Despite the many widespread issues that the Golden State is currently facing, California has always been a pioneer when it comes to the desperately needed subject of cannabis and drug reform. Although recreational cannabis legalization didn’t become signed into law until the very contentious election of 2016, the very first medical cannabis law to ever be passed in an American state was in California via Proposition 215 way back in 1996. To the groundbreaking bill’s credit, the measure passed by a margin of 11 percent in total, showing how supportive Californian cannabis laws could become when compared to the rest of the country.

While the expansion of recreational and medical cannabis legalization itself is an ongoing battle that definitely won’t end anytime soon, there’s an even newer frontier of drug and medical reform that is forming on both coasts in a very similar fashion to the initial years of cannabis reform. Since 2019, legal reforms surrounding natural psychedelic substances such as psilocybin mushrooms have been implemented across the country, from Colorado to Michigan and out to Maine. Whether that be a full decriminalization measure such as the 2019 measure in Denver or a reprioritization of police procedures in regards to natural psychedelics, the reformation of laws surrounding these substances are changing rapidly across the country.

And similarly to how the Golden State has legislated when discussing cannabis reform on all levels of government since the initial passing of Prop 215, the state will likely also be a pioneer when it comes to not only legal psychedelic reform but also a possible recreationally legal industry for natural psychedelics. As only one part of several drug reform bills that were filed in the California Legislature this year, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a measure that would allow California physicians to prescribe any Schedule I drug should the federal government reschedule it.

Assembly Bill 1021 was signed by Newsom at the end of September and would be nothing short of a historic bill when it comes to drug and medical reform for America’s most populous state.   

“This bill, if one of specified changes in federal law regarding controlled substances occurs, would deem a physician, pharmacist, or other authorized healing arts licensee who prescribes, furnishes, or dispenses a product composed of one of these substances, in accordance with federal law, to be in compliance with state law governing those acts.” the bill reads.

However, as innovative as this piece of legislation would be, it has one glaring flaw and it’s one that will be present as long as the United States Legislature remains notoriously inactive on any notable drug reform. Even if the latest version of the SAFE Banking Act was approved in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and a version of The MORE Act passed in Congress, no widespread cannabis or other drug reform measures on par with The MORE Act or the SAFE Banking Act have been signed by any sitting President. Psilocybin & Psychedelic Attorney, Aaron Pelley stated, “Despite many high-profile and vocal representatives strongly voicing their support for drug reform, the United States Legislature is apathetic towards the subject at best and actively hostile at worst. And given the strongly prohibitionist attitudes among the eldest demographic in the Senate which is still the majority, it’s doubtful that they’ll somehow be more receptive towards psychedelics no matter how naturally occurring they are.” Outside of the Legislature, a reformation of the Controlled Substances Act would require the diligent and hard work of multiple government agencies, most notably at least the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

“The bill would also provide that upon the effective date of one of those changes in federal law regarding these substances, the prescription, furnishing, dispensing, transfer, transportation, possession, or use of that product in accordance with federal law is for a legitimate medical purpose and is authorized pursuant to state law.”

AB 1021 may be entirely dependent upon the stubborn federal government to take grand action on an important subject that they have yet to take any such noticeable action on, but it was widely popular among California lawmakers. The final Assembly vote of AB 1021 didn’t have a single “nay” vote, with 69 legislators voting in favor of the measure. All but three California Assembly Democrats voted in favor of the bill and even ten Republicans voted in favor of the promising measure. Three Democrats and eight Republicans were strangely absent the day of the final vote while the only true “nay” votes in the California Senate came from two Democratic senators. Only two Republican senators were absent that day and the remaining six Republicans voted in favor of AB 1021.

And with such a supporting majority despite the bill not being able to be technically implemented until there is a reform upon the draconian and disproven policies of the Controlled Substances Act, Governor Newsom signed AB 1021 into law.

While there isn’t a definite time period in which the United States Legislature would decriminalize natural psychedelics or otherwise reform the CSA, a phase 3 clinical trial for MDMA and depression sponsored by Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies did show results that deserved to be documented and seriously considered.

“In this confirmatory phase 3 study of participants with moderate to severe PTSD, MDMA-AT significantly improved PTSD symptoms and functional impairment.”  the study concluded.

“Thanks to the combined efforts of dozens of therapists, hundreds of participants who volunteered in MAPS-sponsored trials, and many thousands of generous donors,” the organization’s statement said, “MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD is on track to be considered for approval by the FDA in 2024.”

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