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The Legal Status of Psychedelic Therapy in California

From sun, sand, and surf, to the highest mountains and tallest redwoods, the state of California has so much beauty to offer. Perhaps you call this place home, or maybe your mere curiosity has brought you to this article. 

If you’re wondering whether or not you can partake in certain healing services (such as psychedelic therapy) in the Golden State, and what the current legalities are, it’s a great thing you’re here! Because that’s exactly what we’re going to dive into today.   

But first, just to give a brief summary of what psychedelic therapy is; it’s a therapeutic method that uses psychedelic medicines, such as psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, or other hallucinogenic compounds to help people navigate a variety of internal challenges. 

Improvement of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, along with physical relief for those with chronic pain, and advancement in other areas of life like self-actualization, have shown promising results with psychedelic therapy. 

Due to some of these successful outcomes from clinical trials with psychedelic therapy, a paradigm shift is happening, and many are now viewing psychedelics as a tool to help us heal, instead of being seen as a dangerous street drug, like they’ve been seen in the past.

This change in perspective, along with the realization that the old system of waging a “war on drugs” doesn’t really work, has led various states to decriminalize certain substances, and for some states (like Oregon and Colorado) to even legalize them. 

As the decriminalization and legalization of psychedelics spread across the country, individual laws and policies continue to change, leaving the general public sometimes confused about where exactly psychedelic therapy falls in this evolving climate. 

Especially in California, where laws surrounding substances are in the process of changing, it’s helpful to break down what exactly you need to know about the current legal status of psychedelic therapy.    

A Note About Federal Law 

The use of most psychedelic medicines are currently illegal under federal law, and are considered a Schedule I controlled substance. Federal laws apply to everyone in the United States, even if the specific state you live in has different laws. 

It’s interesting because technically, states can’t block federal authorities who attempt to enforce federal law, unless a court has held that the law’s unconstitutional. And at the same time, state officials don’t need to enforce federal laws that the state has determined to be unconstitutional. 

Which, all of this can seem a bit confusing. And of course, let it be known that this is just how the laws are set up on paper. Thankfully, we’ve been able to see in real life how these laws play out, with things like the legalization of cannabis in different states. 

For instance, we can draw the conclusion that enforcing federal law of the personal use of substances isn’t the main priority of federal law enforcement, since if this were the case, everyone smoking weed in California would already be in federal prison. 

But of course, this isn’t the case, all of California has yet to be locked up, and most people in states where marijuana has been deemed legal recreationally can openly smoke weed without any real worry. 

So, just because federal law applies to all U.S. citizens, doesn’t mean that if you are using a substance that’s federally illegal, but legal in your individual state, that the FBI is still required to knock down your door and arrest you (while of course, depending on the severity of the crime this could happen).

But since we’ve seen in real-time that when it comes to decriminalizing and legalizing substances for personal use, this isn’t necessarily a scenario where federal law interferes, but is more of an issue of the state.

Typically, when states enact laws that go against federal law, attempting to nullify what they deem as an unconstitutional federal prohibition of a substance, this is respected.  Hence California residents over the age of 21 can use marijuana without fear that they will be arrested (while again this is technically possible, is highly unlikely). 

To make a long story short, and relating back to psychedelics, psychedelics are still illegal across the country, but we’ve seen that the laws enacted by individual states can often hold more weight in whether or not individuals are prosecuted, and to what severity, specifically in the instances of substances. 

The Decriminalization of Psychedelic Medicine In California 

In parts of California, such as Oakland, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco, the use and possession of certain psychedelic substances have been decriminalized. Now, it’s important to note though that decriminalization isn’t the same as legalization. 

Decriminalization means that individuals who are caught with these substances may face less severe penalties compared with those who are engaging in other crimes or caught with other illegal drugs. 

Still, decriminalization doesn’t mean that these substances are legal, and the use, possession or intent to sell psychedelics can still result in serious legal consequences.

