Considering Alternatives to Prohibiting Psychedelic Drugs

Dry psilocybin mushrooms on bright blue background, photo by Adobe Stock

Photo by Adobe Stock

Event Details


July 18, 2024


4–5 p.m. EDT / 1–2 p.m. PDT



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Psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA (ecstasy), have long been touted as holding promise for treating various mental health conditions. Some Indigenous groups have used some of these substances as spiritual medicines in traditional healing and ceremonies for millennia. Over the past decade, an increasing number of military veterans have pushed for more access to some of these substances. Clinical studies, including research conducted at (and that will soon be funded by) the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, are growing.

At the same time, some states and local governments are loosening their approaches to some psychedelics. In fact, some states are implementing or considering approaches that legalize some forms of supply to adults for any reason. It seems likely that more jurisdictions will consider and implement alternative policies to prohibiting the nonclinical supply of some psychedelics, possibly including retail sales. This means that these products will made more available to the U.S. population, including veterans. But how widely available will the drugs be? Under what conditions will they be accessed? And how will these changes affect Indigenous communities? Answers to these and other policy-related questions remain to be seen.

Our panel of experts will present new data about the use of psychedelics in the United States from a newly released RAND report Considering Alternatives to Psychedelic Drug Prohibition. They will highlight the changing policy landscape at the state and local levels and consider the pros and cons of potential policy frameworks. There will be a special focus on what these changes mean for veterans and Indigenous Peoples.

This webinar is part of a series of events organized by the RAND Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute to explore pressing policy challenges affecting veterans, their families, and their communities. It is cohosted with the RAND Drug Policy Research Center which conducts research to help decisionmakers in the United States and abroad address issues involving alcohol and other drugs.


Angela Allbee

Michelle Priest

Michelle Priest (she/her) is an assistant policy researcher at RAND and a Ph.D. candidate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. She holds B.A.s in economics and linguistics from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as an M.Phil. in policy analysis from Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research focuses on policymaking for emerging industries, including ethics in technology development, equity issues in the regulation of cannabis, and public safety related to psychedelic substances. She is a coauthor of RAND’s new report, Considering Alternatives to Psychedelic Drug Prohibition.


Beau Kilmer

Beau Kilmer (he/him) is codirector of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and a senior policy researcher at RAND. He conducts research at the intersection of public health and public safety, with an emphasis on crime control, substance use, illegal markets, and public policy. His recent projects have explored the consequences of cannabis legalization (with a special focus on social equity); the future of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids; the effect of 24/7 Sobriety programs on DUI, domestic violence, and mortality; and the implications of legalizing psychedelics.

Kilmer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Public Health Consequences of Changes in the Cannabis Policy Landscape. In 2023, he was elected as vice president of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy. He has a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University.

Jesse Gould

Jesse Gould

Jesse Gould is a former Army Ranger and a pioneer in psychedelic therapies for veterans. As founder and president of the Heroic Hearts Project, he has spearheaded the research and acceptance of ayahuasca, ibogaine, ketamine, and psilocybin therapy programs for military veterans. Gould has connected hundreds of veterans to psychedelic treatments, partnered with the world’s leading psychedelic centers, and is researching psychiatric applications with the University of Georgia, the University of Texas, Austin Dell Medical School, and Imperial College of London. His mission is to help military veterans struggling with mental trauma and spread awareness of the benefits that psychedelic therapies offer as an alternative treatment to pharmaceuticals.

Gould has spoken globally about the benefits of psychedelics on mental health and has been featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Economist, and Forbes. He is recognized as one of the most influential voices in psychedelics today. To date, the Heroic Hearts Project has raised over $10 million dollars and has served over 1,500 veterans and military spouses through psychedelic therapies.

Roberto Múkaro Borrero

Roberto Múkaro Borrero

Roberto Múkaro Borrero (he/him) has a distinguished and diverse background in policy and program development, the arts, and human rights advocacy, including a specialization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. He retains over 25 years of experience actively engaging the United Nations system in thematic areas such as sustainable development and climate change, among others. He has served on the staff of the International Indian Treaty Council and the American Museum of Natural History, as well as an independent contracting consultant for UNESCO, UNDP, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, PBS, and other notable institutions. A published writer, an accomplished artist, and musician, Borrero is a citizen of the Guainía Taíno Tribe of Borikén and the Virgin Islands. In 2012, he was traditionally sanctioned a kasike (chief) of the Guainía Taíno Tribe. His educational background is in communications and cultural studies. In 2013, Borrero was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in philosophy in humanities from Kayiwa International University in Kampala, Uganda.

Rajeev Ramchand

Rajeev Ramchand

Rajeev Ramchand (he/him) is codirector of the RAND Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, and a professor of policy analysis at Pardee RAND Graduate School. He studies the prevalence, prevention, and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders in adolescents, service members and veterans, and minority populations. He has conducted research on suicide and suicide prevention including environmental scans of suicide prevention programs, epidemiologic studies on risk factors for suicide, qualitative research with suicide loss survivors, systematic reviews of the role of firearm availability, storage, and policies on suicide, and evaluations of suicide prevention programs. He has also developed freely available tools to help organizations to evaluate their own suicide prevention programs.

In 2022, he was appointed by the Secretary of Defense to serve as a member of the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee. He has testified on suicide prevention before the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

In addition to his research on suicide, Ramchand studies military and veteran caregivers; the changing legal and policy environment for psychedelic substances; the impact of disasters on community health; and public health approaches to combatting violent extremism. He holds a Ph.D. in psychiatric epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago.

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