The campaign behind a prospective California ballot initiative to legalize psychedelics filed a final revised measure with state officials this week, making a handful of changes to the proposal following a public comment period that ended late last month.
While adults would be allowed to legally grow, possess and use substances like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline under the measure, they would need physician recommendations to purchase the psychedelics at regulated stores.
Among the major changes in the final, revised proposal are the addition of a section requiring that larger psychedelics businesses obtain peace agreements with labor unions. It also expands the types of businesses that could operate under the change and includes an additional qualifying condition for psychedelic treatment.
The amended measure also replaces references to “medical” psychedelics with the word “medicinal,” which lead campaign organizer Dave Hodges, the founder of the Church of Ambrosia said is meant to ensure the California’s existing adult-use marijuana market isn’t affected by the change.
Psychedelics businesses could, however, dispense medical cannabis under the policy shift.
The campaign behind the Psychedelic Wellness and Healing Initiative of 2024 said last month that the proposal “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.”
In the latest round of revisions to the would-be ballot measure, the campaign added Parkinson’s disease to the proposed list of qualifying conditions. The initiative already said that health care professionals could also recommend psychedelics for “other diseases, or conditions that may be improved or treated with psychedelic therapies, to promote overall wellbeing, or any other mental illness for which entheogenic plants or substances can provide relief.”
Naturopathic doctors—in addition to physicians, nurse practitioners, therapists and certified mental health experts—would also be given authority to issue recommendations for psychedelics.
Businesses could obtain so-called “M-licenses” to engage in economic activity around psychedelics under the proposal, but the latest version says that “it shall not be required to have an M-license to qualify as an entheogenic business.”
The new version also adds delivery services, therapy centers and retreat centers to a list that already included manufacture, wholesale, retail and other aspects of commercial psychedelics activity.
Another change says that “no individual, informal group, collective or legal entity” shall be required “to register for permission to comply with this Article, nor obtain or pay for any license, permit, or meet any other requirement for activity.”
Previously that exemption applied only to individuals and nonprofit groups.
As for labor peace agreements, entheogenic businesses with 50 or more employees would be required to hold a vote among all employees at least annually asking whether the company should adopt a labor peace agreement. An agreement would be adopted if two thirds of employees vote in favor, and businesses would be bound by the results of the vote.
“If voted on and approved by the employees of an Entheogenic business,” the latest draft says, “the maintenance of a labor peace agreement with a bona fide labor organization shall be an ongoing material condition of the establishment’s license.”
Here are some of the other 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 caregivers.
- 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, Parkinson’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.
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 expressed 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.
Last 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.
Hodges previously told Marijuana Moment he doesn’t oppose the other proposed reforms, but he feels his Psychedelic Wellness and Healing Initiative would best secure access for Californians.
With the language of the proposal now final, advocates can begin collecting signatures once the state attorney general issues a ballot title and summary. To qualify for the 2024 ballot, Hodges said, 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 has said he’s confident. He said earlier this year that 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 in October 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.
In Massachusetts, meanwhile, a reform campaign says it will be submitting more than enough voter signatures to force legislative consideration of a psychedelics legalization initiative before potentially putting the issue on the 2024 ballot.
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.”