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Roundtable: Legalizing psychedelics in California

 December 10, 2021 at 12:00 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

How far should California go? When it comes to legalizing street drugs, local veterans say they want access to psychedelics and changes are coming to two San Diego neighborhoods from a Doover in the midway district to a long overdue update for Barrio Logan. We're diving into a busy week for those who decide what our neighborhoods will look like. I'm at Hoffman and this is K PBS round table.

Speaker 2: (00:34)

What do you guys like? Indica, sativa hybrids. The statement, it's gonna be one, one of my favorites in the store, regardless of nice and pretty nice and pretty

Speaker 3: (00:46)

Package up innate that a blue stream

Speaker 1: (00:48)

There. Cool. That sound is a trip back in time from the K PBS news archives. When the first cannabis dispensaries opened in San Diego and in just a few weeks, California will reach four years of full legalization. The push for that experience, walking into a store and getting what you need was slow building with medicinal marijuana, being the entry point, hailed as an effective therapy for a wide range of physical and mental conditions. Now we're starting to see the parallels with a different kind of high psychedelics NBC seven investigative reporter, Mario Payton found some of the biggest advocates, our veteran, who say they should not have to leave the country to heal their wounds of war. She's back on K PBS round table this week. Hey Mari. Hi, Matt. Glad to be here. Great to have you here. So let's start with the X Navy seal. Who's the focus of your story? We'll hear some sound from him in a moment, but what sort of condition was he in once his military service ended?

Speaker 4: (01:40)

I mean, Matt, he was in really bad shape. He was really honest with me. He said he did 13 years of deadly combat tours as a us Navy seal. And he felt worse. He said after every deployment. So eventually he had to medically retire, but he told me he was depressed. He was anxious, withdrawn. He was drinking too much. He admitted sometimes half a bottle of bourbon at a time. And at times he was suicidal. And at the point at that point he had two kids and a wife and he said he just was not paying attention to them.

Speaker 1: (02:09)

All right. Well, let's hear from Marcus Capon here. He is talking about going to Mexico to use IBA game. It's a type of psychedelic root bark that comes from Africa. He also talked about the position that he's in as a veteran, having to leave the country to try and get this kind of help.

Speaker 5: (02:23)

It seemed like, like every time I came back from a deployment, just it got, you know, it got worse. You know, I was just numb and cold and hard. I think what affected me more was individuals that I served with, or I, I, um, that were really close with that. Uh, we lost in the war and you know, that those were, those were tough. And I think those are still tough. You can't hide from the medicine it's gonna, it's gonna reach down and it's gonna pull out everything that is probably affecting you. Some of that stuff is really uncomfortable. Uh, when you're, you know, talking to your dead dad or talking to your dead buddy, you feel like your, your, your brain was rebooted. Why should individuals go overseas for war? Come back here, not get the help they're looking for and then have to go back overseas or outside the borders, uh, to get

Speaker 1: (03:13)

Treated. So we know we went across the border to get these psychedelics. Do we know if they help our, or what have you heard from him and his family?

Speaker 4: (03:20)

I mean, without a doubt, 100%, he even said to me, quote, it was literally not even overnight. It was almost instantaneous. He said he felt like a different person. A huge weight had been lifted off of his shoulders after years of traditional, you know, Western therapies and trying different, um, prescription medications. He said he felt like a totally different person. And he was finally ready to become himself again. Now,

Speaker 1: (03:43)

Mari, you report that Marcus had to seek a medical retirement. How is he doing now? Well,

Speaker 4: (03:48)

He's doing much better present day, but right after he was medically retired, he wasn't doing well. He said he saw a psychiatrist, therapist, doctors. He even went to a, a brain research center where he was trying meditation, yoga, art classes. He was also on antidepressants and pills to help him focus and then other pills to help him sleep. So just a bad combination of things. But he does say that after that one, I began treatment in Mexico. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. Um, he did a trip that was about 12 hours, but that was about four and a half years ago. And what was crazy was he told me that he hasn't been on a prescription pill ever since then.

