Andrew Yang says that, if elected mayor of New York City, he will push to legalize certain psychedelics for therapeutic use by military veterans and promote an equitable marijuana licensing structure to right the wrongs of prohibition.
In a blueprint on his agenda for veterans that was released on Thursday, Yang makes several references to drug policy reforms he says he’d pursue—though there are questions about the achievability of some of the proposals.
With respect to psychedelics, Yang wants to “legalize controlled substances that are used to treat PTSD and facilitate their use in therapeutic settings,” and that includes a mayoral push to encourage “information-sharing and cooperative study of effective mental health therapy utilizing cannabis and psilocybin.”
The plan says the research effort would involve a partnership between the the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, New York hospitals and universities.
A staggering 10% of veterans live below the poverty line. My administration will devote $2M to fund legal services for veterans in poverty and expand targeted interventions to reduce homelessness.
See my full plan to invest in our veterans here: https://t.co/Eo156Fec0a
— Andrew Yang🧢🗽🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) May 27, 2021
Further, a Yang administration would “be ready to increase access to other substances in controlled settings, such as MDMA therapy.” However, it appears that expanding such access would be contingent on the federal regulations under the plan.
“A promising recent study indicated that MDMA was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms with no serious adverse events,” it says. “Taking its cues from the federal government, a Yang administration will be ready to work with the medical community in implementing these therapies when federal approval has been granted.”
During his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Yang also proposed legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic use for veterans. He also generally said that the government should make the psychedelic “more freely available” for medical purposes.
In the new plan, Yang also outlined his agenda for marijuana, calling for “an equitable licensing regime for legalized cannabis.”
“With the state legislature’s passage of recreational cannabis, the next mayor will have a major role to play in implementation of the licensing program and righting the historical wrongs of unjust drug enforcement,” it says. “Andrew Yang has been an ardent supporter of cannabis legalization and will commit to establishing an equitable, fair and profitable legal regime by implementing a bold cannabis policy that creates a strong local economy, while also addressing the disproportionate impact that the failed war on drugs has placed on certain communities.”
Curiously, the plan, which was first reported by the New York Post, says Yang will direct law enforcement to “stop investigating, arresting, and prosecuting all minor, non-violent cannabis crimes, such as cannabis possession.” But beyond the question of whether a mayor has the authority to unilaterally make such a mandate to police is the fact that marijuana has already been legalized—including its public use anywhere tobacco can be smoked—so it’s unclear why that would be necessary.
Another notable detail is that the plan says Yang wants to treat “drug use as a public health matter and not as a criminal matter,” which seems to be an endorsement for broad decriminalization. That would make an evolution for Yang, who has previously drawn the line at ending the criminalization of opioids, marijuana and certain psychedelics.
“The war on drugs has been a war on people. We can all see that,” he said at a mayoral forum in March. “I’m for the decriminalization of many of these prescription opiates that, frankly, the drug companies have generated billions of dollars of blood money from.”
The candidate also wants to establish “a social equity program that will right the wrongs of the past by providing support to communities of color and low-income communities and creating sustainable opportunities for community members to not only participate, but to compete in the New York cannabis market while creating opportunities to generate meaningful wealth from the New York cannabis industry.”
The Democratic primary for the mayoral race is on June 22, followed by the general election on November 2.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.