Legalizing Psychedelics - A Conversation with Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Amy Pomeroy
In this episode of The Brian Nichols Show, we speak with criminal justice policy analyst Amy Pomeroy about the movement to legalize psychedelics.
We explore the arguments in favor of legalization, including the potential for psychedelics to be used as a treatment for mental health conditions, the cultural and spiritual significance of these substances, and the impact on the criminal justice system.
We also discuss the challenges and hurdles that must be overcome in order for legalization to be successful, and consider the future of psychedelic use for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Join us for a thought-provoking conversation about the complexities of psychedelic policy and the possibilities for a brighter future.
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Brian Nichols 0:12
is 2023, the year of psychedelic legalization? Let's talk about that. Instead of focusing on winning arguments, we're teaching the basic fundamentals of sales and marketing and how we can use them to win in the world of politics, teaching you how to meet people where they're at on the issues they care about. Welcome to The Brian Nichols Show. Wow, happy Monday. Happy Thursday. I think you're on The Brian Nichols Show. And thank you for joining us on of course, another con of build episode I am as always, your humble host, when you live from our Stratus ip studios, you're in lovely Eastern Indiana, don't let cyber attacks or outdated Business Technology, put your company at risk. Learn more at the Brian Nichols show.com forward slash Stratus ip so last year, we talked about psychedelics and that we had a couple of episodes where we've talked about the improvements in in using them as therapeutics but also the means that they've been used to help those traditionally who have not had their their issues that they've been dealing with, medically dealt with. And when you're looking specifically at our friends, in the veteran community, we've seen a lot of issues there and psychedelics being a really great tool to help really serve as some types of means of relief and to join us today talking about the legalization aspect of things, joining us from the Libertas Institute, Amy Pomeroy Amy, thanks for joining here, The Brian Nichols Show.
Amy Pomeroy 1:39
Thanks so much for having me, Brian. It's great to be here.
Brian Nichols 1:41
Absolutely. Amy, thank you for joining us looking forward to today's conversation. And yes, we are talking about the point where we are right now psychedelics have improved in the narrative, right? The narrative standpoint, this has been the hardest part we've talked about this in the show many times with past guests, is getting past the narratives of yesteryear and talk about what the advancements in that not just the technology, but also in the ability to talk about psychedelics has gotten us to where we are today, but I'm putting the cart before the horse. Amy, first, do us a favor, introduce yourself to The Brian Nichols Show audience, and also why we're gonna be talking about psychedelic legalization today.
Amy Pomeroy 2:21
So my name is Amy Pomeroy, I work for the Libertas Institute here in Utah. I'm the director of policy, I work mostly on criminal justice reform, and one of our most pressing most exciting criminal justice reforms is we are planning to bring some legislation this session to Utah, which would legalize psilocybin for medical uses.
Brian Nichols 2:42
So talk to us about the stuff I'm sure you're facing from some challenges, right. And we talked about this in the past, but what are you currently experiencing the main challenges that are you're facing legally, but also societally?
Amy Pomeroy 2:55
So like you mentioned, I mean, there's a lot of baggage when you say the word psychedelics, people probably picture you know, some tie dye, and I don't know, maybe some crazy 60s behavior. But even though drugs escaped the lab, back in the 60s, there's really a lot of strong science showing that psychedelics, especially psilocybin, work really well, for legitimate medical purposes. Johns Hopkins has done some great research showing how it helps people with depression, and with end of life anxiety. And you know, they're taking one or two doses of psilocybin, and they're finding that they're getting relief that lasts months, potentially indefinitely, right. And this is so much different than the anti anxiety medications, the SSRIs that are currently on the market that you take every day, you generally see diminishing returns after time, for a lot of people, they're never affected in the first place. So this could really be a game changer for a lot of people who are suffering.
Brian Nichols 3:53
Talk to us about what you're seeing, I guess, is some of the main Pro on psychedelics. I know, again, using that term, but the pro psychedelic arguments that you could see, is there anything that really has come out recently that's leading more in the favor?
Amy Pomeroy 4:09
I think one thing that's helping is that the slow progression, it's becoming more and more normalized. There have been a number of books and articles, how to change your mind is a great book, it recently became a Netflix documentary, and it's really bringing that awareness to the current state of science that's helping change minds that and we've seen a lot of cities decriminalized psilocybin and other psychedelics and then in 2020, Oregon legalized psilocybin, as well as other drugs. And then just a couple months ago, in Colorado, there was a ballot measure, legalizing psilocybin, as well as a couple other psychedelics. And so you're really seeing the narrative become more mainstream, and a lot of people who maybe would have instantly shut it out are realizing, hey, the narrative I know about drugs doesn't necessarily apply to psilocybin. There's a lot more nuance there, right like hair When it's not the same, this math is not the same as LSD is not the same as psilocybin. Right? We can't lump them all together.
