U.S. Psychedelic Drug Legalization: Urgency or Inertia?

Why is near-term legalization of (some) psychedelic drugs in the U.S. a legitimate possibility? Because the Mental Health Crisis is now threatening the political interests of the Dinosaurs of Congress.

The psychedelic drug industry continues to march onward and upward.

Investment capital continues to flood into the industry. The news flow among psychedelic drug companies is robust and positive.

Drug development continues. Related IP initiatives are taking off. And more public companies are moving into mental health treatment – via psychedelics-assisted clinics.

One question is more-than-a-little relevant: where can/will these next-generation psychedelic drugs be used (and sold), once they begin emerging from the clinical trials process?

A few smaller jurisdictions (like the Netherlands and Jamaica) have already liberalized laws. Outside of that, drug Prohibition remains in effect at the national level in other jurisdictions.

In North America, clarity is beginning to emerge in Canada. Health Canada has begun granting medical exemptions for the legal use of psilocybin (for medical purposes). Its language and behavior indicate a rapid thawing toward psilocybin on the regulatory front.

Presumably, other psychedelic drugs will also start to emerge from the shadows of Prohibition in Canada. Progressive and rational.

U.S. Congress and its ivory tower politicians

The U.S. political system, on the other hand, is an entirely different political beast.

With their gerrymandered political districts mostly insulated from the voters they (supposedly) represent, Washington politicians can rarely find time from their petty partisan feuding to actually do anything.

This is what we have seen with the legal cannabis industry.

The American people want legal cannabis. U.S. states want legal cannabis (at least for medicinal purposes).

But the people don’t count (in Washington). And Congress rarely chooses to work with the states on a cooperative basis.

Cannabis legalization continues to be lost-and-submerged in the swamp that is Washington politics. Legal cannabis companies cannot even open a simple bank account in most cannabis-legal states.

Is the picture the same with respect to the Psychedelics Revolution?

Here, we see some very different social, economic and political dynamics with psychedelic drugs in comparison to cannabis. Specifically, the need for legal reform of psychedelic drugs is so incredibly acute that the dysfunctional senior citizens of Congress may actually be forced to act.

The triple-crisis that psychedelics legalization could address

Social crisis

The social crisis for which legalized psychedelic drugs are urgently needed can be summed up in three words: Mental Health Crisis.

Over 1 billion people globally (roughly 1 out of 6 people) currently suffer from four mental health disorders: substance abuse, depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, rates for (in particular) substance abuse, depression and anxiety are spiraling out of control. For every person on the planet who has been infected with COVID, there are ten other people currently afflicted by substance abuse, depression, anxiety or PTSD.

COVID has a low mortality rate and (for most people) quickly passes.

Mental health disorders also kill – via drug overdoses and suicides. But they tend to be life sentences, due to the woefully inadequate treatment options currently available.

Psychedelic drugs can literally revolutionize the treatment of these conditions, according to all evidence to date from clinical trials. They are essentially the penicillin of mental health care.

Presumably, even a collection of petty, self-absorbed Dinosaurs can see the urgency of legalizing the equivalent of the next antibiotics.

Economic crisis

When the current COVID political circus finally winds down, most governments around the world will be forced to confront shattered economies and (effectively) bankrupt treasuries.

When that day arrives, politicians (even Congressional dinosaurs) will be forced to address two words currently forgotten: fiscal management.

Naturally, the Mental Health Crisis that currently afflicts over 1 billion people also has enormous economic costs.

– Mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability.
– The Mental Health Crisis currently costs the global economy over $1 trillion per year – in lost productivity alone.
– In the United States, $300 billion per year is squandered on mental health services, with very little to show for it.

Most mental health care today generally implies little more than providing the equivalent of emotional bandages for the afflicted. Only a small minority are ever cured of their disorders.

Psychedelic drug research shows the clear potential to provide genuine healing for these sufferers. And an economic study by MAPS (on MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD) shows the potential for enormous cost savings on treatment – as well as far superior outcomes.

Legalizing psychedelic drugs would begin to reduce the enormous productivity losses associated with mental health disorders. Psychedelics also show enormous potential to either dramatically reduce spending on mental health, or simply deliver far, far better results from this spending.

Win, win.

Political crisis

If legalizing psychedelic drugs in the United States was ‘only’ about helping 10s of millions of Americans and saving $100s of billions per year, advocates for psychedelics legalization might still be pessimistic about their chances.

In recent years, Congress has generally seemed quite happy to fiddle as Rome burns. But there is one political consideration that even Congressional dinosaurs rarely ignore: supporting the military.

“National defense” is not only a reliable vote-getter among the American people. Keeping the defense industry strong is also a tried-and-true tactic of U.S. politicians to keep their own campaign coffers full.

The U.S. military doesn’t merely have a mental health “crisis” in its ranks. It is dealing with a mental health catastrophe.

Over 73,000 suicides in just the last 14 years (four times as many as have actually died on active duty)
PTSD at double-digit rates among personnel who have served in one of the U.S.’s recent wars
Two-thirds of veterans receiving treatment for PTSD from the Department of Defense express dissatisfaction with their treatment

As the DoD deals with this catastrophe within its ranks, it has to confront another bleak reality. Roughly 70% of Young Americans are deemed to be unfit for military service.

The DoD can’t afford this horrific attrition rate among current military personnel – because there have never been less Americans available as replacements. MAPS’ MDMA-based treatment for PTSD has generated positive clinical results for ~90% of those participating in the study.

Here the politics gets really simple.

Fast-tracking MDMA legalization?

How long after the first Republican stands up in Congress to question the commitment of the Democrats towards “the combat readiness of the U.S. military” and “national security” before the Democrats get busy on psychedelic drug reform?

A month? A week? A day?

Republicans and Democrats are “reliable” in at least one respect. They can always be counted upon to look after their own political interests.

It’s not like Republicans and Democrats are incapable of moving quickly – when they want to. When it comes to delivering handouts to Wall Street, that generally takes Congress less time than it takes to say “delivering handouts to Wall Street.”

In its own appraisal of the prospects of psychedelics legalization in the United States, Rolling Stone magazine referred to this as “a very long game”.

Psychedelic Stock Watch disagrees. Democrats and Republicans simply don’t have the luxury of playing their usual “long game” here.

Members of Congress might want to take note: with its $27 million contribution for psychedelic drug research, the DoD is the world’s largest individual donor for psychedelic drug research.

The FDA is currently fast-tracking not one but two psychedelic drug therapies via its Breakthrough Therapy Designation. One of those is MAPS’ Phase 3 clinical trial using MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD.

Legalization of MDMA in the United States (for medicinal use) remains a very achievable near-term goal for the psychedelic drug industry.

Once one of these previously prohibited drugs is legalized – and the U.S. federal government is forced to implicitly acknowledge the stupidity/futility of its War on Drugs – resistance to other drug reform should rapidly dissipate.

Cannabis legalization obviously remains “a very long game” among disinterested Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

However, with respect to psychedelic drug legalization, the Winds of Change are blowing.

Even in Washington.

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