#106 The Great Drug Dance
Today I want to think about how various international drug policies can impact American drug policy. For decades, U.S. drug policy has been the de facto standard for most other countries. The U.S. goes so far to even give money to other countries to help them fight their own war on drugs. But times are changing outside of American borders, and these recent developments might help change drug policy in the U.S.
Thailand, for example, just announced it’s going to grow psilocybin mushrooms and clinically test them in Thai universities for their potential therapeutic value. Thai officials say they’re going to reconsider the scheduling of psilocybin depending on how the research goes. This announcement comes off the heels of Thailand legalizing cannabis in June 2022 and giving away one million cannabis plants to their citizens.
Within the last 10 years or so, we’ve seen most American states legalize cannabis for medicinal or personal use or both, snubbing federal law. (Note: cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug.) Other countries began following American states’ footsteps, allowing their own cannabis production and consumption measures. American researchers, in recent years, have also shared the spearhead spotlight regarding psychedelics for use in psychotherapy. With this news of Thailand getting into the psychedelics game, it seems pressure is mounting from outside of American borders. Americans and other nationalities already fly to Central and South America for treatments involving psychedelic substances. It seems many countries and their citizens are questioning the drug laws imposed upon them over 50 years ago by the U.S. government. What’s more, the current American government is scratching its head too about their own arcane laws.
A recent letter between the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and a U.S. Congresswoman shows that the Biden administration is looking to legalize MDMA and psilocybin therapy for those seeking novel treatments and likely for specific segments of the population. This is supposed to happen within the next two years. This is my point exactly for writing today’s stream: just as other countries didn’t want to be left behind American cannabis companies dominating the market, so too, American companies don’t want to lag behind international competitors in terms of psychedelic development and use in clinical settings. It doesn’t make sense anymore for Americans to go abroad for psychedelic-assisted therapies, morally, but especially financially, speaking. I don’t believe the U.S. government legalizes psychedelic therapy out of kindness to others; rather, they see there’s a buck to be made and they can earn tax revenue by offering legal therapy within American borders, and perhaps attracting foreigners to the same treatments, especially if such treatments are reputable and cutting-edge. Other countries must be thinking similarly.
We’re living in interesting and accelerated times. I like seeing this back-and-forth, yet tip-toed, dance between international actors, drug laws, academic research, conferences, popular culture, and how and where money moves between public and private interests. It’s moving so quickly it’s hard to keep up. The future of psychedelic research, consumption, and opinion is forming right before our eyes. What is thought, said, and done – individually and collectively – will shape our future relationship with these drugs.