AOC’s push to ease limits on psychedelic research advances in House

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s push to remove restrictions on using federal funds to study psychedelic drugs moved one step closer to a House vote on Monday.

The House Rules Committee voted Monday night send to the full House a spending bill for three federal agencies that includes the New York Democrat’s amendment. If it passes, the amendment would remove a restriction in the spending bill that prevents federal agencies from activities that could promote the use of Schedule 1 drugs, which were made illegal by the Controlled Substances Act in 1970.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Yahoo News photo Illustration; photos: AP, Getty Images)

Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Ro Khanna, D-Wash., have both signed on to Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment, which affects spending for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday that studies have shown psychedelics may be able to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. “The War on Drugs has caused so much harm. It’s time to reverse it,” she said on Twitter.

As Ocasio-Cortez promotes psychedelics, two cities have decriminalized the use and possession of psilocybin — the psychoactive component of magic mushrooms — and other psychedelic plants.

Denver was the first city to stop enforcing the prohibition on psilocybin in May, and Oakland, Calif., made a similar move last week. In Oregon, a proposed 2020 ballot measure would allow voters to decide whether to legalize psychedelic mushrooms.

The Schedule 1 classification is meant for drugs and substances that have no accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Substances like marijuana, heroin, LSD, psilocybin and MDMA, known as ecstasy, are all grouped together in that category, despite widespread evidence of marijuana’s benefits as a medical treatment.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of studies on psychedelic substances. New research suggests that substances like psilocybin and LSD could be used to treat severe PTSD, anxiety and depression. The Food and Drug Administration recently gave MDMA breakthrough therapy status in trials to treat PTSD, which could speed up its approval.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee, vowed last year that he would not block bills or amendments relating to marijuana. His predecessor, former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, routinely blocked amendments aimed at protecting states that had legalized marijuana.

The House Rules Committee advanced Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment, but it rejected an amendment from Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif. His amendment would have protected colleges and universities from losing federal funding if they allow medicinal marijuana in states where it is legal.

The spending bill and Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment are scheduled to be debated on the House floor this week.


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