Speaker 1: (04:25)

Now let's turn to the push to make it so that veterans don't have to go elsewhere. Senate bill five 19 is the one to watch in Sacramento focusing first on veterans, Mari, what would it allow? So

Speaker 4: (04:35)

Basically it would give veterans access to psychedelic therapies. We're talking about drugs like L S D ectasy, soy bin, magic mushrooms, and more people wouldn't have to travel to places like Mexico to access this type of therapy. They could be doing it right here in San Diego. And

Speaker 1: (04:51)

We know that this doesn't stop at veterans. We could see several drugs legalized for personal possession. What are those? And how soon could we be talking here?

Speaker 4: (04:58)

Okay. So it'd be anyone 21 years of age or, or older. So they would be allowed to keep a certain amount of each type of these psychedelics. They could grow them or even give them away to another adult. The bill would also allow for their use and their research without being criminalized. So interestingly other cities have already made these changes. Denver became the first city to do criminalize magic mushrooms back in may, 2019, and then Oakland and Santa Cruz followed. And some advocates say that this could pass as early as next spring.

Speaker 1: (05:28)

And talking to some of those advocates in Marcus. I mean, is there like some documented, you know, medical research that shows that psychedelics, you know, could help people who are going through, you know, maybe a tough time? Well,

Speaker 4: (05:38)

Interestingly, there's been even more and more research done and we're about really, um, reputable hospitals and universities like Stanford and John Hopkins. They're really putting a lot of money and effort into some of this research. So a lot more people are getting on board. It's becoming a little bit more mainstream than before.

Speaker 1: (05:54)

And we know that this bill recently cleared the state Senate, but a lack of vote of east county, Senator Brian Jones. He is not on board with a wider rollout. Here's some of what he told you.

Speaker 6: (06:03)

The Senate bill, uh, goes way too far, as far as decriminalizing the psychedelic drugs, um, and making them, you know, completely legal on the street. I, I can't support that,

Speaker 1: (06:14)

But Jones also says that he's open to, to the idea of exploring these treatments, at least for veterans. Right?

Speaker 4: (06:20)

Right. So when we talk to him the way it's written now, he just says he couldn't support the bill, but both his dad and his grandfather served in the military and his grandfather was actually a P O w in world war II and struggled with PTSD thereafter. So he does have a personal connection to the cause. And he said, if the law were and narrower and only talked about therapy for vets, he could support it when

Speaker 1: (06:42)

Marijuana first became legal back in 2018, an entire industry of growers and distributors and labs came with it. Could we see that from SB five, 19 Tomar? I mean, you know, possession is one thing, but would there be a clear path to getting it or producing these drugs?

Speaker 4: (06:56)

I mean, it's too early to, to say, but obviously it's entirely possible. I can't predict the future, but that is a concern for people on the other side. Right. I mean, would this be widespread? Would it be, you know, would you be able to buy it, retail stores, that sort of thing. So right now that definitely is a concern for people. Yeah. Or would

Speaker 1: (07:14)

The state have to make some agency to oversee that? Um, but generally, is there a timeline in Sacramento for this bill or what sort of is coming next

Speaker 4: (07:21)

Here? So SB five, 19 narrowly passed the Senate. It is currently in the assembly, which obviously nothing will get done over the holiday break, but it could get changed along the way to the governor's desk. It's already been changed quite a few times before. Again, those supporters they're really hopeful about this saying it could pass as early as the, we know that

Speaker 1: (07:39)

There's a lot of groups that work to help veterans with mental health issues, especially in a military community, like here in San Diego, going back to that Navy seal in your story, Marcus Capon, he's launched his own group. And what is his focus? What does it do?

Speaker 4: (07:52)

So, yeah, after his own life changing experience with Ivy gain, Marcus basically told me, as soon as he got back to the us, he told his wife that he needed to help other people just like him. So he and his wife started this organization called bat based in San Diego. It stands for veterans exploring treatment solutions. So far, they've paid for hundreds of veterans to seek psychedelic treatments outside the us where it's legal, but they're also doing other types of work. Now they're doing advocacy work. They're also raising money from private, the donors for things like research. I mentioned this at major universities like Stanford,

Speaker 1: (08:24)

It's definitely a fascinating story from a human and also a political perspective. Our listeners can find It's by our guest investigative reporter, ma Payton and Mari. Thanks so much for your time.

