Michigan lawmakers are calling on the U.S. Congress, Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prioritize research and investment in “non-technology treatment options”—including psychedelics—to treat psychological trauma from military service.
A concurrent resolution passed Wednesday by the state Senate says that “controlled use of psychedelics in clinical trials,” along with approaches like outdoor therapy, buddy-to-buddy programs and easier access to service animals, “have shown promise to help veterans improve their mental health and find a new normal while dealing with the invisible wounds of war and service.”
House lawmakers passed the resolution in June. No action is required from the governor.
Copies will be sent to leadership of the U.S. House and Senate, the chairs and ranking members of federal committees on veterans affairs and Michigan’s congressional representatives. One of those is Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI), one of two founding members of the Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Therapies (PATH) Caucus, which was relaunched earlier this year.
The three-page resolution notes that Michigan ranks 11th out of all U.S. states and territories in terms of veteran population, with more than 550,000 living in the state as of 2021. “However,” it adds, “between 2016 and 2020, it was reported that there were 882 Michigan veterans who died by suicide.”
Rep. Jennifer Conlin (D), who sponsored the measure, said in a press release in June following House passage that “it’s so important that we provide veterans with the support they need and deserve.”
“I appreciate all the veterans and advocates who have spoken out about the need for better mental health resources for veterans,” she said. “There are so many options available now to improve veterans’ mental health—from psychedelic-assisted therapy to outdoor therapy to access to service animals.”
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While psychedelics remain illegal in Michigan itself, at least four local jurisdictions have passed measures decriminalizing plant- and fungi-based psychedelics, including substances such as psilocybin and psilocin, ayahuasca and DMT. In March, the city of Ferndale became the latest to pass such a measure, joining Detroit, Ann Arbor and Hazel Park.
Oregon and Colorado, meanwhile, have each adopted statewide laws allowing legal access to psilocybin and certain other psychedelics.
In Oregon, regulators this spring accepted the nation’s first state-licensed facilitators to administer psilocybin to adults at the regulated facilities, as well as a testing laboratory for the psychedelic. Regulators also approved the first-ever state-issued license for a psilocybin manufacturer in March.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), meanwhile, signed a psychedelics regulation bill into law in May, setting rules for a psychedelics legalization law that voters passed last year. Regulations largely focus on use of the substances in licensed healing centers under the guidance of facilitators.
California is on track to become the third state to enact similar reforms. State lawmakers passed a psychedelics legalization bill this week that now awaits action by the governor.
As individual states continue to push ahead with psychedelics reform the federal government has made comparatively slow progress in evaluating and approving the substances for therapeutic use.
Earlier this year, House lawmakers passed a spending bill with a number of veteran-focused marijuana and psychedelics amendments. One would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to former servicemembers, and the other would encourage research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
At the time, Bergman said that Congress “can’t afford to play politics with Veterans’ lives,” and that the reforms move VA “closer to funding psychedelic assisted therapy studies.”
“We are suffering from a mental health crisis in our Nation, and Veterans and servicemembers are right at the forefront of this struggle,” Bergman said at the time. “This amendment will help steer the federal government towards providing better options to help our Veterans overcome their battles, and it represents an historic leap in federally-backed research on potential cures for PTSD.”
President Joe Biden’s (D) brother, Frank Biden, said in June that the president is “very open minded” about the use of psychedelics to treat addiction, though he declined to discuss details of their conversations on the topic.
Three bipartisan House members also recently sent a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough expressing “deep concern” over a recently updated VA marijuana directive that continues to prohibit its doctors from making medical cannabis recommendations to veterans living in states where it’s legal.
The letter also points out that, prior to VA releasing the directive earlier this month, they successfully championed an amendment to a House appropriations bill that would allow the department’s doctors to recommend medical cannabis to veterans. The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed a similar reform as part of its version of the appropriations legislation.
Legislation to enact the policy change also previously advanced through both chambers but has not been enacted into law. In 2016, the House and Senate both adopted different versions of the reform in their spending bills—but neither made it into the final conference report following negotiations.
A state audit last month, however, said cannabis regulators are falling behind on disciplinary action for marijuana business violations.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.
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