Two top state elected officials—one Democrat, one Republican—are calling on the federal government to move forward on psychedelics reform, saying the opportunity to improve the lives of people with PTSD and other ailments shouldn’t boil down to partisan politics.
“I try to tell people this isn’t partisan at all. Let’s take our labels away on this one,” former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said in a new documentary from Reason. “This is about humankind. This is about taking care of individuals. This is about saving lives. This is about giving people their lives back.”
Despite claiming the issue shouldn’t be about politics, however, Perry went on to assert that GOP lawmakers are more open to reform than Democrats are, at least among those in Congress. “At the federal level, this is more supported by the Republicans,” he said.
Some members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are warming to psychedelics reform. Last year a bipartisan group founded the Psychedelics Advancing Clinical Treatments (PACT) Caucus to “focus on exploring psychedelic research to alleviate the U.S. mental health crisis.”
The new documentary, which explores what Reason calls the “psychedelic renaissance,” includes interviews and comments from Perry as well as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), who signed a psychedelics regulation bill into law in May following voters’ approval of a legalization initiative last year.
“Just like cannabis, the people are ahead of the politicians,” Polis, a former congressman, said of the change. And despite dire warnings from critics, the negative consequences of marijuana legalization never materialized. “I think if we fast forward 10 years,” he said, “we want to have that same story to tell on natural medicine and psychedelics.”
Both politicians spoke this summer at the MAPS Psychedelic Science 2023 conference in Denver, where Polis said he wanted Colorado to take the lead on pardoning people with psychedelics-related criminal convictions.
Perry, for his part, jokingly described himself at the event as “the dark, knuckle-dragging, right-wing, Republican former governor of Texas,” but then added: “I love Rick Doblin,” referring to the longtime drug policy activist and MAPS co-founder, who exited his role as executive director of the organization earlier this year.
While Perry and Polis are now outspoken in their support of broadening access to psychedelic medicines, both politicians initially took some convincing.
Perry was secretary of energy under then-President Donald Trump five years ago when he was approached by a former Navy SEAL, Morgan Luttrell, who is now a member of Congress. “He’s the one that started getting me comfortable with ‘Rick Perry’ and ‘psychedelics’ in the same sentence,” Perry told Reason. “His twin brother, Marcus Luttrell, lived with us at the governor’s mansion as my wife and I were learning about post-traumatic stress disorder and how poorly our government was dealing with this.”
“These are medicines that were taken away for political purposes back in the early ’70s that we need to reintegrate,” he continued. “The potential here is stunningly positive.”
And while Polis has since embraced voters’ approval of psychedelics legalization, he was initially wary of the change. Less than a month before last year’s ballot vote, he said during a gubernatorial debate that he was still undecided on the measure.
“I haven’t looked at that one yet,” he said at the time. “Like most Colorado voters, I’ll be reading the Blue Book and making our decision, discussing it around our kitchen table.”
On July 1, a law I signed earlier this year went into effect that is designed to implement and regulate psychedelic decriminalization. We are proud of our thoughtful and innovative approach, supporting our veterans and those in need.https://t.co/dniNjo42GY pic.twitter.com/IUVijBn1mS
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) August 17, 2023
Perry thinks Republicans in Congress are more open to federal psychedelics reform because “a substantial number” of them are veterans, naming Luttrell and Reps. Dan Crenshaw, Wesley Hunt, Jake Ellzy, Tony Gonzales and August Pfluger II, all of whom represent Texas. “Those individuals have seen this firsthand,” he said. “They know the trauma that has been inflicted on these individuals, and they’ve also seen the results of the use of psychedelics in treating trauma.”
“I’m not for legalization of all drugs,” the former Texas governor emphasized, but he believes there’s room for movement on psychedelics. “Let’s go thoughtfully, an an appropriate pace, as fast as we can.”
At the state level, one jurisdiction making progress on psychedelics is California, where a Senate-passed legalization measure recently cleared a procedural hurdle, bringing it one step closer to a final Assembly committee vote before potentially advancing to the chamber floor.
Meanwhile a California campaign recently filed a proposed initiative for the state’s 2024 ballot that would create a $5 billion state agency tasked with funding and promoting psychedelics research that it hopes will accelerate federal legalization of substances like psilocybin and ibogaine.
California officials also cleared a separate campaign to begin signature gathering for a 2024 ballot initiative to legalize the possession, sale and regulated therapeutic use of psilocybin.
Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.