Thanks to Proposition 47, which was passed in November of 2014, the possession of most drugs for personal use is now considered a misdemeanor in California, not a felony, making charges for possession of psychedelics less severe. 

In places like Santa Cruz they’ve decriminalized adult use, possession, and cultivation of entheogenic psychoactive plants and fungi, meaning these activities should be considered among the lowest of priorities for law enforcement in the City of Santa Cruz. 

Santa Cruz was perhaps following in the footsteps of Oakland, which in June of 2019 decriminalized a range of natural psychedelic substances such as psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca, while still not allowing for commercial sale or manufacturing of these substances.  

In September 2022, San Francisco became another Californian city to decriminalize psychedelics, and has passed unanimous resolutions to decriminalize the possession, personal use, and cultivation of psychedelic plants and fungi such as mushrooms, ayahuasca, and peyote. 

Again, these decriminalizations don’t legalize psychedelics, but mean that little to no city resources should be used for investigations tied to the use of these plant medicines. 

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Hope for the Future 

When peering into the future, one can see that as individual cities in California move towards the decriminalization of these plant medicines, the State of California is making strides toward decriminalizing them at a state level as well. 

Decriminalizing psychedelics at this level can help to further reduce the shame and stigma often associated with psychedelic use, mental health issues, and treatment, potentially opening the doors for psychedelic therapy to become more accepted and accessible. 

States like Oregon and Colorado, which haven’t just decriminalized psychedelic medicines like psilocybin, but have taken an even greater step to legalize them (with regulated access) as well, are advocating for the therapeutic benefits of these plant medicines. 

Observing how these various narratives surrounding psychedelic medicine evolve in these two states will be very telling in the coming years, allowing us to better predict how other states across the country may follow. 

It seems that psychedelics will follow a path very similar to cannabis, with decriminalization and medicalization leading to eventual legalization. However, in many ways, psychedelic reform is predicted to surpass cannabis.  

Focusing back in on California though, there’s some current legislation in the works that can give us some insight into the future of psychedelic therapy in California. 

There are two main Senate Bills (519 & 58) to understand when it comes to the decriminalization and potential legalization of psychedelic therapy, as well as the general use of these medicines. 

Senate Bill 519

Originally, Senate Bill 519 would decriminalize certain hallucinogenic substances, including possession, obtaining, giving away, and transportation of specified quantities of psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, LSD, and MDMA for personal use or facilitated or supported use by a person 21 or older. 

Ketamine was also originally part of this bill, but was removed from the list due to worries about its potential use as a date-rape drug.

Although this bill would allow for the possession and use, it wouldn’t permit the sale of psychedelics in government-sanctioned shops the way cannabis is allowed under state law.

The bill advocates for harm reduction tools, which allow users to make more accurate, safer, evidence-based decisions about their personal use, and by allowing such paraphernalia, can help increase public health and safety.

Under the bill, the California Department of Public Health would be required to conduct research, and establish recommendations regarding a regulatory system that could later be adopted to promote safe access to certain psychedelics. These recommendations would be due by January 1st, 2024.

But recently the Assembly Appropriations Committee amended it to remove the decriminalization aspect of the bill. Hence, as a result, the soon-to-be-amended version of SB 519 is limited to the latter aspect of the bill, a study, which will provide the state with more information regarding the safety and usage of psychedelic medicines. 

After this change, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Scott Wiener, announced that he will not be pushing passage of the bill as amended, but intends to reintroduce the original legislation again at some point in 2023.

Senate Bill 58

With the pushback on SB 519, on December 19, 2022, Senator Scott Wiener unveiled a new bill that he believes will help overcome this past resistance by lawmakers to decriminalize the possession and use of psychedelic substances. 

This is Senate Bill 58, which would decriminalize & legalize the possession and personal use of certain plant-based hallucinogens, such as psilocybin, Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT”), mescaline (excluding peyote), and ibogaine (a psychoactive alkaloid found in the iboga shrub). 

