“The key to doing that is getting the right people in front of the right constituencies,” he said.
Decriminalization advocates have made remarkable progress over the past two years. Last month Seattle embraced the decriminalization of psilocybin and other plant-based psychoactive drugs, and Michigan and several other cities across the country are poised to do the same.
State Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who sponsored California’s psilocybin measure, said he had been surprised by how readily some opponents changed their minds. “Veterans are very, very compelling messengers,” he said.
But as psychedelics have gained acceptance among mental health professionals, even enthusiastic supporters of decriminalization acknowledge the potential perils of doing so without adequate regulation or professional guidance. Overdoses are rare, and the compounds are not considered addictive, but experts stress the importance of chaperoned drug trips given anecdotal reports about adverse reactions among people with serious disorders like schizophrenia.
At first glance, former military personnel might seem unlikely champions for illegal, mind-altering drugs that many Americans associate with the countercultural peaceniks of the 1960s and 1970s. But veterans have become powerful emissaries for psychedelics across the political spectrum.
Juliana Mercer, a Marine Corps veteran from San Diego who helps connect former service members to psychedelic therapies, says her lobbying efforts are especially useful with Republican legislators who often harbor antidrug attitudes but hold veterans in high esteem.
“It helps that I’m not some stereotypical hippie doing LSD for fun,” she said. “But I think our voices are impactful because we’ve put our lives on the line for our country, and after 20 years of war, we need help healing because nothing has worked so far.”
Recent converts include Rick Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, who earlier this year returned to the State Capitol to join Democratic lawmakers promoting a bill to authorize the clinical study of psilocybin. The bill passed both legislative chambers in June, and became law.
Source: NY Times