An off-duty pilot’s attempt to shut off the engines of a San Francisco-bound flight after ingesting magic mushrooms has raised concerns about the decriminalization of psychedelics in California. The incident occurred just weeks after Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that aimed to legalize possession of mushrooms and other psychedelics. The pilot, who admitted to taking mushrooms and struggling with depression, has jeopardized the already risky cause of decriminalization. The incident has prompted critics to question the potential dangers associated with legalizing psychedelics.
The off-duty pilot, identified as Joseph David Emerson, was a pilot for Alaska Airlines. He was sitting in a spare seat in the cockpit when he allegedly attempted to shut off the engines. The two pilots on board managed to subdue him, and the plane made an emergency landing in Portland. Emerson was subsequently arrested and charged with 83 counts of attempted murder, one for each passenger on the flight.
Governor Newsom vetoed the bill, Senate Bill 58, citing concerns about the lack of treatment guidelines and potential risks associated with underlying psychoses. He expressed interest in therapeutic use of psychedelics but emphasized the need for proper guidelines before decriminalization. Newsom’s decision to veto the bill has drawn criticism from progressive allies who were working on new legislation.
Supporters of the bill have vowed to continue their efforts, either through new legislation next year or a potential ballot measure in November 2024. State Senator Scott Wiener, the author of the bill, plans to introduce a new version that focuses on providing effective treatment for combat veterans and first responders with PTSD.
The incident involving Emerson has sparked debates about the safety of using psychedelics and their potential impact on individuals’ behavior. Critics argue that incidents like this highlight the risks associated with decriminalization, while proponents maintain that such cases are outliers and should not overshadow the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.