The national psychedelicsThe House of Representatives adopted a pair of amendments Wednesday that would allow veterans and active-duty military personnel with mental health conditions to have access to psychedelic treatment. Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D.N.Y., offered the amendments that were added to National Defense Authorization Act.
This adoption comes after a string of success stories by the movement against the prohibition on psychedelics. In the past four years, several U.S. cities such as Denver and Detroit have legalized certain psychedelics. In 2020, Oregon legalized psilocybin (the compound that gives hallucinogenic mushrooms their potency) Use for therapeutic purposesAnyone over 21 years of age. Ocasio Cortez’s and Crenshaw’s amendments would not allow federal restrictions to be relaxed on a limited number of therapeutic studies. However, they represent a recognition of the growing momentum for a rethink of the harsh restrictions that were imposed on psychedelics during war on drugs.
In a floor speech Wednesday, Crenshaw — a Navy veteran — pleaded with members of his party to support his amendment. “Many hear the word ‘psychedelics’ and they think of acid trips from the ’60s,” he said. “What we’re talking about here is the proven use of psychedelics to treat PTSD.”
Crenshaw and Ocasio-Cortez’s amendments were approved via voice vote shortly thereafter. Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment would open up further avenues for therapeutic studies of MDMA and psilocybin. Crenshaw’s would also provide for further studies of those two substances, as well as lesser-known psychedelics ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT.
Despite their similar legislation, there are no indications that they worked together to get passage. Crenshaw Drawing scrutiny in the past for claiming to support efforts to expand veterans’ access to psychedelic treatments, only to oppose measures introduced by Ocasio-Cortez that would do just that.
Ocasio-Cortez has, however, in the past introduced many measures to increase access. These included bipartisan efforts that were identical with the House measure on Wednesday. However, she declined to reach out to her former Republican partner. Prior to this, she co-sponsored such efforts alongside Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Investigated by federal authorities for allegations involving potential sex with a minor, paying for unauthorized sex work, and taking MDMA during some of the alleged episodes.
Gaetz and Ocasio-Cortez eventually introduced almost identical versions of the same amendment. Gaetz’s version of the amendment was ultimately ruled out of order by the House Rules Committee, while Ocasio-Cortez’s was cleared for a floor vote. Gaetz, who testified to the Rules Committee Tuesday, acknowledged that the two measures are identical and pointed out that outreach by his office regarding co-sponsoring an amendment this year was not returned. “I’ll take the hint,” he said, before speaking in favor of her amendment.
It is possible that the disjointed nature the bipartisan effort could make it difficult to adopt both measures in the final package. While the passage of amendments from members of both parties is a positive sign, the policies’ fates remain uncertain in the Senate. The Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act is typically more conservative, given that chamber’s freewheeling amendment process and the three-fifths requirement to overcome a filibuster. The Senate bill currently in draft, which has not reached the floor, doesn’t include any amendments that would allow for greater access to psychedelics-assisted therapies.
In the coming weeks, the two houses will discuss differences in their versions in a conference panel. It is not clear if proponents will be able to rally the political will necessary for final passage of psychedelics reforms.
Crenshaw and Ocasio-Cortez’s offices did not immediately respond to requests to clarify whether they would work together to ensure that some version of their proposals becomes law.
Activists believe that both the House and Senate will adopt the measures. “My hope is that the Senate will put bickering aside and include it too,” said Jonathan Lubecky, veterans and governmental affairs liaison for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “If AOC and Crenshaw can agree, it’s hard to fight against it.”
Lubecky, whose story was included in Crenshaw’s committee testimony, knows firsthand how crucial potential reforms could be. He credits a series of psychedelic therapies for his rehabilitation after combat-induced trauma left him with debilitating PTSD that led to multiple suicide attempts. “This should be a wake-up call that these therapies are real and they work,” he said. “I should know — they saved my life.”