Off-duty Alaska pilot incident puts Calif.’s “magic mushrooms” legalization efforts on ice

An off-duty pilots move to shut off a plane’s engines in mid-air while on magic mushrooms is putting decriminalization efforts

The recent incident involving an off-duty pilot who attempted to cut the engines of a San Francisco-bound flight after admitting to experimenting with magic mushrooms may hinder efforts to decriminalize psychedelics in California.

Driving the news: Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill to legalize possession of mushrooms and other psychedelics, citing concerns about treatment guidelines and underlying psychoses.


  • The pilot, Joseph David Emerson, was arrested and charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after trying to shut off the plane’s engines. Details about when he last ingested the mushrooms remain unclear.
  • The off-duty pilot’s actions highlighted the potential dangers of psychedelics and complicated the push for legalization.
  • The incident has set back the conversation about legalizing psychedelics in California.

The other side: State Senator Scott Wiener, who wrote the vetoed bill, plans to introduce a new version to provide effective treatment for combat veterans and first responders with PTSD.

  • Supporters of the bill aim to revive the fight through new legislation or a 2024 ballot measure.
  • Ryan Munevar, campaign director for Decriminalize California, continues to collect signatures to put legalization on the 2024 ballot.
  • Law enforcement organizations expressed concerns about therapeutic science and the lack of dosing guidelines for those operating vehicles and heavy machinery.
  • The incident underscores the need for more research on the effects of psychedelics before routine use as a treatment.
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