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DEA Judge Postpones Hearing On Proposed Psychedelics Ban Amid Constitutional Challenge To Scheduling Process



The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has postponed an administrative hearing on its proposed ban of two psychedelic compounds as the constitutionality of the scheduling process is being challenged in federal court.

In a order that was released on Thursday, DEA Administrative Law Judge Paul Soeffing granted a motion to stay the June hearing that was scheduled so the agency could receive expert input on its controversial plans to classify 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI) and 2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine (DOC) as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Soeffing said that, because of “the ongoing constitutional examination of administrative proceedings by the federal courts,” he considered the stay “appropriate,” cancelling the hearing.

The action came about a week after Panacea Plant Sciences (PPS) filed a complaint and request for injunctive relief against DEA in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

PPS is contesting the administrative hearing process that’s preceding final rulemaking, arguing that DEA’s reliance on administrative law judges (ALJs) to settle such arbitration is unconstitutional based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

“While Panacea’s likelihood of success on the merits is difficult to ascertain at this time, the potential that Panacea may face irreparable injury absent a stay of the present administrative proceedings weighs significantly in favor of granting Panacea’s motion,” Soeffing said.

“Although the public interest may lie in an expeditious and efficient resolution to these proceedings, the public interest also lies in ensuring parties are not potentially subjected to an adjudication process found unconstitutional,” he said.

The order stays the hearing until the federal court renders a decision in the legal challenge to the administrative process. In the interim, Panacea and the Justice Department are required to submit joint status reports every 60 days until the case is resolved.

This is the latest development in a years-long dispute over DEA’s efforts to schedule the psychedelics, which it first attempted to do in 2022, only to withdraw the proposal amid pushback from the scientific community. The agency separately withdrew from a proposal to ban five different tryptamine psychedelics in 2022.

Last December, DEA announced that it would be trying to enact the DOC and DOI ban again. The agency’s notice about the scheduling proposal still lacks evidence that directly connects the compounds to serious adverse health events or demonstrated a high abuse potential.

“To date, there are no reports of distressing responses or death associated with DOI in medical literature,” it says. “The physiological dependence liability of DOI and DOC in animals and humans is not reported in scientific and medical literature.”

DEA said that anecdotal reports posted by people online signaled that the substances have hallucinogenic effects, making it “reasonable to assume that DOI and DOC have substantial capability to be a hazard to the health of the user and to the safety of the community.”

It did point to one report of a death of a person who had used DOC in combination with two other unspecified drugs—as well as two reports of hospitalizations that it said were attributable to the use of DOC with other drugs—but scientists say that hardly constitutes reason enough to place them in the most strictly controlled schedule.

In the background of this development, DEA has agreed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is moving to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told lawmakers on Tuesday that it would be “inappropriate” for her to further comment on the agency’s cannabis rescheduling determination because the rulemaking process is “ongoing.”

Also, in an interview with Fox News last week, former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson said it “absolutely looks like” the agency will follow through with moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III.

“I think it reflects the reality of today’s both culture but also the public sentiment. That’s most significant,” said Hutchinson, a Republican who also served as governor of Arkansas.

Separately, the top Democrat in the U.S. House said last week that the Biden administration’s move to reschedule marijuana is a “step in the right direction,” but it should be followed up with congressional action such as passing the legalization bill Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) filed.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, a Republican senator said that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” and Democrats’ moves to legalize it reflect “pro-criminal, anti-American policies” that will “stimulate more crime on American streets.” He also argued that cannabis banking legislation “facilitates an entire infrastructure and an ecosystem for more drug usage in America.”

Read the DEA judge’s order in the psychedelics scheduling case below:

DEA Appears To Question Marijuana’s Medical Value Despite Rescheduling Recommendation

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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