A Republican congressman who’s voted against modest measures to loosen barriers on psychedelic research seems to be coming around on the issue following discussions with advocates—including military veterans who have utilized the substances therapeutically—and now says the treatment “sounds amazing.”
That said, he voted against a measure to remove barriers to studies on psychedelics just days after making the most recent supportive comments.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a veteran himself, moderated a conversation late last month with Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Founder Rick Doblin and Jon Lubecky, a veteran who’s participated in clinical trials on the efficacy of MDMA in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a step towards the destigmatization of psychedelics, U.S. Army SGT(R) @JonLubecky of @MAPS and I attended @RepDanCrenshaw's Healthcare Innovation Summit to discuss the groundbreaking, nonpartisan psychedelic research conducted by MAPS.
— Rick Doblin, MAPS (@RickDoblin) August 12, 2021
During the roughly 20-minute chat at the event at Rice University in Houston, the congressman asked questions about why MDMA therapy appears to be more efficacious compared to traditional therapies and what the experience of taking psychedelics for therapeutic purposes feels like.
“It feels like doing therapy while being hugged by everyone in the world who loves you in a bathtub full of puppies licking your face,” Lubecky, who does government relations work for MAPS, said. He credited MDMA therapy, facilitated by the organization, for saving him after multiple suicide attempts.
Crenshaw said the veteran’s description of psychedelic therapy “sounds amazing.”
The congressman also shared a story of hearing from a Marine veteran friend with traumatic brain injury issues who said psychedelic treatments “had changed his life.”
Yet Crenshaw claimed that he only became aware of this issue “six months ago,” despite having voted against amendments to appropriations legislation from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that was specifically meant to promote research into the medical value of psychedelics—first in 2019 and again last month.
The most recent vote against the psychedelics legislation came just four days after the Houston event at which he seemed to indicate he understood the therapy’s potential.
“What are the barriers [to psychedelics research]?”, Crenshaw asked Doblin at the event. “Because there is a stigma associated with psychedelics. What are the barriers and what needs to be solved here? How do you overcome that stigma?”
Doblin said it’s a multifaceted issue—but the federal war on drugs in a principal problem.
Criminalization has “led to people thinking, ‘yes, these are illegal drugs also and they’ve got no beneficial uses,’ and then there’s been a resistance to permitting the research that shows benefits from these illegal drugs for the concern that that will send the wrong message,” he said.
There was no mention of Crenshaw’s votes against the amendments that were designed to remove a key barrier that has perpetuated that stigmatization. And the congressman did not attempt to address or defend his votes.
This isn’t the first time that Crenshaw’s drug policy comments in a public setting have been at odds with his legislative record.
For example, he made an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast in 2019 and conceded that medical cannabis should be federally legal and states should be empowered to set their own legalization policies. Neither the host nor congressman brought up the fact that he’d recently voted against a House amendment to shield state marijuana laws from federal interference.
Even after the chat with Rogan, Crenshaw again voted against a subsequent version of the marijuana amendment as well as a broader bill to federally legalize cannabis.
Photo courtesy of Pretty Drugthings on Unsplash.