This bill is backed by a broad coalition, including combat veterans who advocate for psychedelic therapy’s ability to help treat complex trauma. 

If passed, Senate Bill 58 would make lawful the possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation of, specified quantities of these compounds, for personal use or facilitated or supported use, as defined, by and with persons 21 years of age or older, repealing provisions in the current law. 

The bill would also exempt the current prohibition of paraphernalia-related items, and items used for the testing and analysis of controlled substances. 

There would still be penalties for possession of these substances on school grounds, or possession by, or transferring to, persons under 21 years of age. 

As of March 21st 2023, this legislation was approved in the California Senate, but first must be re-referred to the Committee on Appropriation, which holds hearings on policy issues and on specific bill proposals, in order to move on to the next phase. 

While these two bills (and other legislation regarding plant medicines) haven’t been passed just yet, the fact that they’ve been created in the first place and are trying to be made into law provides a sense of hope for the future of legal psychedelic therapy. 

Current Ways to Access Therapeutic Psychedelic Experiences In California 

While there’s still legislation that needs to be passed to make psychedelic-assisted therapy more accessible, there’s still legal ways to access therapeutic psychedelic experiences currently in California. 

Some of these options are; clinical trials, cannabis-assisted therapy, ketamine clinics, or guided psychedelic journeys with Psychedelic Passage. 

We encourage you to further research each option, weigh the pros and cons, and determine whether psychedelics are right for you, before making any decisions. 

Clinical Trials 

One way to potentially receive psychedelic-assisted therapy is by signing up for one of the many ongoing clinical trials. This option also helps contribute to important research on the betterment of mental health treatment.

Thanks to the FDA, certain psychedelic compounds like psilocybin and MDMA were granted “Breakthrough Therapy” status, meaning that early clinical results were promising enough to expedite the long process of reviewing and approving the treatment. 

This Breakthrough Therapy status has made it easier to access these therapies through clinical trials, and there’s a variety of medical research institutions taking advantage of this, pioneering in the field of psychedelic therapy. 

It’s important to note that these clinical trials are notoriously difficult to get into, and even if you are eligible, they often require a control group, meaning there’s a chance you may receive a placebo, or nothing at all. 

If you do find yourself eligible for a clinical trial, you’ll be a lucky participant in very impactful scientific research, and an official journeyer of psychedelic medicine.

Cannabis-Assisted Therapy

Marijuana is fully legal in the state of California for both medical and recreational use. Due to the plant’s therapeutic properties and ability to help treat a range of medical ailments, cannabis assisted therapy and clinics have been popping up in California. 

While there’s a debate of whether or not cannabis can be considered a true psychedelic, it can still have psychedelic properties that can be used in a healing way, and it’s one of the only legal psychedelic substances that can be used in psychotherapy. 

It requires neither research scientists nor a prescription. And unlike ketamine, it isn’t only for patients who’ve tried a range of other ineffective previous treatments. 

Cannabis is also quite accessible in California, even if you’re looking to acquire cannabis without the help of a therapist, you can always visit a dispensary. 

Ketamine Clinics

Currently, ketamine clinics are one of the only state-wide legal options in California for working with psychedelic-like drugs. 

Although ketamine is typically used throughout our medical system as an anesthetic, it’s also proven to be effective in treating PTSD, depression, and chronic pain

Allowing journeyers to distance themselves from their issues, ketamine creates a separation that can allow for a more empathetic and objective view of their lives and current issues. 

Because it’s legal for certified practitioners to use the drug for off-label use, there aren’t very many legal hoops to jump through, making ketamine therapy a lot more accessible than other types of psychedelic therapy.

Although ketamine clinics can be an easier way to investigate your psychedelic journey, important aspects of psychedelic therapy like preparation and integration are often missing from these clinics.

