AOC measure to end the war on drugs fails

AOC Lost Another Battle but Sees Progress in Her Campaign to End Drug War

WASHINGTON – Once again, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) saw her effort to remove what’s essentially a federal ban on researching Schedule I drugs defeated. Even though her amendment failed, she made astounding progress on a measure few lawmakers had even heard of two years ago.

On Tuesday night, 140 members of the House — 49 more than supported it in 2019 — voted to do away with a 1996 measure banning the spending of federal dollars on “any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I.”

“For a very long period of time, the United States has and continues to uphold obsolete and old provisions from the war on drugs,” the New York congresswoman implored her colleagues ahead of the vote.

“This provision specifically has for a very long period of time prevented and acted as a barricade to federal research on certain substances — such as psilocybin, MDMA and marijuana — in allowing us to research the applications and potential therapeutic applications of these drugs in the treatment of diseases such as PTSD, addiction and depression.”

AOC’s measure was defeated 140 to 285. Unlike in 2019 – when the measure was defeated 91 to 331 — this time the majority of her fellow Democrats supported it. That’s partly because the congresswoman lobbied her colleagues, like Rep. John Larson (D-CT), these past two years.

“What changed your mind?” The News Station asked the 12-term congressman.  

“I talked to her. She’s very convincing,” Larson said on his way to his car after supporting the measure.

It’s not all AOC, though. Larson’s home state of Connecticut recently approved a study on the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, or magic mushrooms. Oregon voters and even legislators in deep red Texas – where former Gov. Rick Perry came out in favor of a measure to study their impact on veterans – passed measures to study psychedelics, which Larson says shows attitudes have drastically changed on these substances nationwide in just two years.

“Well, I think that was part of it,” Larson said.  

That’s why AOC and her growing number of allies feel it’s truly a new day in Washington when it comes to not just unwinding the ‘war on drugs’ but also now reaping the therapeutic benefits of these long-prohibited substances.

“I think we’re making incremental gains, and I think the potential for a big leap in the near future is quite a reality,” Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL) told The News Station on the steps of the Capitol after the vote. “I’m very optimistic.”  

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

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