Congressional Researchers Highlight Rift Between State-Level, Federal Drug Laws

Dozens of states have launched medical and recreational cannabis industries over the past two decades amid a wave of drug reform that has swept across the country. In the past couple of years, reformists in several states have also begun campaigns to legalize, or at least decriminalize, psychedelic drugs as initial research has shown that those drugs have potential as mental health treatments.

However, while states are increasingly adopting permissive drug policies, federal law still bans the production, distribution and use of drugs such as cannabis and psychedelics even though millions of people across the country now use them either recreationally or therapeutically.

This mismatch between state and federal law has been a bone of contention for reform activists, lawmakers and players in these emerging industries. The situation has created numerous challenges to both businesses and consumers who use or would like to use cannabis and psychedelics.

Congressional researchers recently called attention to the growing rift between state and federal-level drug laws as more states begin pursuing psychedelic drug reform. Released last week, the Congressional Research Service report focused on the federal Controlled Substances Act, which currently outlaws drugs such as psychedelics and cannabis, classifying them in the same class as heroin and cocaine.

The report noted that while Congress had always had the authority to challenge these federal drug laws, it had declined to do so on multiple occasions. As a result, the report noted, the already wide gap between federal and state law had continued to expand as more states chose to loosen their own drug policies.

With states such as Oregon and Colorado moving to legalize the use of certain psychedelics for adults for mostly medical reasons, this gap is widening even further. On top of that, lawmakers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oklahoma are also pursuing psychedelic reform in 2023. 

The Congressional report also stated that while the gap between federal and state cannabis regulation was well-known, other Schedules I controlled substances such as psilocybin seemed to be developing a similar gap in regulation. Even as more states look to legalize or decriminalize psychedelic drugs, any change they make to their respective drug policies will have no effect on the federal Controlled Substances Act, which currently outlaws psychedelic drugs.

According to the report, this disconnect between drug laws at the federal and state level has led to “collateral consequences” for people who take part in state-legal cannabis markets, such as difficulties accessing financial aid, federal benefits, assisted housing, firearms and employment.

This drive to reform psychedelic drug policy is in part being driven by the research being undertaken by startups such as Compass Pathways PLC. (NASDAQ: CMPS) leading to the demonstration of many therapeutic possibilities involving these substances.

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