A new global coalition announced a new campaign on Tuesday to get psilocybin mushrooms internationally rescheduled.
As the psychedelics reform movement continues to expand domestically in the U.S., the International Therapeutic Psilocybin Rescheduling Initiative (ITPRI) is seeking a worldwide policy change in order to facilitate research into the therapeutic potential of the substance.
Partners of the coalition include the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Beckley Foundation, Mind Medicine Australia, Drug Science and Open Foundation.
The initiative focuses on international drug scheduling under the United Nations’s 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which currently places psilocybin in the most tightly restricted, Schedule I category, which is supposed to be reserved for drugs that constitute “an especially serious risk” and have “limited” therapeutic uses.
Advocates say that psilocybin fits neither of those criteria.
Global coalition launches initiative to reschedule psilocybin under UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Proud to acknowledge partners & advisory board @MAPS @RickDoblin @BeckleyResearch @Drug_Science @MindMedicineAU @ACNIERIKA @OPEN_fndn @b_neuro @ScottLeckie @WKScholten pic.twitter.com/aOJXp1xDbG
— reschedulepsilocybin.org (ITPRI) (@ItpriOrg) January 11, 2022
Schedule I drugs like psilocybin are “subject to strict limits on their scientific and medical use,” the coalition said in a press release. “Schedule I licensing, safe custody, security, manufacturing, quantity, and import/export restrictions result in a level of regulatory control and oversight that is drastically more onerous than for the Convention’s other three schedules.”
Consequently, researchers interested in studying the controlled substance “face numerous regulatory hurdles which add significantly to the cost, complexity, and duration of research and can negatively impact ethical approvals, funding and collaboration.”
To reschedule psilocybin under international policy, the coalition says as a first step it will be engaging with member nations who are part of the treaty to initiate a formal review of the benefits and risks of the psychedelic. Only one country would need to request the review from UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) to get the process started.
“Given today’s scientific understanding of psilocybin’s high potential therapeutic value and low risk of dependence, a change of its status as a Schedule I drug is long overdue,” Christopher Koddermann, ITPRI co-founder and chair of the Board of Directors, said in a press release.
After the procedure is initiated either by a member nation or WHO itself, the international body’s Executive Committee on Drug Dependency (ECDD) would then launch a critical review into the matter and provide recommendations on a possible policy change. If the review results in a recommendation for rescheduling, two-thirds of signatory countries to the treaty would need to approve it.
There are about a dozen countries that ITPRI has identified as possible carriers of a rescheduling petition for psilocybin, Koddermann told Marijuana Moment. Canada is one of the top targets, as the country has already taken steps to loosen restrictions on the entheogen in certain therapeutic settings. It’s also legalized marijuana nationwide in defiance of international treaties.
“Rescheduling procedures under the 1971 Convention offer a potentially game-changing opportunity to advance further research and accelerate the approval of treatments for patients,” Willem Scholten, ITPRI Advisory Board member and former secretary to the WHO ECDD, said.
David Nutt, head of Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research and founder of ITPRI partner Drug Science added that the current international scheduling of psilocybin “has severely limited—and continues to limit—neuroscience research and the development of treatments for patients.”
Separately, WHO also recently decided against recommending that kratom—a plant touted for its pain relieving qualities—be internationally banned following a scientific review.
Prior to the decision, there were some concerns that WHO’s ECDD would take steps to either urge international control over kratom or recommend a critical review that could have ultimately led to scheduling following another year-long inquiry.
Also, UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs approved a WHO recommendation in 2020 to remove marijuana from the most restrictive global scheduling category.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., a former Republican congressman has joined the board of a psychedelics advocacy group working to reform federal policies around entheogenic plants and fungi like psilocybin.
While Congress has yet to end marijuana prohibition, psychedelics reform is also gradually gaining attention in the nation’s capital.
For example, a congressman recently started asking his fellow lawmakers to join him in requesting that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
A Dear Colleague letter that’s being circulated by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) notes that there are state and federal right-to-try (RTT) laws that should make it so certain patients can obtain the psychedelic given that it’s shown early potential in ongoing clinical trials.
Yet DEA has denied access, resulting in a lawsuit that was filed last March by a Washington State doctor who sought federal guidance to treat terminal patients with psilocybin mushrooms and was told there wasn’t a legal avenue for him to do so.
The lawsuit against DEA is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which heard oral arguments in the case in September. Washington State’s attorney general’s office joined the plaintiffs in support of psilocybin access. DEA argued that the court should dismiss the suit because it lacked jurisdiction.
Blumenauer separately told Marijuana Moment last month that he’s “excited” about advancements in psychedelics research, as well as the implementation of a psilocybin therapy program that’s being set up in his home state of Oregon, where voters approved the historic reform during last year’s election.
Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate also introduced legislation late last month that would make it easier for scientists to research Schedule I drugs like marijuana and psilocybin.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 900 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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DEA has repeatedly proposed significant increases in the production of marijuana, psilocybin and other psychedelics for research purposes, with the intent of aiding in the development of new federally approved therapeutic medications.
NIDA Director Nora Volkow told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that she was encouraged by DEA’s prior proposed increase in drug production quota. She also said that studies demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics could be leading more people to experiment with substances like psilocybin.