Washington, USA- January13, 2020: FDA Sign outside their headquarters in Washington. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or USFDA) is a federal agency of the USA.

Mushroom Monographs? The FDA’s Potential Role in a Legal Recreational Drug Market

By Jonathan Perez-Reyzin

Within the psychedelic legal landscape, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a central role — it is the regulatory mechanism by which drugs like MDMA and psilocybin may soon become legal for medical use.

But for many working in drug policy, medicalization is not the exclusive goal. Indeed, there have been calls for legalization of psychedelics for non-medical use — and we are seeing an early attempt at such a model in Oregon.

These efforts are not yet reaching the federal level, but it’s only a matter of time before the legalization of psychedelics and other currently illegal drugs for adult recreational use becomes a federal question, as is already occurring with marijuana. And despite the FDA’s widely recognized role in medicine, few have considered the role the FDA would play in a federal regulatory regime for the non-medical use of drugs, even though it already does regulate at least one recreational substance legal for recreational use: tobacco.

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Seltzer in glass and can.

Vizzy and Fortifying Alcoholic Beverages

By Jack Becker

A few years ago, a Bill of Health post titled Jelly Beans, Booze, and B-Vitamins proposed fortifying cheap wines, hard liquors, and malt liquors with thiamine (vitamin B1).

The post suggested this as a public health measure to prevent Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) in the homeless alcoholic population. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a debilitating neurological disorder caused by thiamine deficiency. The disorder is significantly more prevalent in those with chronic alcoholism (up to 80% of whom become thiamine deficient), and it’s preventable by boosting thiamine consumption. For this reason, advocates started promoting the idea of fortifying cheap alcohol with thiamine decades ago.

Jelly Beans, Booze, and B-Vitamins explains that this initiative is complicated by the fortification policy put forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under which the agency does “not consider it appropriate to add vitamins and minerals to alcoholic beverages.” (While FDA and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau [TTB] share jurisdiction over alcoholic beverages, TTB has followed FDA’s public health expertise in the past and would likely do so in this situation as well.) FDA similarly discourages companies from fortifying snack foods to avoid misleading consumers about their health value.

While the thiamine-in-alcohol proposal hasn’t gotten far enough to warrant official consideration, there’s a new fortified alcohol product making waves in the market. And while the stakes aren’t quite as high, it’s still a hard issue — a hard seltzer issue.

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Bargaining Chips

By Scott Burris

Christopher Robertson recently posted here a semi-facetious suggestion of things that Democrats could ask for once the shut-down and the debt-ceiling dance turns into real bargaining. (How sad that this has to be seen as an optimistic statement.)  That’s a good idea. I think we should all join in populating the health policy wishlist.  Here’s one no-brainer.

Government is being starved, and taxes are going to have to go up somewhere.  There is no kind of tax that is not being hated on by somebody, and so no easy places to go, but there is such a strong case for raising alcohol taxes.  Alex Wagenaar, one of the greatest alcohol policy researchers we’ve produced in this country, makes a fantastic pitch for substantial increases in this short video, which is great for advocacy or teaching use.  In real terms, alcohol prices have not been lower for decades, while each drink comes with a subsidy of nearly $2 in health and health care costs we tax-payers end up paying.

So, Mr. President, how about a federal tax of $1.90 per drink, indexed to inflation.  And if there’s opposition, threaten to leave the government open!