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Should California decriminalize psychedelic drugs? Army veteran makes his case to lawmakers

Andrew Sheeler, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Jose Martinez believes psychedelic drugs saved his life.

The 32-year-old U.S. Army veteran said he felt worthless and depressed when he returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, where who lost both legs and an arm after stepping on an improvised explosive device.

“I just wanted to disintegrate,” Martinez told The Sacramento Bee in an interview.

Then, six years ago, he said he discovered psilocybin mushrooms. He credits them with bringing him back from the brink.

“I went back to surfing,” said Martinez, who lives near San Bernardino. “It made me go from feeling worthless to feeling worthy of living this life.”

On Tuesday, Martinez urged California lawmakers to help others like him by advancing a bill that would decriminalize psychedelic drugs like mushrooms and LSD. He told the Senate Public Safety Committee the therapies could be used to prevent suicides.


The committee voted to approve the bill, which now goes before the Senate Health Committee.

Under both state and federal law, possession of psychedelic drugs is illegal under most circumstances. Senate Bill 519, authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would decriminalize possession and sharing of several drugs, including ketamine, psilocybin, LSD and mescaline, for people 21 and older. The bill notably excludes peyote and GHB from decriminalization.

The bill also would create a state Department of Public Health working group that would be tasked with researching the regulation of psychedelic drugs and making recommendations to the Legislature.

Speaking in support of the bill, Wiener pointed out that California would be following in the footsteps of states like Oregon, and nations like Portugal, which have decriminalized possession of drugs.


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