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Oregon Governor Appoints Panel To Implement Historic Legal Psilocybin Therapy Measure

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The governor of Oregon on Tuesday announced the appointment of 17 members of a first-of-its-kind advisory board that will help facilitate the implementation of a historic initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes.

This comes three months after Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) office started accepting applications for the panel, which was required under November’s voter-approved Measure 109.

The board of experts consists of physicians, psychologists, public health experts, researchers, a harm reduction specialist, representatives of state agencies like the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Justice Department and more.

“Like many, I was initially skeptical when I first heard of Measure 109,” Brown said in a press release. “But if we can help people suffering from PTSD, depression, trauma and addiction—including veterans, cancer patients, and others—supervised psilocybin therapy is a treatment worthy of further consideration.”

Tom Eckert, chief petitioner for Measure 109 and member of the advisory board, said the development “represents a crucial first step toward implementing the nation’s first statewide psilocybin services program.”

“This is an impressive Board poised to do groundbreaking work. My late wife Sheri and I had always envisioned this—an empowered Board of leading experts, representing a variety of relevant disciplines, advising the Oregon Health Authority on psilocybin safety, practice, training, and access standards,” he said. “I am filled with pride and appreciation for all the Oregon voters out there who made this a reality.”

Advisory board members will work with OHA and stakeholders to inform regulations for the psilocybin program, which will be the first of its kind in the U.S., and also analyze “available scientific studies and research on the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating mental health conditions.”

OHA has two years to create the rules for the program. It will also “examine, publish, and distribute publicly” findings from the board.

Via Healing Advocacy Fund.

The advisory board will have until June 30 to submit those findings and recommendations. OHA will then have until July 31 to begin publishing and distributing that information.

The board is also responsible for developing “a long-term strategic plan for ensuring that psilocybin services will become and remain a safe, accessible and affordable therapeutic option for all persons 21 years of age and older in this state for whom psilocybin may be appropriate.”

That includes attempting to coordinate with the state attorney general’s office to discuss the measure, as well as “potential federal enforcement policies regarding psilocybin in Oregon after the expiration of the two-year program development period,” according to an explanatory statement for the initiative.

“This new Psilocybin Advisory Board is an exceptional group of experts and advocates that gives Oregon the know how and understanding we need to promote healing, safety, equity and access through psilocybin therapy,” Sam Chapman, executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund and the former campaign manager of the successful ballot effort, said. “This is a historic first step in establishing a program that will help tens of thousands and we’re encouraged by Governor Brown’s leadership in assembling this board.”

Rachel Knox, who will serve as the state panel’s harm reduction specialist, said “Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people in Oregon and the United States have suffered disproportionate psychological trauma as a result of the ‘War on Drugs,’ a systemic phenomenon that continues to directly and negatively impact all determinants of health in these communities.”

“Ironically, this criminalized the use of plant substances with notable industrial, medical, and spiritual utility,” Knox, who is also a board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said. “Psilocybin has been used in the healing and spiritual practices of Indigenous communities for a long time. Much of what we know about psilocybin comes from Indigenous knowledge, a fact that is too often overlooked.”

Meanwhile, OHA is currently accepting applications for three staff positions related to the psilocybin program.

It’s looking for an operations analyst to “provide policy, legislative, and operational assistance to the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board as well as support the Psilocybin program.”

The agency also needs a research analyst “to develop and manage research and evaluation projects related to the Oregon Psilocybin Services Program.”

Finally, there’s an opening for an Oregon Psilocybin Services section manager whose role would be to “manage and oversee the Oregon Psilocybin Services Section and ensure operations are in compliance with pertinent and relevant statutes and regulations.”

While Oregon’s therapeutic psilocybin model is novel, it’s one part of a burgeoning movement throughout the U.S. to reform laws governing psychedelics that started after Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019 via a citizen initiative.

On Monday, for example, a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca officially became the lowest local law enforcement priorities in the nation’s capital following voter approval of a decriminalization initiative in Washington, D.C. last year.

A New York lawmaker is introduced legislation last week that would decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in the state.

Six cities—OaklandSanta CruzAnn ArborWashington, D.C.Somerville and Cambridge—have decriminalized possession of a broader collection plant-and fungi-based psychedelics since Denver’s move. Activists in Spokane, Washington have also recently submitted a similar reform proposal to local lawmakers.

Legislators in CaliforniaConnecticut, FloridaHawaiiKansasMissouriWashington State and Virginia are also considering psychedelics and drug policy reform bills for the 2021 session.

