Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently stated during a town hall meeting in New York City that she supports the national movement to decriminalize psychedelics and plans to again introduce legislation to promote research into psychedelic substances such as psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) and LSD. According to organizing director Aaron Genuth of Decriminalize Nature New York (an activist organization that advocates for decriminalization of plant medicines like psilocybin, ayahuasca, mescaline, and ibogaine) the congresswoman is interested working to advance a measure to remove criminal penalties associated with these entheogenic, medicinally effective substances, and similar policies of reform for other illicit drugs.
Genuth discussed in detail with AOC the groups work in a number of states. Ocasio-Cortez said she was “extremely happy” about the group’s work and “made sure to note that she’s working on it and introducing another measure in Congress.” Genuth stated after their meeting “It was a really good, positive encounter and confirmed that she’s extremely supportive of what we’re all doing.”
The congresswoman also stated that any legislation would be research-focused. It seems likely that the proposal will be similar to an amendment to a spending bill that Ocasio-Cortez offered in June. She was vocal on social media (specifically twitter) about the morality of her proposed amendments, which would have removed fiscal year 2020 spending legislation that she argued inhibits research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. Unfortunately it was ultimately rejected in a House floor vote, however she could offer a similar amendment when Congress takes up 2021 appropriations legislation next spring.
Ocasio-Cortez has placed an increasingly strong emphasis on the need for decriminalization and further research, citing numerous studies at prestigious educational institutions that have associated psilocybin with profound and sustained improvement of psychological state for both recreational and medicinal users. She initially called for the removal of criminal penalties for possessing psychedelics specifically in a video taped for a conference of reform activists, and has upheld this sentiment while medical interest around psychedelics has exploded in popularity since Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin in May, followed by a unanimous City Council vote in Oakland to remove criminal penalties for a wide-range of entheogenic substances. Now, activists in over 100 localities across the country are moving to advance similar proposals.
AOC’s legislative reform proposals align with the stance of another popular democrat Andew Yang, who also believes that scientists should be free to study the effects of psilocybin on mental health, and that recreational users should be free to posses the drug in small amounts. Under both Yang’s and AOC’s policies the trafficking and cultivation of psychedelic substances would remain illegal.