By Hunter Dublin | July 14, 2022
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is attempting to change a must-pass military measure to urge the Department of Defense to investigate the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and MDMA for military service members.
The congresswoman recently introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would expand on a separate provision already attached to the bill in committee. This gives the Department of Defense (DOD) a mandate to research marijuana as an opioid alternative for military members with certain health conditions.
This new amendment is identical to one previously introduced by a divisive Republican lawmaker, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). Although there are significant technical changes, the purpose appears to be the same.
Marijuana Moment reached out to Ocasio Cortez for comment on why she filed an almost similar amendment, but no one was immediately available.
Gaetz, for one, told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday that he and Ocasio-Cortez "had previously united in introducing identical legislation."
"I care about the veterans, not the credit," the congressman stated, adding, "I just hope the Rules committee authorizes a vote in the entire House on one of the amendments."
The original cannabis-focused provision already attached to the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2023 points out who would be able to participate in the marijuana study. which would be limited to service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or "any other condition involving severe pain."
Meanwhile, a new bipartisan amendment to the NDAA seeks to erase the federal sentencing difference between crack and powder cocaine. Similar to a separate bill that passed the House but struggled to proceed in the Senate despite considerable bipartisan support. Now, lawmakers see the military bill as the best vehicle for enacting the reform.
Advocates and industry stakeholders are also thrilled to note that Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is again attempting to attach a bipartisan cannabis banking reform measure to the military bill as an amendment. This comes after congressional leaders agreed not to include the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in a separate, large-scale manufacturing package under consideration by a bicameral conference committee.
The Rules Committee must evaluate all of the numerous drug policy ideas in sequence before they can be considered on the House floor. At a future meeting, which has not yet been set but is slated to take place next week, that panel will decide which requested revisions may be cleared.
Regarding psychedelics, Ocasio-Cortez was an early proponent of change. Offering amendments to appropriations bills twice would have eliminated a congressional rider that is considered problematic because it restricts research into Schedule I narcotics like psilocybin and marijuana.
Gaetz co-sponsored the amendment. However, it was rejected on the floor both times it was introduced. The long-standing restrictive wording is back in the relevant budget measure this year. Still, it remains to be seen if reform-minded members will file another amendment to remove it this time.
Meanwhile, the Armed Services Committee recently accepted a different amendment to the NDAA from Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD). The bill addresses cannabis sentencing standards under military law, requiring the Military Justice Review Panel to "provide recommendations outlining suitable punishment ranges for offenses involving the use and possession of marijuana."