Californians Have Until Monday To Comment On Revised Psychedelics Ballot Proposal, With Final Update Expected December 1 - Read of Green
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Californians Have Until Monday To Comment On Revised Psychedelics Ballot Proposal, With Final Update Expected December 1

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Source: Marijuana Moment

California residents have until Monday to comment on a proposed ballot measure that would create a statewide right to obtain and use psychedelics for medical, therapeutic and spiritual purposes with the recommendation of a doctor. If enacted, adults would be allowed to possess and use the substances in their home as well as cultivate entheogenic plants and fungi on private property.

Organizers submitted the Psychedelic Wellness and Healing Initiative of 2024 to state officials late last month and have until November 27 to solicit public comment to the state attorney general, said Dave Hodges, a lead campaign organizer and the founder of the Church of Ambrosia, in Oakland. “Then we have five days after that to do our final update,” he told Marijuana Moment. “That will be December 1.”

Already the campaign has made a number of modifications to the initially submitted proposal, with two rounds of changes happening since the measure was filed with the state. Hodges said the changes have been “mainly technical.”

The biggest, he said, “are to ensure that the adult use of cannabis is not affected by our initiative,” although future entheogenic businesses authorized under the proposal would be able to provide medical marijuana.

“Cannabis is on the hallucinogens list” under California law, Hodges explained, which means it would be affected by the proposed change. “Our initiative will allow medical entheogenic businesses to provide medical cannabis, which we’re hoping will help recreate the medical cannabis industry and take medical cannabis sales away from the black market.”

Among the other changes, one says the state Department of Public Health “shall maintain a list of entheogenic plants and substances approved for medical and therapeutic use,” including all such plants and substances “where medical research papers, studies, or clinical trials have shown a potential for medical or therapeutic use.” Another specifies that minors may only be recommended entheogenic plants or substances for treatment of “severe and life threatening conditions.”

Another addition creates so-called “M-licenses” under state Business and Professions Code. M-licenses would be required for all entheogenic businesses and enable them to engage in commercial activity around medical and psychedelic cannabis.

The proposal’s tax section has also been amended to remove an explicit exemption around psychedelics for spiritual use. Nevertheless, the current version still specifies that a local excise tax of up to 10 percent may be applied to purchases of psychedelics “for medical or therapeutic use,” if approved by voters. It’s silent regarding taxes on any substances used for spiritual purposes.

Another change removes a direct exemption from lab testing of entheogenic substances if they were for spiritual or noncommercial purposes.

On criminal justice, changes clarify that individuals with convictions for activity that would not be illegal after the law changes “shall be granted a recall or dismissal of sentence” within 180 days of filing an application.

In a press release on Tuesday, the campaign said the most recent version of the would-be initiative “emphasizes safety and will give doctors and mental health specialists the right to recommend psychedelics to ease the debilitating symptoms of a range of conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, suicidality, traumatic brain injury, and much more.”

“Now is the time for safe, controlled medical access for patients in need,” Hodges said in an included statement. “The way to solve the problem is not by continuing to ignore it.”

Compared to current law pertaining to cannabis businesses California, oversight of commercial psychedelics activity would be relatively lax. The proposal says that psychedelics “shall be regulated as closely as practicable to non-psychoactive agriculturally produced products.”

Here are some of the changes that would be made under the proposed Psychedelic Wellness and Healing initiative:

  • Simple use and possession of psychedelics at a person’s home would be declared lawful. The change would apply to all “hallucinogenic substances” as identified under California law, a list that includes DMT, ibogaine, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, psilocyn and MDMA.
  • Adults could possess “as much entheogenic substances as is needed for one’s own annual personal use.”
  • Cultivation on private property of psychedelic plants and fungi would be legal provided it’s done out of public view and with consent of the owner. Further, the proposal would limit state and municipal authorities from prohibiting cultivation through nuisance laws or through “impracticable” regulations.
  • Beginning on January 1, 2025, any entheogenic business could begin cultivation, manufacture or wholesale distribution of psychedelics provided it operates on land zoned for commercial agriculture and approved by the California Department of Food and Agriculture for food production.
  • Beginning on April 19, 2025, any incorporated business in California with a state seller’s permit—required of most retail businesses—could begin sales of psychedelic products to qualified patients or their designated caretakers.
  • The proposal says that “nothing in this Article shall prevent any church, spiritual organization, indigenous group, or any individual from using entheogenic plants or substances as a sacrament in their own religious or spiritual practice.” Definitions for such practices are not provided.
  • With approval from local voters, a municipal tax of up to 10 percent could be applied to psychedelics products sold for medical or therapeutic use.
  • The sale or use of endangered species or any parts thereof would not be allowed “unless the producer can demonstrate that the species, or part or product thereof, was farmed in a sustainable way and not harvested in the wild” and does not negatively affect the species in its natural habitat.
  • While doctors could recommend psychedelics for any “physical or mental illness” for which the substances provide relief, specifically listed qualifying conditions would include: PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction, suicidality, spiritual development, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic and acute pain, inflammatory disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury and migraines.
  • No healthcare practitioner would be “punished, or denied any right or privilege, for having recommended entheogenic plants or substances.”
  • The state Department of Public Health could promulgate regulations to implement the state framework, but “the rulemaking process shall not unreasonably delay implementation.”
  • Businesses would be regulated “as closely as practicable to non-psychoactive agriculturally produced products” with the exception of warning labels in English and Spanish that would be required on psychedelic product packaging.
  • The state would be required to allow research into psychedelics, for example by allowing healthcare practitioners to use and deliver psychedelics to patients as well as to recommend their use.
  • Doctors could recommend psychedelics to minors for the treatment of “specific and appropriate conditions” that are “severe and life threatening” with the consent of a parent or guardian and the minor’s primary care physician.
  • The state Department of Consumer Affairs and the Health and Human Services Agency would need to adopt and implement qualifications requirements for psychedelic-assisted therapy “created by an independent professional certifying body.”
  • Municipalities could ban or limit the number of psychedelics businesses with approval of voters, but they could not prohibit individual or group activities permitted under the proposal.
  • The “mere presence” of psychedelics in compliance with the updated law could not be used to make a determination under state law of risk of harm to a child, nor could it be used to diminish parental rights or justify the removal of a child from the home.
  • Minors could be penalized for psychedelics-related activities without parental consent, but “the maximum penalty for such offense shall be no greater than a mandatory drug education program, and no conviction shall remain on the juvenile record of such a minor.”
  • Adults who provide entheogens to a minor who is not a qualified patient would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $1,500 for a first offense and $3,000 for subsequent offenses.
  • For people serving criminal sentences for convictions over conduct that would be a lesser offense under the initiative, a court would need to grant a recall or dismissal of the sentence and allow for resentencing, with no hearing necessary. After completing a sentence, records of certain convictions could be sealed.

The attorney general’s office is accepting public comments on the draft measure through Monday.

Organizers have been working on the measure for nearly a year, but Hodges has said the campaign accelerated the pace after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a psychedelics legalization bill, SB 58, in early October. In a veto message, the governor caveated that he wanted the legislature to send him a new bill next year establishing guidelines for regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics and also consider a “potential” framework for broader decriminalization in the future.

Earlier this month, the backer of that measure, Sen. Scott Wiener (D), said he will file a revised psychedelics bill next year alongside Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R), a former minority leader of the GOP caucus, that will focus on providing regulated therapeutic access. Wiener said the measure will be crafted in a way that’s responsive to Newsom’s veto message.

A separate ballot proposal, meanwhile, would legalize psilocybin, including adult-use sales. That measure, backed by the group Decriminalize California, recently got approval from state officials to begin collecting signatures. Activists have tried twice to put the reform on the ballot in prior cycles, but they’ve come up short due in large part to signature gathering complications during the pandemic.

Organizers behind third proposed California psychedelics ballot initiative, which would have created a $5 billion state agency tasked with funding and promoting research on substances like psilocybin and MDMA, withdrew the measure earlier this month after conducting polling that showed voters didn’t support it.

Hodges previously told Marijuana Moment he doesn’t oppose the other proposals, but he feels his Psychedelic Wellness and Healing Initiative would best secure access for Californians.

After changes are finalized and an official ballot title and summary are issued, advocates can begin collecting signatures, which Hodges expects to happen in December. To qualify for the 2024 ballot, he told Marijuana Moment last month, the campaign will need to gather 546,651 valid signatures from California voters by April 23 of next year.

“If we miss the April 23 date but still gather enough signatures” within the 180-day window the state allows, he said, “then we end up on the 2026 ballot.”

Asked about the steep costs of signature-gathering in California, Hodges was confident. He said he expects members of the Church of Ambrosia—a nondenominational, interfaith religious organization that supports the use and safe access of psychedelics—to support the reform financially.

“We know we can raise it,” he said. “We have 100,000 members of the church who all want to see these things happen. It’s just a matter of giving them somewhere to put the money.”

Some California municipalities, meanwhile, are pushing forward with reform on the local level. The city of Eureka, for example, adopted a resolution last week to decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi and make enforcement of laws against personal use, cultivation and possession a low priority for police. It’s at least the fifth local jurisdiction in the state to embrace the policy change. Others include San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Arcata.

At the state level, Oregon in 2020 legalized psilocybin therapy in addition to decriminalizing possession of all drugs. The state approved the first legal psilocybin service center this past May. And in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a psychedelics regulation bill into law in May, setting rules for a psychedelics legalization law that voters passed last year.

An analysis published in an American Medical Association journal last year concluded that a majority of states will legalize psychedelics by 2037, based on statistical modeling of policy trends.

According to a national poll published in March, a majority of U.S. voters support legal access to psychedelics therapy and back federally decriminalizing substances like psilocybin and MDMA, both of which have been designated by the Food and Drug Administration as “breakthrough therapies.”

Massachusetts Psychedelics Campaign To Submit 100,000 More Signatures For Legalization Ballot Initiative After Officials Discover Invalid Petition Forms

Image courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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