By Alex Klimenko and Sam Zou
SACRAMENTO, CA – In his press conference on Jun. 28, California State Senator Scott Wiener reiterated his unwavering support for decriminalizing psychedelic drugs, including hallucinogenic substances such as magic mushrooms and LSD, for people over 21 years old.
Sen. Wiener is one of the authors of the California State Senate Bill 519, a bill passed by a 21-16 vote in the Senate. The bill is currently pending approval by the California Assembly.
Senate Bill 519 would decriminalize personal possession and sharing of psychedelic drugs. Senate Bill 519, if effective, will also create a task force through the California Department of Public Health. The task force will evaluate and recommend the appropriate regulations for the newly decriminalized drugs.
The senator started off by expressing confidence and support of the bill. He championed psychedelic drugs as a huge promise to treating “many veterans who have struggled with treatment-resistant trauma and life-altering injuries following their years of service.”
He reiterated that the bill carries no ill intentions. Citing the status quo on drug regulations as racist and problematic, he calls on the people to end the war on drugs. He illustrated pioneering research from Johns Hopkins U, the NIH, and UCLA, and emphasized the tremendous medical utility of psychedelic drugs, especially to veterans.
Jesse Gould, a veteran airborne ranger who later received psychedelic treatment, echoed the senator’s exuberant support for the bill.
“I turned to psychedelics as a last ditch effort to survive,” recalled Gould as he described his painful experience of going through military medicine with no avail until he resorted to psychedelics. Gould also witnessed one of his veteran friends who attempted to save other veterans with mental health problems at the expense of his own mental health and eventually his life.
Citing academic research and his personal experience, Gould concluded that “psychedelics have, and will, save veteran lives.” Despite promising research in academia, Gould explained that Senate Bill 519 is the only way the use of psychedelics is allowed in a matter of months, not years.
Juliana Mercer, a 16-year Marine Corps veteran, also shared her positive experience of undergoing psychedelic treatment. Seeing that her friends with similar mental conditions did not recover after treatment with traditional medicine, Mercer sought psilocybin therapy as an alternate route.
“Almost 20 years of our country being at war…that grief I collected completely disappeared,” said Mercer. The treatment’s success allowed Mercer to return to her life and continue to help other veterans transition to their civilian lives.
Dr. Mellody Hayes, MD, gave her support for the bill. She described the clinical science and said “for conditions such as anxiety and depression psilocybin provides profound healing and recovery and, unlike SSRIs which might take six to eight weeks to be effective, the healing and transformation with psilocybin and other psychedelic medicine the healing can happen overnight.”
State Senator Josh Becker then spoke about how impactful veteran testimony motivated many different politicians to support State Senate Bill 519. Senator Becker then reinforced the science. He then further commended Senator Weiner’s advocacy.
Assemblymember Evan Low thanked the advocates for their courage and helping to speak truth to their experiences.
Retired Police Officer Diane Goldstein then spoke from a law enforcement perspective in support for Senate Bill 519. “As a career law enforcement professional and narcotics officer, it is clear to me that decriminalizing psychedelics will improve public safety in California and expand our public health professionals’ options for treating patients who struggle with their mental health.”