Brian Nichols 5:06
What are some common questions that you often get asked? Because I mean, right? This is not necessarily a weird topic, but it's just a topic that has not been allowed. It feels like for so many years, so I'm sure a lot of folks have some questions for you. So what are some of the top questions you could ask Danny,
Amy Pomeroy 5:22
that's one of the things I hear most is are psychedelic safe, psilocybin safe. And the researcher is really interesting, because you almost can't eat enough psilocybin to overdose. They've never had a human reported death from a psilocybin overdose. And when they've tested it on animals, it takes a very large amount to kill a rat or a mouse. And if you translate that into human terms, basically, you'd have to go at any several pounds of dried psilocybin mushrooms to overdose. And if you've ever eaten a dry mushroom, Misha talkie or anything, like you're not going to want to eat three pounds of that you would have to try very hard to overdose. So it's really safe in terms of toxicity and also in terms of mental health. In the 60s, you know, there are kind of these stories of, you're gonna lose your mind. And that's pretty much all been debunked, right? It's not going to make you go crazy. It's not going to kill you. It's one of the safest psychoactive substances we have.
Brian Nichols 6:20
And you were talking about earlier, some of the the means by using psychedelics to help deal with depression, anxiety, all of our mental health issues. Could you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Amy Pomeroy 6:32
Yeah. I'd like to start by telling an anecdote about a man I met in, in my work for psilocybin. His name's Eric, he was a veteran, he served in Afghanistan, he served in Iraq, he was a pilot. And after doing five tours, he was forced to resign because of a medical issue, he had had an inner ear issue, he couldn't fly anymore. And so after that, he just kind of felt adrift. Plus, he had all this, you know, trauma from being in the military for so many years. And he was diagnosed with PTSD, he was diagnosed with depression, his family just really noticed a change in him that he wasn't the same happy, outgoing person he'd always been. He went to a doctor who gave him an SSRI. He tried it. And he really just noticed those diminishing returns that it wasn't working for him, he kind of was getting getting desperate. And he decided that he needed to grow some psilocybin and give that a try. And he did. And it just, it changed his whole perspective, he hasn't been depressed, since he's overcome his PTSD, he doesn't have to be on SSRIs anymore. Like it was really pretty life changing for him, and just a few doses. And when you consider the rates of suicide among our vets, it's 37 per 100,000. I mean, that's well above what it is for the rest of the population. It's kind of I think it's just unconscionable that we're not making this available to people, when we know they're such a problem.
Brian Nichols 7:56
Yeah, so excuse me, we were talking about earlier, the more acceptance from the mainstream. What do you think's leading to that? Is it more that we're talking about the use of psychedelics openly, or people are seeing friends they know, seeing the benefit firsthand, and now hearing about it versus only seeing that one narrative?
Amy Pomeroy 8:17
I think it's, I think there's two things there, right, there's the science to back it up, there's been a lot more funding for science, regarding this, it's become much more mainstream. With psilocybin, they're on phase three trials of psilocybin. So I mean, it's, it's getting there. It's becoming, like I said, more mainstream. And then the other part is the anecdotes, right. This used to be something that was very, very hush hush. And now people are more willing to talk about it and share their experiences. regardless of it being illegal, lots of people are using it. And chances are, you probably know somebody who has tried psilocybin. And so I think that's changing a lot of minds when you say that, hey, here's someone I just talked to a real human, and they've used psilocybin and you know what, they just seem like a normal human being, they're not off their rocker, everything's fine. And maybe they're even better than they used to be.
Brian Nichols 9:06
asked some of our friends, we've done some candidate trainings for different state and county parties for different political organizations here I've said if you want to talk to folks, and relate to them, like a normal person, we got to act like a normal person. We are not talk to us about what you're seeing is some of the big roadblocks still in the way in order to get this legalization process moving.
Amy Pomeroy 9:30
Honestly, in Utah, things are going really well. We've got a sponsor for her bill, right. And I was really surprised because I've reached out to a lot of the law enforcement agencies and things and I was expecting to have to do some pretty hard selling. And for the most part, what I'm hearing is, you know, as long as this is for medical uses, and there's reasonable guardrails around it, we don't want to get in between patients and their doctors. And so I think our biggest roadblock right now is maybe ignorance right? There's there is a second One of the population who just hasn't heard about this, it's not on their radar. And it can't take some. It takes some energy to educate. But I think we're making strides in that.