Speaker 4: (08:35)

Thanks, Matt. My pleasure,

Speaker 1: (08:42)

Since that's a topic that deals with mental health and suicidal thoughts, we wanna remind everyone that help is available. It's free and can be accessed quickly by phone or online. The national suicide prevention lifelines number is 1 802 7 3 82 55. You can also text home to 7 4 1 7 4 1 more resources and a live chat can be found at suicide prevention, This is an event for week for two of San Diego's oldest neighborhoods coming up. We'll dive into the changes ahead for Barrio Logan, which hasn't had a proper community growth plan for decades, but first a reset in the midway district. The city is back at square one, selecting a proposal that will redevelop a major chunk of land, which includes the current sports arena site. Jennifer van Grove from the San Diego union Tribu is here with an update on the process and the pitch that are already coming in. Welcome back to round table, Jennifer, thanks

Speaker 7: (09:38)

For having me.

Speaker 1: (09:40)

Okay. Before we get into the new ideas for the midway, explain for us how the city's plans over the past year or so got sidetracked.

Speaker 7: (09:47)

Well, they got completely derailed actually. So what happened was the city was in February, 2020, they were going through a very tradit request for proposal process. What happened instead was that San Diego heard from a state housing agency that this process ran a foul of the surplus land act. And that act it's a law that's been around since the eighties, but it's been, it was amended in 29th team. And those changes went into effect in 2020. And as it turns out the city, which was thinking about the site, thinking about offering it for lease the city, thought that it didn't have to go through the surplus land process because it was a lease and not a sale. Well, it turns out those 2019 amendments apply the application to four lease properties as well. And so HCD, which is the state agency, they came back and told the city, you did this all wrong from start to finish. So you have to start everything over the

Speaker 1: (10:51)

Vision for revamping. This neighborhood relies on lifting the 30 foot height restrictions for buildings there and, and voters gave their approval for it last year or so why is that still a big question mark for the city here?

Speaker 7: (11:02)

The question mark has to do with how the city put the ballot measure on the ballot. So the city chose not to do an additional environmental impact report for this ballot measure. And so, so the city was sued and save our access, which is trying to kind of get the vote overturned. They sued on the grounds that the city, you know, this was an illegal process. It looks as if they're going to win. A judge has, has said an tentative ruling that the city should have done an E I, and that would then make this whole ballot measure moot. That throws kind of a wrinkle into the process. However, I would say all the teams that I've talked to don't believe it's a deal breaker. Um, maybe there will be a second vote at some later date, but it certainly, it certainly complicates the matter one

Speaker 1: (11:57)

Of the proposals that you wrote about is called hometown SD. And that's a partnership with developers, home builders and a sports real estate firm. What do you think is noteworthy about this plan or what sort of stands out

Speaker 7: (12:08)

For you? The hometown SD group that's led by Monarch group and JMI sports. And so the really interesting hook there is, is, you know, if you're a sports fan it's JMI sports, you know them from building Petco park, they're building snap, dragon stadium, as it's now being called. And they have a twist on how they see the arena functioning here. They don't wanna keep the steam arena, they wanna blow it up, but they wanna build a smaller one. And it's placed that the existing arena is 16,000 seats. JMI wants to do a 10,000 seat capacity and some teams are emphasizing. I mean, they're all gonna say they're emphasizing affordable housing, cuz that's a big component here, but hometown SD is unique in that they wanna redo the arena, but they make it smaller.

Speaker 1: (12:55)

You also reported on another proposal, that's being branded discover midway. And this is from the same group that was selected from the initial proposals earlier this year. What are you seeing from this group?

