Bipartisan congressional lawmakers are asking leadership to instruct federal health agencies to include active duty military service members in psychedelic studies.
In a letter led by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to House Appropriations subcommittee leaders, the lawmakers said that language should be added to upcoming spending legislation for the 2024 Fiscal Year directing the National Institutes on Health (NIH) to be inclusive of military members in ongoing research into the therapeutic benefits of substances like MDMA.
“As the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, this directive for the NIH would expand government wide efforts to understand the potential risks and benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy to this critical population,” the eleven lawmakers wrote.
“We need new approaches to adequately address the threat of trauma-related disorders and chronic pain to both active-duty and veteran servicemembers,” it says, noting the high prevalence of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among the military population.
The letter, sent to the subcommittee leaders late last month and released on Thursday, cites the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Phase 3 clinical trials into MDMA in the treatment of PTSD, which promising preliminary results.
“This landmark data underscores the need for more scientific inquiry, but it also shows there is a gap in our understanding for how these therapies could function in the active-duty demographic. The NIH active projects that involve participation by the Department of Veteran Affairs medical center system, but strengthening this existing interest and expanding it to the currently serving population will broaden our cross-agency study of potential benefits.”
“By instructing the NIH to pursue these efforts in collaboration with Department of Defense (DOD) policy, we can ensure that our research enterprise is including all potential beneficiaries, especially our military, in this vital research,” it continues.
The other signatories on the letter are Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Donald Davis (D-NC), Chris Deluzio (D-PA), Max Miller (R-OH), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Morgan Luttrell (R-TX), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA).
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“Every day, we see firsthand the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy,” Henry Berkowitz, CFO of Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS) and a retired Navy SEAL, told Marijuana Moment. “What we have also witnessed is the demand for these therapies growing exponentially.”
“We can only support a small percentage of all the applications we receive. Legislation that provides domestic access to these life-saving therapies is an immediate and critical need,” he said. “We believe that further research into psychedelic therapy is the best way to facilitate this change. Furthermore, we believe that support for this issue must be bipartisan. We are proud to support this letter and applaud the support from both sides of the aisle.”
Crenshaw, a military veteran himself who lost an eye due to an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2012, has taken a leadership role in the congressional psychedelics reform movement in recent years.
The congressman successfully inserted an amendment into the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last year that would have allowed the secretary of defense to approve grants for research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine and 5–MeO–DMT for active duty military members with PTSD.
But that measure ultimately did not make it into the final package following bicameral conference. Getting approved on the House side did represent progress, however, as a similar amendment Crenshaw sponsored was blocked from receiving a floor vote by the House Rules Committee in 2021.
While the most recent amendment—along with another one from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that was also passed by the House—was omitted from last year’s final bicameral NDAA deal with the Senate, a joint explanatory statement attached to the bill did include a directive for the military to examine the potential of “plant-based therapies” like cannabis and certain psychedelics for service members.
Last month, bipartisan and bicameral congressional lawmakers filed an updated version of a bill to streamline the federal rescheduling of “breakthrough therapies” like psilocybin and MDMA in order to promote research and drug development.
And last week, bipartisan House members introduced legislation to clarify that federal “Right to Try” laws give seriously ill patients access to Schedule I drugs—including marijuana and psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA—despite Drug Enforcement Administration resistance.
The introduction of the psychedelics bills comes amid the re-launch of a congressional caucus focused on promoting research into the therapeutic potential of entheogenic substances.
Meanwhile, an unprecedented wave of state-level psychedelics reform efforts is underway in legislatures across the country. Legislators in more than a dozen states are pursuing the issue this session are interest rapidly spreads into the medical potential of these substances.
Read the letter on psychedelic studies for active duty military members below:
Bipartisan Congressional Bill Would Force DEA To Let Patients Use Psychedelics And Marijuana
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