Photo credit: @mycotek
A new drug reform amendment that would have made it easier to research therapeutic applications for psychedelic substances was voted down by the House of Representatives by a vast majority this week.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would have removed a rider to a funding bill that prohibits the use of federal money for “any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I.” This rider — which has been attached to spending legislation for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education since 1996 — effectively impedes research into Schedule I drugs like psilocybin, MDMA, and cannabis.
Rep. Ro Khanna tweeted that the amendment “would have removed the bureaucratic red tape and legal hoops that scientists currently have to navigate in order to study the potential medical benefits of controlled substances. This includes cannabis, which is legal for medicinal use in more than two dozen states, and other compounds that have shown promise in treating depression, PTSD, and addiction.”
This Monday, the House Rules Committee — which has a long history of blocking cannabis reform legislation — approved the measure. The committee's approval raised hopes that the measure would pass, but it was soundly defeated on Thursday in a 91-331 vote. A total of 148 Democratic representatives joined 183 Republican representatives in voting against the amendment.
“It’s disappointing to hear folks say things like ‘the War on Drugs is a failure’ and that ‘we should treat drugs as a health issue and not a criminal justice issue’ then vote to uphold drug war relic language like this,” said Dan Riffle, Ocasio-Cortez's senior counsel and policy advisor, to Marijuana Moment. “It was last minute though, and a lot of folks weren’t sure what the amendment would do. I’m glad we brought some attention to the issue, and I think next year with more time to educate you’ll see a very different result.”
“I applaud 91 of my Republican and Democratic colleagues for courageously standing up for medical research,” Rep. Lou Correa told Marijuana Moment. “For far too long, we have allowed the debate surrounding Schedule I drugs to be informed by personal opinions and not science. This amendment would have given the power back to doctors and researchers so that they can tell us what these misunderstood substances can be used for.”
“Sadly our drug research amendment failed today, but I’m undeterred,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “I’m proud we were even able to bring a vote on psychedelic research to the House floor. 30% of veterans have considered suicide. These drugs show extreme promise in treating PTSD + more. Let’s keep at it.”
Meanwhile, support for the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances continues on a smaller scale. Last month, Denver decriminalized the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms, and this month, Oakland decriminalized every plant-based natural psychedelic.