Brian Nichols 10:11
Now, you talked about the medical side of things. What about the recreational side of things? I'm sure that there will inevitably be that slippery slope argument, right? You look at medical cannabis, medical marijuana, that's turned into recreational marijuana across the country. So the logic would state standard reason at least, that maybe that is the next logical progression here.
Amy Pomeroy 10:35
I mean, it's a it's a valid point, because some states that have legalized medical cannabis and then gone to recreational cannabis here in Utah, we just have medical cannabis. And our program has actually been pretty successful at you know, putting guardrails around that so we can still tell what's legal, and what's illegal. And we're actually building on that successful framework for psilocybin, right, we're going to follow a lot of the same processes that have been used with cannabis. And so we don't have to recreate the wheel, it's not going to be super expensive for taxpayers to recreate this whole framework. And we're gonna be able to provide this to people medically and safely. And frankly, when you talk about recreational use, that is happening already, and it's happening, why is widely and that's what's sad to me is that's where the danger comes from. Before I came to Libertas, I was a prosecutor. And I had one case where someone wanted to use psilocybin responsibly. And they invited their friend to come watch over them, and he ended up, you know, kind of trying to sexually assault her while he was, you know, under the influence, and she didn't know what to do. She was a professional with no training, or she wasn't a professional, she had no training. And so by medicalizing this people who want to use it can use it in a responsible way. Whereas right now, they're getting stuff on the black market. They don't know what's in it. They don't know how strong it is. They don't know if it's pure, and they don't have adequate supervision. And so that's really making it illegal is what's causing problems and danger.
Brian Nichols 12:01
Well, and this is, this is the argument we hear all the time, right for why the War on Drugs has consistently failed. So it just stands to reason as well, that it will continue to fail in this area as well. So I guess, to those detractors, to those naysayers of what seems like the inevitable I talk to us, I guess in terms of what are their main concerns, what are they bringing up? Do you think, Amy, but think of XYZ?
Amy Pomeroy 12:28
I mean, there's always the Think of the children, right? We don't want to falling
Brian Nichols 12:31
into the children, Amy, come on, do you hate
Amy Pomeroy 12:34
children and puppy dogs and rainbows? No. So we I mean, this, our bill is only for people who are 21 and older, and we've got a pretty strict inventory control system has to be recommended by a physician or someone with prescribing authority, it has to be used in an office with a trained therapist. So really, the possibility of diversion is just not there. And I also think you have the added benefit of when it becomes more mainstream medically, you're going to increase people's ability to talk about this openly and educate people, including children about, hey, this is a useful medicine, you don't want to use it because your brain is still growing. And it really opens up a possibility for open and honest dialogue that doesn't exist right now.
Brian Nichols 13:13
Away from just like the psychedelic conversation in general. But I mean, how damaging really has it been, for generations of the stigmas that we put around certain very useful drugs that are not your pharmaceutical drugs, so they don't have the the folks in the fancy white lab coats giving their their trademark seal of approval. But you know, rather than might be the guy with the, like, the shawl rug, in the big beard, you know, and the hippie glasses that gives you gives you marijuana and that that was like, I think that right, there has been something that we've had to face. And I say we just like as a society, right like this, is there's so much that we have missed out on and I mean, we go through every commercial for every pharmaceutical drug that's out there. And the list of side effects is enough to make, you know, anybody tuck tail and run. And yet, when you look at like marijuana, the mentality that some folks have, when it regards marijuana, they will look at marijuana as if it is more dangerous than like OxyContin or or Natan omein Your your opioid that you have there that's brought in and paid for by big pharma. So I guess it is something you look at the generations of folks who how much pain and suffering could we have avoided, I guess is my point. If we had a more rational, logical, reasonable conversation, particularly about issues and drugs, like what we're talking about here today with psychedelic, psilocybin and so forth,
Amy Pomeroy 14:49
there's a lot to unpack there, Brian. I think the first thing is our scheduling system. The federal drug scheduling system is not based on science, right. And I think we implicitly just trust that Oh, you said it's a schedule and drug and it has possibilities of being dangerous and addictive and as no medical use. We're just going to trust that because who has time to delve into that? Right? But just Yeah, right. And I think it's, they've proven again and again, that they're not worthy of that trust, because really, the science does not matched the scheduling. And when you talk about how many people have, you know, suffered unnecessarily, we had science in the 50s. And 60s, there were literally like over 1000 papers published in those decades, on psychedelics, and they were getting great results. And then we just shut that down. And so we have had decades of people suffering who could have been, you know, living more healthy, healthy, productive lives. here in Utah, we have some of the highest suicide rates in the nation. We have like 11% of Utahns report, a major depressive episode, the national suicide rate is 14 per 100,000. And here in Utah, it's 21, per 100,000. And so we're not just talking quality of life, we're talking about whether someone has a life at all. And to me, it's just so sad to think about all those people who could still be alive, if they, you know, had access to this, I've talked to people who credit psilocybin was saving their life. And it makes me so sad that that's only been available to people who have found sought out this underground knowledge and have had to get it illegally, or grow it themselves, and then use it without supervision. And it's really scary. And how many people you know, aren't brave enough or knowledgeable to do that. And it's costing lives and it's costing quality of life for a lot of people. Well, I
