Psychedelic drugs made an appearance in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as lawmakers pushed for funding to study their use in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and other ailments.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers on Thursday (July 13) included a provision allowing medical research of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin—the active component in magic mushrooms—and MDMA, also known as ecstasy, as part of a sweeping annual defense policy bill.
Silicon Valley leaders, sports stars, and even some British royals have long boasted of psychedelics proving helpful in keeping mental health in shape. War veterans have been campaigning for its legalization, and the US Veterans Administration is even holding trials, administering the drugs to PTSD patients in New York, California, and Oregon. There are promising potential uses for survivors of sexual trauma and law enforcement officers.
This provision doesn’t go as far as legalizing the substances. It merely omits a longstanding rider, around since 1996, that prohibits spending federal money for “activities that promote the legalization of any drug or other substance included in Schedule 1” of the Controlled Substances Act, to make studying them easier. Schedule 1 drugs are those considered to have high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on the NDAA as soon as today (July 14), but it would then be under scrutiny in the Democratic-majority Senate, which is debating its own version of the bill, as Reuters reports. Once lawmakers from both sides negotiate on a compromise, the bill will be put on president Joe Biden’s desk for him to sign into law or veto.
“These are powerful substances, I don’t want to give that short shrift. But they also have powerful potential as well.” —US lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during a July 13 Capitol Hill press conference
June 2019: Six months into the job as congressperson, New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduces legislation on psychedelic drugs, which is essentially mocked and laughed off. The amendment fails by a 331-to-91 vote.
2020: Both Ocasio-Cortez and Republican lawmaker and Navy veteran Dan Crenshaw passed House amendments on studying psychedelic therapy, but neither measure makes it out of the Senate.
2021: Support for Ocasio-Cortez’s psychedelics amendment jumps from 91 to 140. It still fails with 285 votes against it.
Several hardline conservative amendments have been added to the must-pass NDAA, threatening to derail the annual bill that has passed with bipartisan support year after year. Some of these right-wing tweaks include:
⚕ Reversing the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members who travel to receive abortions.
🏳️⚧️ Barring the Pentagon and military health care programs from providing gender-affirming care to trans members.
📚 Prohibiting Department of Defense (DOD) libraries from stocking “pornographic and radical gender ideology books.”