A Republican lawmaker in Iowa introduced a bill to remove psilocybin from the list of controlled substances, which received a subcommittee hearing earlier this month but did not advance. He also filed another piece of legislation to let seriously ill patients use psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, DMT and other drugs.

Here’s the full list of appointed members of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board: 

Public Health Director Designee: Andre Ourso, OHA

State Health Officer Designee: Dr. Tom Jeanne, OHA

Oregon Health Policy Board Designee: Barb Hansen

State Employee w/ Public Health Expertise: Ali Hamade, OHA

Local Health Officer: Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas City

Addictions Medicine Specialist: Kevin Fitts, Portland

Licensed Psychologist: Dr. Kimberley Golletz, Corvallis

Licensed Physician: Dr. Todd Korthius, OHSU

Academic Researcher: Mason Marks, Portland

Mycologist: Dr. Jessie Uehling, Oregon State University

Harm Reduction Specialist: Angela Carter, Portland

Psychopharmacologic Specialist: Dr. Atheir Abbas, OHSU

OLCC: Nathan Rix

Oregon DOJ: David Hart

Chief Petitioner Designee: Tom Eckert

Public: Stephanie Barrs, Bend

Public: Dr. Rachel Knox, Portland

Connecticut House Speaker Says ‘Optimism Abounds’ As Marijuana Legalization Negotiations Proceed

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.

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Virginia Has Sealed 64,000 Marijuana Distribution Charges Since Legalization Took Effect This Summer

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“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached.”

By Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury

Virginia has sealed records documenting more than 64,000 misdemeanor marijuana distribution charges since the state legalized the drug in July.

The figure came out Thursday during a meeting of the legislature’s Cannabis Oversight Commission.

Officials said the records were scrubbed from the state’s criminal record database, which is used by employers like school boards, state agencies and local governments to screen employees.

The state had already sealed 333,000 records detailing charges of simple possession last year after the state reduced the offense to a civil infraction on par with a traffic offense, said Shawn G. Talmadge, the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Lawmakers directed the state to expand that effort when they voted to broadly legalize recreational use of marijuana earlier this year.

The legislature also agreed to a broader expungement reform that will automatically seal other misdemeanor charges, including underage possession of alcohol, use of a fake ID, petit larceny, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Talmadge said those charges will remain in the system until the state finishes updating the software it uses to track criminal records.

“As of right now, the process is proceeding,” he said.

Members of the oversight commission also heard from two advocates who urged them to move fast to address people currently imprisoned for marijuana offenses—a category of people the legalization legislation passed this year did not address.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of the advocacy group Marijuana Justice, and Gracie Burger, with the Last Prisoner Project, said Department of Corrections data suggests there are currently 10 people being held solely on serious marijuana charges.

They said it remains unknown how many more are being held because of marijuana related probation violations.

“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached,” Burger said.

This story was first published by Virginia Mercury,

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DEA Proposes Dramatic Increase In Marijuana And Psychedelic Production In 2022, Calling For 6,300 Percent More MDMA Alone

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing a dramatic increase in the legal production of marijuana and psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and DMT to be used in research next year.

In a notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, the agency said there’s been a “significant increase in the use of schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trial purposes,” and it wants authorized manufacturers to meet that growing demand.

DEA had already massively upped its proposed 2021 quota for cannabis and psilocybin last month, but now it’s calling for significantly larger quantities of research-grade marijuana and a broader array of psychedelics to be manufactured in 2022.

It wants to double the amount of marijuana extracts, psilocybin and psilocyn, quadruple mescaline and quintuple DMT. What especially stands out in the notice is MDMA. The agency is proposing an enormous 6,300 percent boost in the production of that drug—from just 50 grams in 2021 to 3,200 grams in the coming year—as research into its therapeutic potential continues to expand.

LSD would see a 1,150 percent increase, up to 500 grams of the potent psychedelic.

Marijuana itself would get a 60 percent boost under DEA’s proposal, up to 3.2 million grams in 2022 from the 2 million grams last year.

Here’s a visualization of the proposed quota increase from 2021 to 2022 for marijuana and cannabis extracts:

For all other THC, psilocybin, psilocyn and MDMA:

And for other psychedelic substances like LSD, mescaline and DMT:

DEA said in the Federal Register notice that it has been receiving and approving additional applications to “grow, synthesize, extract, and manufacture dosage forms containing specific schedule I hallucinogenic substances for clinical trial purposes” to achieve these ambitious quotas.

