestingly he borrowed from Hinduism and described the world as a great enchanted garden, all too easily uprooted and disturbed by science and reason as we humans lose our ability to see nature as an inherently meaningful order. Or in other words the loss of animism – seeing all of nature including humans as alive, interconnected and part of the whole – leads to anomie, loss of meaning, depersonalisation and the objectification and abuse of nature with all its environmental consequences.”
“To me, one of the core tenets of your mental health is that self-love,” Rodgers told host Aubrey Marcus.
“That’s what ayahuasca did for me, was help me see how to unconditionally love myself.”
“It’s only in that unconditional self-love, that then I’m able to truly be able to unconditionally love others. And what better way to work on my mental health than to have an experience like that?”
That’s it for this week—thanks for reading!
I was impressed to find an Ayahuasca church in New Hampshire brazenly promoting its services online without the necessary read-between-the-lines innuendo I have seen elsewhere. New Hampshire, as I am told, has some of the most robust Religious Freedom rights in the country, apparently sufficient enough for this church to freely advertise itself.