It’s not often that losing a vote can be considered a success, but in drug policy it can be important to take a few lumps to educate people and build support. Oregon voters voted down legalizing medical cannabis dispensaries twice before advocates managed to pass a bill in the state legislator. Oregonians turned away the first two attempts at ending prohibition, in 1986 and 2012, before over 56% of voters passed Measure 91 in 2014. At the national level, the budget amendment preventing the federal government from arresting and prosecuting medical cannabis patients and providers following their states’ law didn’t pass until the seventh attempt, losing 152 to 273 when it was first introduced in 2003, before finally passing with 219 votes in 2014. Demonstrating progress, an amendment by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to allow federal funding of psychedelic research recently lost 140-285, two years after failing to even garner 100 votes, losing 93-331. Marijuana Moment has the details:
“Most Democrats supported the amendment this round, unlike in 2019 when a majority of Ocasio-Cortez’s party joined Republicans in quashing the reform.
“The proposal, if adopted, would have removed a 1990s-era provision that’s long been part of spending legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The rider bars use of funds for ‘any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I’ of the Controlled Substances Act, language that reform supporters say can have a chilling effect on even researching the therapeutic potential of restricted drugs.
“Despite the growth in Democratic support over the past two years, enough members of the party helped take the measure down during Tuesday’s vote. Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet that ‘we got a little closer to ending this outdated war-on-drugs-era policy last night’ and pledged that she will ‘keep bringing it up until the times catch up.'”
With the medical psychedelic revolution just getting started, the education of elected officials, who are just now starting to catch up with the times on cannabis, is going to take a lot of work and time. Just seven Republicans supported the amendment, with one GOP representative moving from a “no” vote to a “yes” while a whopping 45 Democrats moved to the right side of history in 2021 after opposing the research provision in 2019. As more research is conducted and psilocybin, MDMA, and other treatment therapies become more mainstream, we can expect more and more “yes” votes on AOC’s amendment, until passage eventually occurs. Representative Ocasio-Cortez should be commended for leading on this important issue as should everyone that has joined her, including those that changed their vote after learning more.
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