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Psychedelics Group Raises $30 Million From Execs At GoDaddy, SpaceX And Others For MDMA Study

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The nation’s leading psychedelics research organization announced on Thursday that it has raised $30 million in donations—including from several notable business leaders outside the drug policy realm—that will enable it to complete a study on using MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) said it will use those funds to conduct a Phase 3 trial on the substance, which is commonly called ecstasy, in hopes of gaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The federal agency has already designated MDMA as a “breakthrough therapy” based on findings from the group’s earlier trials.

About 2,500 individual donors helped MAPS reach their fundraising goal within six months. Here are some of the notable contributors:

-Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy ($2 million)

-Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes ($1 million)

-John Gilmore, cofounder of Electronic Frontier Foundation ($1 million)

-David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s ($800,000)

-Joby Pritzker, managing director of Tao Capital Partners, board member of Marijuana Policy Project and cousin of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ($3 million)

-Steve Jurvetson, board member of SpaceX and Tesla ($2.6 million)

-Tim Ferriss, tech investor, author and podcaster ($1 million)

Ferriss played a significant role in the fundraising campaign’s success, helping to secure an initial $10 million in philanthropic donations for a challenge grant.

During a press conference, MAPS staff and donors talked about the challenges of fundraising amid the coronavirus pandemic, but they expressed optimism that, with this funding, they are nearing the finish line to complete the Phase 3 trial and provide PTSD patients with legal access to MDMA.

MAPS says they hope to be granted FDA approval as early as 2022.

Asked about the role that the localized psychedelics reform movement might have played in the fundraising campaign, MAPS Founder Rick Doblin told Marijuana Moment that their research objectives and the activists’ legislative objectives have complemented each other.

“I really think that the movements are in parallel,” he said. “The decrim efforts further help to destigmatize and make this research more comfortable and help people feel more comfortable seeking out therapy with psychedelics.”

That said, Doblin noted that “the decrim movement has only taken place after we’ve made a lot of progress with the research—and also the Hopkins team, the NYU teams, the other teams that have worked with psilocybin,” referring to studies from universities, including Johns Hopkins, which last year launched the nation’s first center devoted exclusively to studying psychedelic drugs.

“That kind of preparation then changed a lot of peoples’ attitudes and then they moved towards decrim,” he said. “I think that does help. In fact, we’ve had some indications that that changing of attitudes has made it more comfortable, you could say, for regulators to move forward.”

Joe Green, cofounder of the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative, which partnered with MAPS on the fundraising campaign said in a press release that “FDA approval of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD could ultimately help millions of people, and that alone is a world-changing impact.”

“We also believe this could be a tipping point for psychedelic medicine overall, leading to a mainstream understanding that psychedelic therapy has the potential to help treat many of the defining mental health crises of our time,” he said.

Also helping to grease the wheels toward expanding psychedelics access are other studies showing therapeutic potential. For example, a scientific review published last year found that “MDMA-assisted psychotherapy demonstrated a high rate of clinical response, remission, with a large effect size at reducing the symptoms of PTSD.”

Earlier this year, a federal commission tasked with developing recommendations to improve mental health treatment for military veterans released a report advising that Congress and the executive branch promote research into the therapeutic potential of marijuana and psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins also recently announced that they will be collaborating with a Denver-based organization to collect surveys from people about their “real-world” experiences with psilocybin mushrooms.

There are signs that the resurgence of psychedelic science is having an effect on the political world as well.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who was formerly a staunch opponent to cannabis reform, said during a virtual town hall event this month that he’s been “diving into some of the issues around the medicinal use of certain psychedelics that, at least at this point, show some promise with regards to addressing issues in depression and particularly PTSD.”

As researchers and regulators work to get certain psychedelic medications to patients, activists across the country are pushing to reform laws governing entheogenic substances.

A measure to effectively decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics has officially qualified for the November ballot in Washington, D.C.

In May 2019, Denver became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin, with the approval of a local ballot measure. Soon after, officials in Oakland, California, decriminalized possession of all plant- and fungi-based psychedelics. The City Council in Santa Cruz, California, voted to make the enforcement of laws against psychedelics among the city’s lowest enforcement priorities in January.

Oregon’s secretary of state confirmed last month that separate measures to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs while expanding treatment services will appear on the November ballot.

Canada’s health minister recently granted exemptions allowing certain cancer patients to legally use psilocybin for end-of-life care.

Watch The First Ad For Oregon’s Drug Decriminalization Ballot Measure

Photo by Pretty Drugthings on Unsplash.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

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

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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,

Nevada Sold More Than $1 Billion In Marijuana In One Year, Officials Report

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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.

Singer Melissa Etheridge And Activist Van Jones Promote Psychedelics Reform As Movement Grows

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.

Florida Democratic Candidates For Governor Fight Over Who Supports Marijuana Reform The Most

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