Brian Nichols 16:35
guess this is why we're doing what we're doing here, The Brian Nichols Show, and frankly, what you're doing Amy over at the Libertas Institute and trying to help leave folks educated, enlightened and informed because there's so much and we talked about when we're going out and talking to your average person, there's so much that your average person is having to deal with right in their day to day. So it's on us to be able to make this stuff easy to understand. So what you're doing and being able to not only raise this up politically, and do so through the legislative process, what you're doing in Utah right now, but across the board, having the conversation and resetting the narrative, helping folks understand know that the narratives that we've been passed down for generation after generation, not only are they wrong, many times they are they were purposefully put in place to divert us from the real alternatives that are out there. And yeah, that's maybe to put some dollars in the pockets of big pharma. But that's, I think, a conversation for a different episode, Amy. But that being said, we are getting close to the end of the episode. So of course, I want to make sure I give you the chance to do a leave us with some final thoughts. And of course, where folks can go ahead and follow you and continue the conversation if they want to learn more.
Amy Pomeroy 17:47
Oh, you can follow me on Facebook, you can follow me on not Instagram on Twitter. And if I can just leave you with a few parting words. This is psilocybin is revolutionary, and that it's not a bandaid, right? It's not numbing your pain, it's not masking it, it's not putting a BandAid on a giant wound, it's actually changing the structure of your brain, it's making it more plastic. So you can think through the underlying causes of your anxiety or your depression. And you can actually resolve it in a healthy way and create new thought patterns. And to me that is so inspiring that we have a totally new way to deal with this that gets at the root of it. And I just hope that we can make this available to as many people as possible. Perfect. Well,
Brian Nichols 18:30
we'll do that we'll do this what we'll go ahead and include the links for anywhere that folks can go ahead and find you the Libertas Institute, but also to keep in touch, they can see what's going on in the show notes. All you got to do folks is click the artwork in your podcast catcher. If you're joining us here on the audio version of the show, which I know 95% of you are, all you got to do is click that artwork, and it'll bring you over to the Brian Nichols show.com where you can find today's episode, the entire transcript of today's episode. Plus, you can find all 651 other episodes of the program. And with that being said, please go ahead and follow yours truly on a on Twitter and on Facebook be Nichols liberty. Also, by the way, folks are really excited. We have a brand new ebook that's coming out here this Friday, how to win your local election. If you want to go ahead and get this brand new ebook, we'll make sure you go ahead and email me Brian at Brian Nichols show.com. Between now and then I'll add you to the list or you can go ahead, we're gonna have that link go live on Friday. Either way, this book is gonna be a great resource for candidates out there who are either running for local office, they're running for reelection for local office or they're thinking about it because at the end of the day running for local office, a lot of folks out there their average people just like just like us who are trying to say hey, I'm gonna make a difference in the world. I don't know what to do. How do I start out doing this whole politics thing with you fundraising and build a campaign team. All that and more we're going to discuss and also that will coincide with our candidate school, which we're going to be hosting over on our Patreon part of Brian Nichols, Brian Nichols consulting. So guys, if you want to go ahead and join our candidate school, head over to Brian Nichols show.com forward slash Candidate School link will be at the top of the homepage there. Otherwise, that's all I have for you guys today. Do me a favor by the way, folks, if you have not hit the subscribe button here on YouTube rumble or on Odyssey where we have our video version of the show, please do so and also hit that little notification bell so you don't miss a single time we go live but with that being said, it's Brian Nichols signing off. You're on The Brian Nichols Show for any Pomeroy. We'll see you tomorrow.
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Policy Director at the Libertas Institute
Amy has spent the last several years prosecuting crime as a Deputy Utah County Attorney, giving her a front-row seat to what is and is not working in our criminal justice system. Prior to that, she worked at the Pacific Legal Foundation doing constitutional litigation and ran a state representative’s office. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University before graduating from J. Reuben Clark Law School cum laude. She lives in Orem with her husband and their three energetic children and enjoys woodworking and being outdoors.