Democratic, Republican and independent 2024 presidential candidates might disagree on many major political issues, but three hopefuls have each recently used their platform on the campaign trail to promote their visions for psychedelics reform.
Marianne Williamson, who is running for the Democratic nomination against incumbent President Joe Biden, has released a comprehensive drug policy platform that broadly condemns prohibition, pledging to legalize “less harmful drugs” including marijuana and psilocybin while providing free access to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to treat drug addiction.
Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy reaffirmed his more modest position last week, calling for the decriminalization of ayahuasca and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to mitigate the suicide crisis.
Meanwhile, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who left the Democratic primary to run as an independent candidate, is sharing why he’s embraced allowing access to psychedelics for mental health treatment, describing how his son’s experience with ayahuasca helped him process the death of his mother.
It’s a uniquely 2024 commonality among the otherwise divided candidates, underscoring the increased bipartisan interest in exploring the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Each candidate had previously expressed support for psychedelics reform, but recent statements and campaign materials add context to how they view the issue and how they envision implementing change if they beat the political odds to get elected to the White House.
The Democratic candidate released a new drug policy platform last week, emphasizing the need for bold reform to tackle the overdose epidemic.
“The War on Drugs has completely failed to alleviate the problem it supposedly set out to solve,” she said. “It has only created more problems, fueling mass incarceration and violence at home and abroad.”
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Williamson also said that it’s something of a misnomer to say the drug war has “failed,” arguing that it achieved racially discriminatory and political end goals of the Nixon administration “as intended.”
“If we are actually interested in solving drug problems, we must recognize that drug addiction is a symptom of the wider malaise in our society, and punishing people for it does nothing to address its root causes,” she said. “Furthermore, every adult deserves the right to control what they put in their own body, as long as they are not harming anyone else.”
The candidate’s plan lays out four drug policy “pillars” that she said would save lives and preserve individual liberties:
- End prohibition by decriminalizing certain drugs. Williamson said she would “immediately” direct the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “reschedule” them and then use her executive authority to grant pardons for people with federal drug possession convictions on their records.She said she’d further nominate heads of DEA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who would help her move to legalize and regulate marijuana and psilocybin. And after building up treatment and harm reduction services, she’d move to decriminalize possession of all currently illicit drugs.”Addiction is a health issue, not a criminal one, and people suffering from it need help, not incarceration,” she said. “Prohibitionist policies do not work, and every adult deserves the right to do what they want with their own body as long as they don’t harm others. That means no one should be locked in a cage for experimenting with drugs or becoming addicted to them.”
- Promote harm reduction policies and services. Williamson said that should involve establishing safe supplies of government-regulated drugs for people who are at high risk of overdose, and it also means creating safe consumption sites where people can use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.”This would not only save many lives—it would also solve the issue of public drug use on the street,” she said, adding that harm reduction also means abandoning prohibitionist policies on currently regulated substances such as proposed restrictions on certain types of nicotine products.
- Divert money from drug war enforcement to free treatment. After implementing harm reduction programs, she said she would move to redirect funds away from drug criminalization to fund a “national network of world-class treatment and recovery services available to all for free.” That could also involve government-funded “psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for addiction using psilocybin and ibogaine,” Williamson said. “Recovery programs will also include education, housing, and job support—including loans to start worker cooperatives—and this point connects with policy.”
- Address the root causes of addiction. Substance misuse, the candidate said, is “merely a symptom of an underlying malaise,” so she would “help create a society in which the rampant despair that is killing so many people does not exist.” She added that “when every American has a right to housing, food, education, childcare, healthcare (including mental healthcare), a good union job, and all other necessities, then far fewer people will become addicted to harmful drugs.”
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At a recent campaign event in Iowa, the Republican candidate spoke with an attendee who voiced support for the therapeutic use of certain psychedelics. Ramaswamy said that he agreed there’s a need to make plant-based medicines available, though he wants to start with veterans suffering from PTSD.
“What was whacky yesterday is true today. That’s what history teaches us,” he said.
Ramaswamy, whose overall drug policy platform has evolved in several, sometimes conflicting, ways over his campaign—including backing federal marijuana legalization while voting against a cannabis initiative on Ohio’s ballot—said in an X post last week that he supports “decriminalizing ayahuasca & ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD, to prevent the epidemic of fentanyl & suicide.”
“As President, I will take a holistic approach to ensure our veterans receive the care they need to live long, flourishing lives—starting during their service and continuing in the decades that follow,” he said.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
The Democratic-turned-independent candidate has been vocal about his support for expanding therapeutic access to psychedelics since entering the race, and he shared one of the personal reasons he’s come to embrace the reform during an appearance at a Genius Network event last week.
Kennedy, who has proposed legalizing marijuana and psychedelics and using tax revenue from their sales to fund holistic treatment centers, said that he was moved by his son’s experience with ayahuasca.
“My inclination would be to make them available, at least in therapeutic settings and maybe more generally, but in ways that would discourage the corporate control and exploitation of it,” he said.
After his wife’s death by suicide, Kennedy said that his son struggled to process the trauma. But on a trip to Patagonia, he participated in an ayahuasca ceremony that proved psychologically healing, helping him come to terms with the loss after a profound journey that involved interplanetary exploration.
“The last planet he visited, his mother was there. And she started passing through him, in and out of him again and again and every time she did that, he felt all these experiences of forgiveness, of love, of understanding, of comprehension, of empathy and compassion,” Kennedy recalled. “When he came back from that trip, he was completely changed. He was very open about talking about his feelings, [but] the reason I really know that it changed him is he started taking out the garbage and doing the dishes.”
The candidate added that he also knows a Navy SEAL veterans and NFL players who have gone through psychedelic experiences that have helped them deal with conditions such as PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
The comments and platforms offer more examples of the growing bipartisanship around psychedelics reform, which has also seen Democratic and Republican congressional lawmakers come together to support research into their therapeutic use.
* This article was originally published by Marijuana Moment.
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