Speaker 7: (13:05)

So the discover midway is Brookfield properties. It's ASM global, which is the current arena operator. And then it's two new partners. It's affirmed housing and national core, and those are affordable housing builders. Um, what they wanna do is they wanna renovate the existing arena. They wanna reskin it. So it would obviously stay in place. It would still have 16,000 seats, but it would just look completely different. They release some renderings this week, which show a 12 to 20 foot roof articulation. It was inspired by waves and bird wings and boat sail. I think it looks like a shark, but, but uh, the interesting thing there is that it looks completely different than, than the arena that we know today. They also wanna do a pedestrian bridge to link the Northwest corner to the same Diego river trail.

Speaker 1: (13:57)

And do you think Jennifer, that that proposal might have an advantage being that those partners were chosen by the city and their original proposal?

Speaker 7: (14:04)

I would say that there's pros and cons. So Brookfield was in active negotiations with the city before. However, it was a different administration. This new administration under Todd Laia has different price. And plus, um, the city has indicated, you know, a totally different view here, right? So affordable housing has to come first, but they, they have the advantage in that they've, they've kind of gone down part of the path. I would say though, that the city is really going to take a holistic look at all of these proposals, penny MOS, who is, um, the director of real estate now for this city, she's, she's relatively new. I don't think that she's gonna give preferential te treatment to anyone team. Uh, and in fact, I think she'll probably spend the next 90 days cuz they're in this 90 day negotiation window trying to get everyone to kind of bump up or present as much affordable housing as possible before they get to the next stage. So I would say Brookfield may have a slight upper hand and that they've dealt with the city already on this matter, but I don't know that it's gonna translate into to them. You know, getting an upper hand with council members, which are, who will weigh in during this process.

Speaker 1: (15:17)

So the bids are in, we've seen the flashy renderings. When do we expect the city to choose a new partner for this redevelopment?

Speaker 7: (15:23)

Well, I, you know, I have to temper expectations and say, I think it's gonna be a very long time. So the period that we're in now is a state mandated good faith negotiation period. It's a 90 day period that will end on March 4th from there. The city will take each of these proposals, all five of them to the city's land use and housing committee. And then they'll get feedback from land use and housing, and most likely all five will go to council. And so from there, I don't know what the process looks like. And I don't know that the city knows what the process looks like, but it could be months before we have a winner. Yeah. So

Speaker 1: (16:03)

It sounds like that current sports arena isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And cuz we know, you know, aside from the bidding process, the construction effort will take years to complete, but is there a target window here or like when could we see a new sports arena and some housing and buildings in that area?

Speaker 7: (16:18)

I mean, it really depends on who you ask. I think most of the pro proposals though, they're very excited to, um, hit the ground running as soon as possible. Some of the like the process could be delayed. If there needs to be another vote to raise the height limit, the process could be delayed. If a HCD has, has an issue with something that happens. Although I don't necessarily expect that cause the city and the state are, are in lockstep right now. And then depending on what team wins and what they're proposing there, there might be, you know, some zoning permitting issues that need to be sorted out. So I, I don't know. Unfortunately I, I do know they really all want to break ground as soon as possible. I've been

Speaker 1: (16:58)

Talking with Jennifer van Grove, she covers growth and development for the UT. And thanks so much for your time today, Jennifer,

Speaker 7: (17:04)

Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: (17:05)

Let's check in on another San Diego neighborhood. One that waited more than 40 years for what happened this week. The city now has a new vision for Barrio Logan's growth and development. The long wait, coincided with decisions that literally split the neighborhood into two and put residents in the crosshairs of pollutants that are linked to asthma and other conditions affecting a community. That's largely people of color, K PBS racial justice and social equity reporter. Christina Kim is here to explain why people are hoping that this small bureaucratic step will make a big difference. Hey Christina, Hey Matt. Okay. Christina, people might be asking why this took so long. The city tried to address the Barrio Logan plan a few years back, but it got shelled by voters. Before we get into the specifics here of this new plan, what's some of the backstory that got us to this

Speaker 8: (17:51)

