Psychedelics and Cannabis in the Next Military Defense Budget? Why it Matters

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Psychedelics and Cannabis in the Next Military Defense Budget? Why it Matters

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No one pays the cost of war more than US service members. In fact, 2021 research showed that military personnel are four times more likely to die by suicide than in combat.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) seek to change that reality. In July, Crenshaw proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, granting federal funding for psychedelic therapy for active duty members. His list of proposed substances included MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine, and 5–MeO–DMT.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) amendment added psilocybin and MDMA to the list of substances (including cannabis) to study as opioid alternatives.

The House of Representatives approved both amendments, which means the Senate will weigh in next. In the meantime, let’s look at what these proposals entail and what they could mean for the future of federal drug reform.

 

Psychedelics (and cannabis) are Still Federally Banned

All compounds on Crenshaw and AOC’s amendments, like psilocybin mushrooms, cannabis, MDMA, ibogaine, and 5-MeO-DMT, are all classified as Schedule 1 controlled substances. The DEA defines Schedule I drugs as chemicals with “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,”

Fortunately, leading government officials aren’t buying into the DEA’s classification system anymore. And mass media publications are shifting narratives to display plant medicines in a more honest light. Mainstream powers are beginning to acknowledge that most psychedelics, especially classical psychedelics, like mushrooms and LSD,  aren’t addictive. They don’t create psychological cravings, so they don’t have a high potential for abuse. More importantly, they exhibit significant healing potential.

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Bi-partisan Support for Psychedelics Grows

Adding proof to the concept, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) designated MDMA and magic mushrooms as “breakthrough therapies” for PTSD and major depressive disorders. While this designation does not mean these substances are FDA-approved, it does ease the way for clinical trials while putting the DEA’s designation in a precarious spot.  Notably, the FDA’s findings set the stage for rational debate amongst lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

As a politically neutral organization, the FDA’s psychedelic support helps ease partisan tensions, ensuring the issue isn’t left vs. right. Instead, it’s a neutral movement to alleviate suffering for military members who have made immense sacrifices.

Today, both sides of the political spectrum are pushing for these critical reforms. Led by Republican Dan Crenshaw and Democrat AOC, liberals and conservatives both want service members to have safe, effective alternatives to addictive and even deadly pharmaceuticals.

 

Hope for the Future of Legalization

Last year, congress put forth similar psychedelic amendments, but they never made it to the floor. Fortunately, Crenshaw has consistently spoken out on this topic, urging his colleagues to rethink preconceived notions about psychedelics.

“Many hear the word ‘psychedelics,’ and they think of acid trips from the ’60s,” he said. “We’re talking about the proven use of psychedelics to treat PTSD.”

“All I’m asking is that we give our service members the ability to access this treatment instead of forcing them to travel abroad to psychedelic clinics to save their own life.”

As a result of Crenshaw and AOC’s consistent advocacy, the chamber voted favorably this year. If passed by the Senate, AOC’s amendment could prevent thousands of opioid overdose deaths. Crenshaw’s amendment could help people with PTSD find hope for a new life. These studies are essential to building on current psychedelic research across the scientific community.

 

The Bottom Line

Moving psychedelic mushrooms, cannabis, MDMA, ibogaine, and 5-MeO-DMT out of the Schedule 1 list won’t happen overnight–even if the Senate approves these defense spending amendments. Still, bipartisan federal legislation is another sign that the psychedelic renaissance is underway.

Whether it’s politicians like Rep. Crenshaw or AOC, psychedelic research organizations like MAPS, or academic research institutions like Johns Hopkins University, good people and renowned organizations support this cause. Our ACS Laboratory team is one of those advocates.

At ACS Laboratory, we’re excited about the future and look forward to being one of the first laboratories to advance the field of psychedelics for analytical testing.

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