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Advocates for Legalized Psychedelics in California Plan a Ballot Measure Push

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Crinkly white mushrooms with brown caps.
Psilocybin mushrooms in Lakewood, Colorado, on Friday, August 11, 2023.  (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Advocates for legalizing psychedelic substances say they are considering a 2026 state ballot measure that would legalize the use of certain drugs like magic mushrooms and MDMA.

The ballot measure would be San Francisco state Sen. Scott Wiener’s latest effort to regulate and medicalize psychedelics after his bill, SB 1012, failed to pass the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

“We are not giving up, whether that means introducing a new bill or ballot measure. This issue is not going away,” Wiener told KQED. “We know these substances are helping people turn their lives around.”


In 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a much broader bill that sought to decriminalize such substances. In his veto, the governor asked lawmakers to come back with a bill similar to a model already used in Oregon.

However, since its first year of implementation, Oregon’s model has shown mixed outcomes. While some people have had positive experiences at newly opened psychedelics facilities, some policy experts have criticized it for misleadingly marketing it as “therapy” since treatments are not yet certified by the Food and Drug Administration.

Fundraising the California ballot measure campaign will be the group’s first major hurdle. And the idea comes as California is already staring down a major budget deficit and potential cuts across government.

But supporters of the ballot measure say it’s a step closer to creating safer environments for people to use psychedelics and new opportunities for mental health care.

A measure would most likely appear on the 2026 ballot, Wiener said. He is also considering reintroducing legislation, and he said the efforts would not be mutually exclusive. Advocates said they are still considering whether either effort would go beyond therapeutic use to wider decriminalization.

“We hope Governor Newsom puts his action where his mouth is. He’s the one that suggested this bill. Now is the time for him to also be a leader in this space and help us find a path forward,” Jesse Gould, a former Army Ranger, told KQED.

Gould started the Heroic Heart Project in April of 2017 to help connect veterans with safer psychedelic experiences, and he said many will leave the country for psychedelic experiences to treat issues like post-traumatic stress disorder or find other unregulated services in the U.S.

“All options are on the table. A ballot measure certainly is,” Gould said. “It’s clear that if the politicians won’t speak for their people, then we need to bring this to the people. And this is a popular subject for voters in California.”

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Studies have shown American voters have warmed up to various uses of psychedelic substances in recent years, from increasing research capacities to mental health treatment and recreational use.

The majority (61%) of American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, according to a 2023 study from the UC Berkeley Psychedelics.

However, the study showed that many voters continue to hold negative perceptions about psychedelic drugs and their impacts on society.

“Californians will continue to seek out psychedelics for all sorts of reasons, including to help alleviate mental health challenges like PTSD, depression and anxiety. Many will do so without guided support and use psychedelics on their own, which increases risks,” said Jared Moffat, Campaign Director for the Alliance for Safer Use of Psychedelics, in a statement. “We’re not backing down and will keep pushing to ensure facilitated access to psychedelics becomes a reality in California and that Californians are protected from harm.”

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