“DEA supports regulated research with schedule I controlled substances, as evidenced by increases proposed for 2022 as compared with aggregate production quotas for these substances in 2021,” the agency said, adding that it working “diligently” to process and approve marijuana manufacturers applications in particular, as there’s currently only one farm at the University of Mississippi that’s permitted to cultivate the plant for research.

“Based on the increase in research and clinical trial applications, DEA has proposed increases in 3,4- Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 5-Methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, Dimethyltryptamine, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Marihuana, Marihuana Extract, Mescaline, Psilocybin, Psilocyn, and All Other Tetrahydrocannabinols to support manufacturing activities related to the increased level of research and clinical trials with these schedule I controlled substances.”

Here are the exact numbers for the proposed 2021 and 2022 quotas:

Substance 2021
2022 proposed
Marijuana 2,000,000 3,200,000
Marijuana extract 500,000 1,000,000
All other tetrahydrocannabinol 1,000 2,000
Psilocybin 1,500 3,000
Psilocyn 1,000 2,000
MDMA 50 3,200
LSD 40 500
Mescaline 25 100
DMT 50 250
5-MeO-DMT 35 550
MDA 55 200

A 30-day public comment period will be open after the notice is formally published on Monday.

It’s difficult to overstate just how significant the proposed 2022 increases are, but it’s certainly true that scientific and public interest in marijuana and psychedelics has rapidly increased, with early clinical trials signaling that such substances show significant therapeutic potential.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that she was encouraged by DEA’s previous 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.

Advocates and experts remain frustrated that these plants and fungi remain in the strictest federal drug category in the first place, especially considering the existing research that shows their medical value for certain conditions.

A federal appeals court in August dismissed a petition to require the DEA to reevaluate cannabis’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. However, one judge did say in a concurring opinion that the agency may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the therapeutic value of marijuana.

Separately, the Washington State attorney general’s office and lawyers representing cancer patients recently urged a federal appeals panel to push for a DEA policy change to allow people in end-of-life care to access psilocybin under state and federal right-to-try laws.

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Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case On Legalizing Safe Drug Consumption Sites, But Activists Are Undeterred

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The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has rejected a request to hear a case on the legality of establishing safe injection sites where people can use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.

The justices announced on Tuesday that they decided against taking up the case raised by the nonprofit Safehouse, despite the pleas of attorneys general from 10 states and D.C. who recently filed amici briefs urging the court’s involvement.

Representatives from 14 cities and counties, as well as the mayor of Philadelphia, which is at the center of the current case, also filed briefs in support of the case in recent days.

Safehouse was set to launch a safe consumption site in Philadelphia before being blocked by a legal challenge from the Trump administration. It filed a petition with the nation’s highest court in August to hear the case.

But while the Supreme Court declined to take action—and the Biden administration passed up its voluntary opportunity to weigh in at this stage, which may well have influenced the justices’ decision—activists say the battle will continue at a lower federal court level, where the administration will have to file briefs revealing its position on the issue.

“We were disappointed that the government chose not to respond to our petition,” Safehouse Vice President Ronda Goldfein told Filter. “They said, ‘We’re going to waive our right to respond,’ [and] the Supreme Court declined to review our case. Ordinarily that sounds like the end of the road—but in our case we are still pursuing our claims in a different venue.”

That venue will be the the federal district court in Philadelphia, where activists plan to submit multiple arguments related to religious freedom and interstate commerce protections. The Biden administration will be compelled to file a response in that court by November 5.

“If they don’t respond, they lose,” Goldfein said.

A coalition of 80 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials—including one who is President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. attorney of Massachusetts—previously filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up Safehouse’s safe injection case.

Fair and Justice Prosecution, the group that coordinated the amicus brief, also organized a tour of Portugal for 20 top prosecutors in 2019 so they could learn about the successful implementation of the country’s drug decriminalization law.

If the Supreme Court were to have taken the case and rule in favor of Safehouse, it could have emboldened advocates and lawmakers across the country to pursue the harm reduction policy.

The governor of Rhode Island signed a bill in July to establish a safe consumption site pilot program where people could test and use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment. It became the first state in the country to legalize the harm reduction centers. It’s not clear whether the Department of Justice will seek to intervene to prevent the opening of such facilities in that state.

Massachusetts lawmakers advanced similar legislation last year, but it was not ultimately enacted.

A similar harm reduction bill in California, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), was approved in the state Senate in April, but further action has been delayed until 2022.

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