GOP Iowa lawmaker proposes decriminalizing psychedelic drugs for medical use

A freshman Republican lawmaker in the Iowa state House has proposed a bill to decriminalize psychedelic drugs, including mushrooms, for medicinal purposes.

State Rep. Jeff Shipley introduced a series of drug-related bills this month, the first legislation of its kind to appear in the Iowa Legislature, the Des Moines Register reported Tuesday.

Shipley, 30, a sauerkraut salesman, said he is fulfilling a campaign promise to introduce the drug bills.

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“I’m doing what I told people I was going to do,” Shipley told the newspaper. “The voters in my district, they’re going to give me a high-five.”

Shipley said he believes Iowans, including those recovering from drug addictions and other ailments, could benefit from having drugs that are currently illegal be available for medicinal purposes.

“When I was kind of daydreaming on like, ‘Why do I even want to be in the Legislature, why do I want to be a part of the office?’ It was this issue,” Shipley said.

One of his proposals would allow the state pharmacy board to reclassify ibogaine, psilocybin and MDMA, also known as ecstasy, for medicinal purposes and remove penalties.

Psilocybin is the psychedelic compound produced in mushrooms. Supporters of decriminalizing the agent point to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health that found the drug can contribute to reduced psychological distress and suicidal thoughts. 

The Iowa lawmaker said he believes MDMA could benefit veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Research conducted on veterans and first responders has supported that theory. 

Shipley acknowledged that his bills are “very controversial” and “elicit a lot of feelings,” but told the newspaper that his Republican colleagues are keeping an open mind.

Iowa state Rep. Jared Klein (R), who is chair of the House Public Safety Committee, told the Register that he does not expect Shipley’s drug bills to advance in the legislature soon.

"I haven't gotten an email from a constituent. I haven't received a phone call or had a discussion with anybody in the medical field saying that, 'We need to have access to this,'" he said. "It just seems like an idea from one legislator that they wanted to propose as law. Which is their prerogative, but that's all it is at this point."

Denver voters will likely have an opportunity this year to decide whether to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms on a ballot measure.

Psilocybin and MDMA are both Schedule 1 substances under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act, meaning that the U.S. government considers them susceptible to potential abuse with no widely accepted medical use. Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD and bath salts.

Marijuana is also considered a Schedule 1 substance by the federal government,  however 10 states and the District of Columbia has legalized recreational pot. Thirty-three states have legalized medical marijuana.

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