US lawmakers make bipartisan push for psychedelics research in defense bill
PHOTO CAPTION: Psilocybin or "magic mushrooms" are seen in an undated photo provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Washington, U.S. May 7, 2019. DEA/Handout via REUTERS
By Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Thursday pushed to include a provision allowing medical research of psychedelic drugs as part of a sweeping annual defense policy bill, saying it could help treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments despite possible concerns.
"These are powerful substances, I don't want to give that short shrift," Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who first sponsored a bill on the topic in 2019, told a Capitol Hill press conference. "But they also have powerful potential as well."
Veterans' groups have for years been pushing for research into the potential medical benefits of psychedelics - including LSD and magic mushrooms - for their ability to alleviate the effects of PTSD and depression.
Because the U.S. government currently classifies these drugs as Schedule 1 - meaning they have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use - they are effectively impossible for scientists to study.
Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL and co-sponsor of the amendment, pointed to potential uses for survivors of sexual trauma and law enforcement officers.
The measure would direct the Secretary of Defense to conduct a clinical report on the uses of psychedelics in military treatment facilities.
Crenshaw said he had spoken to Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy and had the House leader's support for including the language of the amendment in the final National Defense Authorization Act.
"I still can't find one member of Congress that is actually opposed to this," Crenshaw said.
The Republican-controlled House is expected to pass its version of the NDAA as soon as Friday, then the Democratic-majority Senate will pass its version. Following that, lawmakers from both chambers must negotiate on a compromise before the bill can be sent to President Joe Biden to sign into law or veto.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Scott Malone and Susan Heavey)