Point. Yeah, Matt, this plan has not been updated in 43 years. It's the oldest community plan, which is kind of just outlines future growth for a neighborhood in the city. And that's despite years of effort by the community. So I just can't underscore enough how big and celebratory this felt this week for of those who have been working on this plan to get approved in 2008, the neighborhood planners and industry all started meeting and working together in a series of over like 50 meetings for five years together, they devised the 2013 community plan, which was the basis of the plan that just got approved by city council. But then as you mentioned, it was rolled back by a city referendum that was act by maritime industry who felt that the plan particularly around this 65 acre transition zone would negatively affect the shipping industry. So that was a huge blow. And for years different factions of interest in Baro Logans it just the environmental health coalition and the ship repair industry were kind of at a standstill until 2019. When representatives finally started talking again and in 2020, they signed a memorandum of understanding to really get the plan, move it forward. Because as we, as I said, it's been 43 years since it was updated.

Speaker 1: (19:01)

Now a few more steps are needed before final approval. The buffer zone between industry and residential is being revived in this new plan. Is this city confident that it won't be challenged again

Speaker 8: (19:12)

Here? Yeah. Right now the city planners are confident that this plan won't be challenged. Again, I spoke to a city representative who told me that it's highly unlikely and pointed to just how little pushback there was. Even at the city council vote. There is one business, newly biofield that would like an exemption. But again, we're just at a, than we were in 20, the

Speaker 1: (19:33)

Health issues caused by the environment and air quality and Barrio Logan have been well documented. Is there something in this new plan that supporters think will improve that situation?

Speaker 8: (19:42)

Yeah. There's several things outlined in the 2021 community plan update for Barrio Logan that really seek to address the environmental racism of the past that has led to this add air quality. And as you mentioned, increased asthma attacks. So for one there's that buffer zone, which the plan calls the transition zone, this is gonna separate heavy industrial activities from the port, from where people live and play. The buffer zone is just gonna be allowed for commercial zoning. So there's not gonna be any heavy industry or housing allowed. There's all also a plan within this updated community plan to establish designated truck routes. So that diesel 18 wheelers aren't using residential streets to get from the port to the freeway. That's seen as a huge win for a lot of these planners and residents. And in addition to that, there's plans for more parks, bike lanes to be connected to the rest of the city. And there's a discussion and to include a freeway lid for I five to block some of the pollution coming in from the freeway, Naomi

Speaker 1: (20:37)

Sanchez, a long time Barrio Logan resident is one of the voices in your story. Here's what she said about waiting this long for a new community plan and making sure that it doesn't open the door to people like her being displaced. It does

Speaker 7: (20:49)

Not make up for all of the years of injustice, but it's definitely a better step moving forward for our communities and our future generations. It definitely will give people the tranquility of knowing they're gonna have some to live next month.

Speaker 1: (21:08)

Barrio Logan is not far from downtown, the east village and the gas lamp, all places where rents are continuing to skyrocket. You just hosted a K PBS community conversation all about gentrification, Naomi Sanchez, who we just heard from echo those concerns for her community. Is there anything in this plan that might help avoid this placement of current residents, especially in a place that's largely people of color.

Speaker 8: (21:31)

There is this community plan is the first in the city to include anti-displacement measures to combat displacement because of gentrification. And just the fact that rents are just too high for people living there. So these measures include strengthening tenant protection. So that tenants have more time to locate if a building is being removed and guaranteeing that any housing units that are demolished for new construction will be replaced. All of this of course needs to be approved by the city. But I think some of the most expansive parts of these plans that really deal with gentrification are one that any new construction borrow Logan has to have 15% affordable housing. That's a 5% bump from the rest of the city where it's just 10%. In addition to that, any new developments have to give preference to surrounding Barrio Logan residents for 75% of their units. This is really kind of groundbreaking for community plans in San Diego. And just one of the reasons why residents who have been really fighting for this are just so thrilled at the vote.

