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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

The medical community in recent years has opened up to exploring the treatment possibilities of psychedelic drugs. The Department of Veterans Affairs is funding research into the effectiveness of psychedelics in treating post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.


The bill is opposed by several groups, including the California Narcotic Officers’ Association and the Congress of Racial Equality.

John Lovell, a lobbyist who represents the California Narcotic Officers’ Association, warned lawmakers that passage of the bill would carry lethal consequences.

“You’re going to see dead bodies around this bill,” he said in an interview with The Bee.

Lovell’s primary concern with the bill centered on the term “social sharing,” defined in the bill’s language as “the giving away or consensual administering of mescaline by a person 21 years of age or older, to another person 21 years of age or older, not for financial gain, including in the context of group counseling, spiritual guidance, community-based healing, or related services.”


Lovell said that decriminalizing social sharing of psychedelic drugs will open the door to accidental poisonings. He gave an example of someone taking what they think is ketamine, which actually is a powerful synthetic opioid such as fentanyl.

“The reality is that the sharing of pills, of medications, the social sharing, is fraught with enormous risk,” Lovell said.

Tak Allen, president of the Congress of Racial Equality, pointed out to lawmakers that one of the drugs that would be decriminalized, ketamine, has a history of being used as a date rape drug.

“I would particularly be nervous for college students at this point,” Allen said in an interview with The Bee.


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