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Is Psychedelic Legalization Moving Backward or Forward?

The article Is Psychedelic Legalization Moving Backward or Forward? was originally published on Microdose.

Psychedelics have been used in religious ceremonies,…

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The article Is Psychedelic Legalization Moving Backward or Forward? was originally published on Microdose.

Psychedelics have been used in religious ceremonies, treatment of mental illness, and addiction since before recorded history. They were available over-the-counter until the 1960s when psychedelics became illegal under the Drug Abuse Control Amendments. The drugs were then categorized as Schedule I, defined as having high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

However, psychedelics are making a comeback with legalization and decriminalization initiatives in many US states including California, Washington, and Oregon. Jamaica, The Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, and Native American Reservations have been using psychedelic medicines legally for decades with no major upticks in unsavory behaviors in these locales.

TheraPsil has tirelessly worked toward legal reform for psychedelics as medicine, managing some legal sessions under the “Right to Die, Right to Try” law that permits people suffering from end of life distress to try experimental therapies after trying everything else. Over 80 Canadians have legally received therapy with psychedelics in Canada.

Staying on this more progressive trend, Canada recently approved a Special Access Program (SAP) which now allows health care professionals to request medicines not yet authorized for sale in Canada for any indication. Several grants have already been provided to Canadians for the use of psychedelic medicine in therapies, including companies like Field Trip and others. This has been part of the slow yet steady movement towards the acceptance of psychedelics by the Canadian feds.

 

 

Yet despite psychedelics making a comeback, they still face some serious opposition.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has kept psychedelics in the most restrictive category of drugs, known as Schedule I, saved for drugs having high potential for abuse, and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. This means psychedelics must meet the most rigorous scientific standards to receive approval from federal regulators for research or therapeutic applications.

More recently, the DEA is planning to add 5 more novel psychedelic molecules as Schedule 1, putting potentially helpful psychedelic compounds (compounds currently under research) to the most severe category of restricted drugs. This move has received backlash from across the psychedelic medicine community.

Reading through the public comments, one is able to paint a picture of the sentiment of the public who are educated on the topic of psychedelic medicine. Citizens and scientists suggest that more research is needed and that the risk of harm is almost nonexistent. Openness and education should lead the way, not criminalization.

“These compounds should be kept legal so they can be researched,” says one commenter, self-identified as a veteran.

Decriminalize drugs Toronto
Credit: Joanna Lavoie/Metroland

What the DEA stands to do is get between earnest researchers and their chemicals, potentially delaying scientific breakthroughs.

The DEA argues that there is no medicinal potential with psychedelics and the harms outweigh any benefits. This stance contradicts many scientists and researchers who claim psychedelics can be used as medicine (as the increasing amount of positive studies are beginning to clearly show). For example, studies show compelling evidence that psilocybin helps patients with everything from Alzheimer’s prevention, to overcoming death anxiety, to easing painful cluster headaches. Studies are investigating psychedelics’ efficacy in supporting the healing of depression, anxiety, drug addiction, OCD, PTSD, tobacco addiction, and more.

So it seems we’re reaching a crossroads: Increasing support in the public, the markets, and clinical research — but still running into resistance at some crucial government levels (see Health Canada Denies Psilocybin Access). So it seems the future of psychedelics may depend on how successful legalization initiatives are across the United States.

Using psychedelics under the supervision of a doctor isn’t for everyone, of course. That’s where the Decriminalize movement comes in. Along with several other community-led groups like SPORE, and Right to Heal, organizations have been popping up like, well, mushrooms, insisting to legislators that their right to peacefully grow and consume natural fungi and plants is being restricted, and they are ready for reform.

As the pandemic hopefully finally comes to a close, there is an unprecedented need for support in the mental health space as clinicians are outnumbered and overwhelmed. There is at the same time burgeoning research citing psychedelic as a powerful mental health medicine with unprecedented results. It’s possible psychedelics access could even help reel in the runaway opioid epidemic and veteran suicide rates by providing patients lasting mental and physical pain relief.

psychedelic therapy
Photo credit: Reuters

Rescheduling psychedelics to Schedule IV, as recommended by Johns Hopkins University’s Matthew Johnson would create more opportunities for research, which could lead to beneficial discoveries and advanced treatments being developed sooner.

Increasing access to psychedelics will help scientists, doctors, and other professionals who want to research and share their love and knowledge of these medicines without fear of legal persecution.

Cannabis was illegal in Canada in 2001 and 20 years later the government sells it. Psilocybin was once impossible to consider as medicine and doctors are now increasingly prescribing it. The DEA has upped its permitted production limits of almost all psychedelics in 2022. Progress is slowly underway.

While it sometimes feels like we are stuck in the 1960s as the DEA schedules new psychedelics, there has been positive movement in local decrim efforts, with major cities like Detroit and Seattle recently decriminalizing these drugs.

So the back and forth continues. Hopefully, the growing amount of science-backed research and hard work by grassroots movements will begin to tilt the scales, and help increase access to those who need it most.

 

Want to see more decrim coverage? See our reporting on the DEA’s proposed scheduling of new compounds

 

Editor’s Note

This piece is part of a series produced by guest contributors to expand the voices on our site and in the greater conversation. While Microdose supports the education and exploration of these topics, the facts and opinions presented in this work are the author’s alone.

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