Drug Policy

House Will Vote on AOC's Proposal to Expand Medical Research on Marijuana, Magic Mushrooms

Clearing the way for additional research into those drugs will help craft public policy regarding their use, and could open the door to additional medical uses.

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The House of Representatives may vote before the end of the week to lift a longstanding legal barrier to scientific research into both marijuana and psychedelic drugs like ecstasy and magic mushrooms.

An amendment offered by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) would abolish a rider that's been attached to federal spending bills since 1996 prohibiting federal spending on "any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I" of the Controlled Substances Act. In effect, the rider is a ban on all research into the benefits and risks of many recreational drugs, because any institution—like a university—that tried to research a Schedule I drug could lose its federal funding for unrelated projects.

"This bill is likely to encourage more government-funded and private research," says Brad Burge, communications director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. "A big benefit will be the elimination of the stigma around that research."

Michael Collins, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Forbes that the budget rider language had "served as a gag rule on government employees discussing the benefits of legalization."

But the conversation about the benefits—and potential risks—of using marijuana and psychedelics is now happening, whether Congress likes it or not. Clearing the way for additional research into those drugs will help craft public policy regarding their use, and could open the door to additional medical uses.

In a series of tweets after introducing the amendment on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez touted the potential of psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms, for treating individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. "It's well past time we take drug use out of criminal consideration," she wrote. "The War on Drugs has caused so much harm. It's time to reverse it."

Indeed, psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, are enjoying a sudden breakthrough in public opinion—one that coincides with greater demand for studying how they affect the brain. As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote last month, shortly before voters in Denver narrowly legalized magic mushrooms for recreational use, "the Food and Drug Administration's approval of psilocybin as a treatment for depression, which seems increasingly likely now that the agency has deemed it a 'breakthrough therapy,' may help shift public opinion. The fact that neither addiction nor fatal overdose are salient concerns in connection with psilocybin also should help, notwithstanding the drug's relatively limited appeal."

Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has long opposed the legalization of marijuana, now admits that federal barriers to researching the drug are too high. In January, Susan Weiss, research director at NIDA, criticized the "complex and lengthy registration process" that would-be cannabis researchers have to complete, as well as the fact that researches must source their marijuana from a single government-approved grower.

All of that could change if Ocasio-Cortez' proposal is included in the "minibus" spending bill expected to be voted on later this week. It's not yet clear whether the amendment will survive a floor vote (or whether it would be subsequently approved by the Senate), but it has already overcome the first hurdle. The amendment cleared the House Rules Committee, which controls whether amendments can be offered on the floor as potential attachments to other pieces of legislation, on Monday night, opening a path for it to be included in the spending bill.

Ocasio-Cortez' proposal enjoys bipartisan backing, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.) announcing their support on Monday.

"That's huge," says Burge of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Even if this attempt at ending the longstanding prohibition on drug research fails, he points out, the effort will "really help us when it comes to outreach to other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle."

NEXT: Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths or Not?

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  1. Don’t let the “democratic socialist” label scare you — AOC is fundamentally on the same side as us Koch / Reason libertarians. I’m confident she’ll soon make major progress on #AbolishICE.

    #LibertariansForAOC

  2. Are these the same magic mushrooms she used to create the green new deal?

    1. No – it would be a better bill if so.

    2. No mushrooms are that magic.

    3. She took the brown acid for that one

  3. Interesting to ponder whether she’s already bored with the Green New Deal, or whether someone finally knocked sense into her about it being an election loser no matter how much they salivate about expanding government.

    1. She was never serious about it. It was all just ‘dry humor’.

    2. They GND was not part of this bill. You are assuming that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can not work at two things as once. You are used to Republicans who don’t seem to be able to work on one thing at once and so working on multiple issues seem inconceivable. But others can multitask.

      1. You are assuming that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can not work at two things as once.

        In fairness . . .

        1. I don’t even assume she can do one thing at once.

      2. I am used to politicians. You seem to be the one who thinks some brands are better than others.

  4. My first thought is, yay – about time.
    My second thought is, she’s a puppet for someone else trying to help her build a brand/groom her. I’m not convinced she’s capable of this kind of critical thought, given her proposal of, and cheerleading for the NGD. I’m curious as to whether there is anything else shoe-horned into this.

