Earlier this month Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) filed an amendment that would have removed restrictions around studying drugs such as cannabis, psilocybin (the psychedelic ingredient in 'magic mushrooms') and MDMA. But her hopes of studying the potential benefits and risks of those substances were dashed on Thursday, when the amendment was rejected by the House.
Researching the country's most highly restricted substances has long been complicated by laws that prevent federal money from being spent on any activity that might be seen as promoting the use or legalization of those drugs. While the Controlled Substances Act does not ban researchers from studying these drugs, the mountain of paperwork required to pursue those studies has scared away many research institutions.
That situation has largely prevented scientists from exploring the longterm effects of cannabis, psilocybin and MDMA.
"We need legitimate, reliable research by universities and other institutions into the health benefits of cannabis and other substances," said Rep. Lou Correa (D-NY)—one of the bills co-sponsors—during the amendment's hearing on Thursday. "This amendment will allow credible research institutions to conduct research by removing layers of paperwork that serve as hurdles meant to block such research. As more Americans, including veterans, use cannabis and so-called 'magic mushrooms' to manage or treat their pain or other health conditions, it's important that doctors have the necessary information on the possible benefits, or not, of these substances."
But that argument did not sway the amendments opponent, who argued that passing it would only encourage more young people use these substances.
"Do we want the federal government telling our families and our children, take this, it's good for you?" asked Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who voted against the measure. "Maybe it is. I sure don't think it is. I certainly don't want my kids taking it and I don't want the government promoting it."
Ultimately, Ocasio-Cortez call to to "get government and political opinion out of scientific research" and put in place policies that are "evidence-based" as opposed to "past assumptions" was shot down. So undertaking this much-needed research on these substances will continue to be a Herculean labor in the US.