Because of the lack of integration practices, many past ketamine clients report that benefits have been short-lived and require many repeat visits to maintain the benefits. Many who undergo ketamine treatment will eventually end up seeking other forms of psychedelic therapy. 

In fact, about 50% of Psychedelic Passage clients approach us to do unsatisfying ketamine therapy experiences. To learn more, check out our article on the benefits and pitfalls of ketamine therapy and explore how you can find ketamine clinics in your local area.

Guided Psychedelic Experiences with Psychedelic Passage

Psychedelic Passage offers a unique option when it comes to psychedelic healing, connecting you to a network of pre-vetted and experienced psychedelic facilitators to ensure you have the most authentic and tailored psychedelic experience possible.  

In this option, you perhaps have the most sovereignty regarding your experience. You can embark on your journey from the comfort of your own home or even sometimes in the homes of facilitators if they are comfortable hosting. 

With the help of knowledgeable facilitators, you can determine which psychedelic is right for you, how much to take, and when exactly you want to take it. 

Since a psychedelic journey is a highly personal experience, here at Psychedelic Passage we acknowledge this, and allow you lots of options and freedom in choosing how you want to curate your experience. 

Our 5-week program is completely customized to each client and is designed for transformation. We know that this is a personal journey of self-realization and growth, and honor the sacred nature of this important life experience. 

Whether we can help by giving you access to our sliding payment scale or by connecting you with the perfect pre-vetted facilitator, we are here to help facilitate your growth and healing. 

Explore How It Feels To Be Connected

Here at Psychedelic Passage, we offer resources and a carefully curated network of pre-vetted psychedelic facilitators who specialize in harm-reduction and aiding you in your journey. 

If you are seeking a safe way to experience the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, we empower you to book a consultation with one of our psychedelic concierges today to discuss the best plan for your individual process. 

You can also feel free to explore our blog page for more informative articles like this one. We’re here to help you make informed decisions, and figure out the next steps that are right for you to bring you closer toward true healing. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychedelic Therapy in California

Q: Where can I access therapeutic psychedelic experiences?

You can access psychedelic therapy through a variety of options as listed in the article above, and you can learn more about each individual option by clicking on the hyperlink attached.

    Q: When will psychedelic therapy be legal in California? 

    While we’re also itching to know the answer to this question, this is a tough one to say. We have some hopeful news with the Senators voting in favor for Senate Bill 58, but there is still more that must go into this process before it would change the legal status of psychedelics in California. 

    If California follows in footsteps like the states of Oregon and Colorado, who decriminalized and eventually legalized certain psychedelic medicines, legalization could potentially happen within the next 5 years.  

    Oregon decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms in 2021, then legalized its use in 2023. Colorado decriminalized and legalized regulated access to psilocybin in the same bill. 

    Since California is still on its way towards decriminalization, and we still don’t know how SB 58 or SB 519 will fly in the final stages of approval, there’s still a ways to go. Both of these bills have yet to truly make it out of the senate and to congressional review, which can take time. 

    Watching how the world psychedelic stage unfolds with programs in Oregon and Colorado will play a large role in determining how other states follow through, so keep your eyes open for any new developments that may change the minds of law makers. 

    Q: How do I find a psychedelic guide in California?

    If you’re looking for a psychedelic guide, here at Psychedelic Passage we have a range of pre-vetted facilitators throughout every major city in California, including; 

        • Anaheim
        • Bakersfield
        • Fresno
        • Irvine
        • Los Angeles
        • Long Beach
        • Oakland
        • Orange County
        • Riverside
        • Sacramento
        • San Diego
        • San Francisco
        • San Jose
        • Santa Ana
        • Stockton

      For more specific information on the services we offer in your area, please contact us.

      Looking for a professionally supported in-person psychedelic experience?

      Take the first step and book a consultation call with us today. We'll walk you through every step of the process after getting to know you and your unique situation.

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      At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.


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