    1. Her puppet master is Chakrabarti, although I think it is more of a hive mind dynamic than puppet dynamic. But he along with Justice Democrats helped her get 15,000 votes necessary to win her district.

      1. Perhaps. Either way, she doesn’t exist in vacuum. I guess I’ll continue to play the odds, laughing at her and loathing her constituents.

      2. That was the primary vote. She got 150,000 in the general.

        1. That 150,000 probably included a lot of “yellow dog Democrats.”

  5. Magic mushrooms and marijuana might help explain AOC’s enthusiastic support of the Green New Deal.

  6. The liberal-libertarian alliance will continue to shape American progress.

    Cranky clingers will continue to complain about it, some while wearing unconvincing libertarian drag.

    1. Here, Rev, why don’t you figure out which side of the mushroom makes you larger and which one makes you smaller.

      1. Or just fall sloppy dead.

  7. I did quite a bit of research on marijuana when I was in high school.

    1. There we have it. “Dirty Dave in 2020. Dave is here, man!”

      1. He’ll lift the tariff on Doritos!

        1. I, too, will vote double-D in 2020.

      2. I remember that Cheech and Chong bit.

        A classic. Dave’s not here.

        I thought it was a short take on Who’s on first. Two guys riffing off this thing with the name.

        I really like classic comedy. That and music the only things I use you tube for.

        If anyone wants to find it the Abbot & Costello skit is still up. As is the C&C short bit.

        One thing I would miss is the archive of things you can still find on you tube or whatever platform. That would be a terrible loss.

  8. An amendment offered by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) would abolish a rider that’s been attached to federal spending bills since 1996 prohibiting federal spending on “any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I” of the Controlled Substances Act.

    So … we might repeal a drug restriction first signed into law by Clinton. If the repeal passes, tenured professors will be able to continue getting federal funding even if they research marijuana and magic mushrooms so that in a decade or two there might be some body of evidence about their positive effects that advocates for legalization can point to. In related news, industrial hemp has been legal nationwide for a while now, thanks to something Trump signed, and products containing CBD were on the shelves in Bergen County, NJ this year.

  9. Cannabis is Schedule 1.
    Cocaine, meth and Oxycontin are schedule 2.
    Insanity.

    1. That “schedules” even exist for chemicals that people willingly consume (or not) is insanity. The application of those schedules is irrational.

      I know, I know. It’s all perfectly rational and sane if your goal is simply to grow the government’s control over people.

      1. Yes, that a schedule exists at all is insanity. You have to be insane to think the people who create then wouldn’t have an ideological bias and a specific bit of oppression to justify.

  10. baby steps. I’m just glad there’s any movement at all dialing back the drug war. amazing.

  11. I’ll be darned…AOC is actually not an idiot about this. She may be the proverbial broken clock!

    1. Good thing, too. With socialists, the clock moves backward.

  12. A mushroom walks into a bar.
    The bartender Alexandria Oyster-Cult sez: “Get out! We no serve your kind!”
    The mushroom replies: “But I’m a fun guy.”
    AOC: “¡Lárgate de aquí!”
    The mushroom leaves with OBL.

    1. A mushroom and OBL, both drunk, compare genitalia with each other in a hotel room.
      Mushroom, unzipping pants: “This is my pileus.”
      OBL, lifting skirt: “This is my volva.”
      Mushroom, getting queasy: “Um, this is my stape.”
      OBL giggles: “This is my annulus.”
      The mushroom gags: “Yeeeuck — that looks like Dachau Holocaust footage….”

      1. If you had no Morels that might be funny. Best kept in the dark.

  13. I read this wrong at first. I’m all for letting people use these substances and do research on them. They lose me where federal funding is being given to such research. It’s about a 50% win on principle, but I’d still record this as a loss due to the intent and consequences

  14. But it’s Schedule I, which means there is no possible legitimate medical use. And if we’ve already determined that, what does anyone need to research?

  15. […] The House rejected an amendment by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) that would have removed barriers to medical research on marijuana and on psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin. More on the proposal here. […]

  16. […] The House rejected an amendment by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) that would have removed barriers to medical research on marijuana and on psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin. More on the proposal here. […]

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