Speaker 1: (22:28)

K PBS midday edition aired your community conversation earlier this week, our listeners can also find it on our K PBS YouTube page and whether it's Barrio Logan or San Diego as a whole, what's something new that you learned in your discussion that you found maybe especially interesting, or maybe thought provoking

Speaker 8: (22:44)

Matt. It's so hard to choose. Just one takeaway because I have to admit, I just had them most amazing conversation and opportunity to learn from our speakers, Isaac Martin of UC San Diego, Julie cor Morales of the environmental health coalition and Tahu Baracka of Imperial barbershops. So if you will allow me, I'm gonna give you my three takeaways that I got. Is that okay?

Speaker 1: (23:04)

Yeah, of course. Go

Speaker 8: (23:04)

Ahead. All right. So one, when we think of gentrification, we tend to think about it as something that can only be solve by interventions or solutions within the neighborhood that's being gentrified. But something that Isaac Martin said is that we also have to think about gentrification as something that's outside of the communities that are being gentrified. He recommended building and ensuring that there's affordable housing in other same, more wealthier areas because gentrification is kind of a domino effect. People are being pushed into another neighborhood it's because they can't afford the neighborhood that they were formally residing in two, is that a lot of violence that occurs in gentrification is when new neighbors move into say culturally rich areas like BA Logan and Southeast, but they don't recognize their class or race pledge bridge. And they don't immerse themselves by frequenting local stores and really getting civically involved with the residents that are already there. So it's really just like a, what I heard from Julie is don't just move in, but move in and engage with the community that you are moving into. And three is just that there are community driven solutions and policies that can slow displacement and communities can and should learn from each other. And I think it was just a really hopeful conversation because at the end of the day, people should have the right to decide what San Diego's going to look like and be like in the

Speaker 1: (24:20)

Future. Christina, Kim is our K PBS racial justice and social equity reporter, and think so much for your time, Christina, thank you,

Speaker 8: (24:26)


Speaker 1: (24:32)

We just focused on two communities in San Diego, but there's a flurry of important work happening across the county. This week. Supervisors just signed off on changes to the McClellan Palomar airport in Carlsbad that will expand the runway in a way that would allow or commercial flights. There's also news happening in the south bay. This is an

Speaker 9: (24:49)

Opportunity to invest in a community that has been underrepresented and underinvested in for decades. And this is an opportunity for us to build something that future generations of San Diegos will certainly cherish and enjoy

Speaker 10: (25:01)

By fostering long term partnerships with these communities, city parks and a other urban green spaces are working to ensure that every community has a meaningful chance to build a mutually beneficial relationship with the surrounding wildlife and its

Speaker 1: (25:18)

Habitats. That's San Diego mayor Todd, Gloria, and secretary of the interior, Deb Holland. They're talking about the millions of federal dollar that will help build a brand new park in San Ciro. Read all about these stories Thank you so much for tuning into this week's edition of K PBS Roundtable. And thank you to my guests, Mario Payton from NBC San Diego, San Diego union Tribune, reporter Jennifer van Grove and PBS race and equity reporter, Christina Kim, if you missed any part of our show, you can listen any time on the K PBS round table podcast. I'm Matt Hoffman. Join us next week on round table.

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'Reluctant Psychonaut' Michael Pollan Embraces The 'New Science' Of Psychedelics
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'Reluctant Psychonaut' Michael Pollan Embraces The 'New Science' Of Psychedelics
Local veterans are among those supporting a California bill that would legalize the possession of some psychedelic drugs, new proposals are coming in for San Diego's rebooted effort to redevelop the Midway District, and Barrio Logan clears a big hurdle in getting a new community growth plan.

NBC San Diego investigative reporter Mari Payton joins KPBS Roundtable to talk about her reporting on a California bill that would legalize possession of some psychedelic drugs. Also, Jennifer Van Grove from The San Diego Union-Tribune gets us caught up on the new proposals to redevelop the Sports Arena site in San Diego's Midway District. And, KPBS News racial justice and social equity reporter Cristina Kim explains the long delayed push to create a new community growth plan for Barrio Logan that addresses environmental health and gentrification. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman hosts.