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California’s Latest Psychedelics Bill Dies in Committee

California Senate Bill 1012, The Regulated Psychedelic Facilitators Act and the Regulated Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Act, has died after the Senate Appropriations Committee held it on file as part of the ‘suspense day’ culling process.

The bill would have established regulated, licensed psychedelic services in the state, replete with a Board of Regulated Psychedelic Facilitators and a Division of Regulated Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy.

The bill had been a team effort by long-time psychedelic policy reform advocate Senator Scott Wiener (D) and his Republican colleague Marie Waldron, who had been attempting to pass her own narrower bill.

Wiener and co. were looking to advance a psychedelic bill that would be amenable to the Governor, Gavin Newsom, after he vetoed SB 58 last year. That bill would have effectively decriminalised the personal possession of small quantities of psilocybin (and psilocin), DMT and mescaline.

In his veto letter, Newsom had left the door ajar by inviting legislators to introduce a new bill in the next session “that includes therapeutic guidelines”.

Wiener presumably hoped that a toned-down bill, forwarded in concert with a Republican colleague in Waldron, might live up to Newsom’s centrist sensibilities. That bill, SB 1012, focused much more on facilitated use, as opposed to broader decrim.

The Bill's Budgetary Impact

Despite efforts by the bill’s authors and advocates to play to the tune of state and national politics, this latest attempt at psychedelic policy reform in the country’s most populous state ultimately became a victim of California’s looming budget deficit.

A bill analysis published by the Senate Committee on Appropriations sought to estimate costs associated with the implementation and maintenance of SB 1012. It resolved that there would be “unknown significant ongoing costs”, with the cost of establishing the Board of Regulated Psychedelic Facilitators running in the ‘low millions’ alone.

The Department of Consumer Affairs—which would have housed the Board of Regulated Psychedelic Facilitators—expects to see, based on boards of similar size, costs of nearly $2 million in the 2025-26 fiscal year and similar amounts in the following years. The Department further estimated that licensure fees would need to be “at least $4,960 biennially between initial applications, renewals, and other licensing categories.”

Given the somewhat aggressive timelines set out in the bill, at least by government standards (the Board was set to be appointed by April 1, 2025), start-up costs might be higher than usual, the analysis further claimed.

Until such a time as license fee revenue from the program could support its activities, the regulated psychedelics program would rely on state General Funds and special funds. In addition, the analysis points out, the magnitude of any license fees would be dependent on the number of applicants that ultimately sought licensure upon the planned opening of applications in April 2026 and thereafter.

Looking at the most developed example of a similar program, that seen in Oregon, might be a cautionary tale for deficit hawks.

Its Oregon Psilocybin Services (OPS) section, housed in the state’s Health Authority, received $2.5 million from state General Funds and $0.76 million in special funds for the 2021-23 biennium. These funds were expected to get the program up and running, with license fees supposed to cover its costs in the near future.

However, OPS requested more funds to cover its costs as license revenue fell short, and a further $3.1 million was carved out of Oregon Health Authority’s 2023-25 budget.

Suspense Day

Given the uncertainty around SB 1012’s fiscal impact, the bill found itself placed on the ‘suspense file’; a quirk of California’s legislative process that sees bills that might incur substantial costs if enacted placed on a list. Then, twice a year, the committee flips through hundreds of bills without discussion or deliberation, passing or holding bills as they go.

The backdrop here is California’s budget bind, with deficits running in the magnitude of tens of billions of dollars over the next couple of years. That means the state’s appropriations committees cull bills en masse twice a year as part of these ‘suspense days’. This session’s suspense file saw 341 bills included, with around a quarter of them held in committee—effectively shelved.

Last September, Wiener’s psychedelic decrim. bill, SB 58, survived the suspense file and headed to the assembly floor before Newsom quashed it. But this year, SB 1012 failed to make it off the file and, as such, is dead in committee.

“We’re in a terrible budget year, where all bills with significant costs are at risk”, Wiener said in reaction to the news. “Nevertheless, it’s disappointing for this bill not to move forward.”

Wiener Vows to Return

Wiener’s four-year effort to legalise or decriminalise some form of access to psychedelics in the Golden State doesn’t look set to end here, despite another failure.

“We’ve been working for four years to legalize access to psychedelics in California, to bring these substances out of the shadows and into the sunlight, and to improve safety and education around their use,” Wiener said in a statement.

“Psychedelics have massive promise in helping people heal and get their lives back on track”, he continued, adding that “it makes enormous sense for California to lead in creating regulated access under the supervision of a licensed professional.”

Evidently not ready to throw the towel in, Wiener’s statement ends: “I’m highly committed to this issue, and we’ll continue to work on expanding access to psychedelics.”

Given that Wiener’s bills have now suffered defeat on both political and fiscal grounds, it will be interesting to see what his office’s next run at psychedelic policy reform looks like. 

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Josh Hardman

Josh has been writing, talking and working on the business, science and policy of psychedelics since he launched Psychedelic Alpha in early 2020. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or via email.