Magic mushrooms might soon be legal in California. Who benefits?

By Zeke Reed

A new bill to decriminalize earth-grown psychedelics just passed the California state legislature. Now it’s up to Governor Newsom to decide whether it will become law. Photo by Shutterstock.

Psychedelics have been getting a lot of attention recently. As the drug war cools down and the stigma dissipates, new research has revealed the potential of these substances to support transformational mental health care.

The state of Oregon and the cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland have already decriminalized certain psychedelics, and a new bill that just passed the California legislature would do the same in the Golden State.

If Governor Newsom signs SB 58 into law, earth-grown psychedelics including psilocybin from magic mushrooms, DMT from ayahuasca, and mescaline from the San Pedro cactus will no longer be illegal to possess or transport. The bill stops short of legalizing the sale of psychedelics. 

But as was the case with marijuana, people will likely find ways around this limitation.

“There's a chance that this is going to lead to a loophole situation,” says Mary Carreón, a freelance journalist who covers psychedelics. “Maybe someone is going to buy a painting for $200, but with the painting, you're also getting some product as well.”

The bill received a lot of support from military veterans, a group not traditionally associated with psychedelics. But for many folks dealing with PTSD, the substances have provided an essential lifeline.

“A lot of military vets have experienced profound relief from using psychedelics,” says Carreón. “Not using them necessarily recreationally per se … but using them in a ceremonial or therapeutic context.”  

The bill passed the Senate 21-14, with some moderate Democrats and Republicans opposed. Critics are worried that decriminalization will lead to more unsafe drug use, including among kids.

Carreón and others push back against this characterization: “I believe that with the right education, the proper care in the law, [and] proper regulation, our children aren't necessarily going to be exposed any more than they typically would be in a society that uses drugs.”

Whether Governor Newsom will side with the supporters or the skeptics remains an open question. He has until October 14 to sign the bill into law.

“[Newsom] says that he's in support of harm reduction,” explains Carreón. “But he also then vetoed a bill last year that would have established safe drug consumption sites, so it's hard to tell one way or the other what he's going to do.”

If the bill does become law, Californians can expect to see more psychedelics in their midst. Magic mushrooms are likely to be the most prevalent among those decriminalized — because they are easy to grow and an underground economy already exists to facilitate their sale and distribution.

Carreón says this trend is particularly relevant locally. “[Mushrooms] are already proliferating around Los Angeles and in Southern California. We are in the hub of mushroom culture here in Los Angeles.”