Connect with us

Politics

Washington Officials Join Cancer Patients In Federal Court Argument Pushing DEA To Allow Psilocybin Access

Published

on

The Washington State attorney general’s office appeared alongside lawyers representing cancer patients on Thursday, telling a federal appeals panel that people in end-of-life care deserve legal access to psilocybin—the main psychoactive compound in psychedelic mushrooms—under state and federal right-to-try laws.

“It is entirely consistent with the purpose and language of the state and federal right-to-try laws to include any controlled substances that have completed Phase 1 trials, including Schedule I controlled substances,” Washington Deputy Solicitor General Peter B. Gonick said in oral argument before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, referring to a category of illegal drugs that includes psilocybin. “It’s entirely inconsistent with the right-to-try laws to prevent patient access to these treatments.”

Congress and 41 U.S. states have adopted right-to-try (RTT) laws, which allow patients with terminal conditions to try investigational medications that have not been approved for general use. But in the case before the Ninth Circuit, two patients and a Seattle-based palliative care clinic, the Advanced Integrated Medical Science (AIMS) Institute, say the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is standing in their way.

The group sued DEA in March, after the agency replied to a request for guidance from the clinic’s co-director, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal. DEA asserted that the only way for the AIMS Institute to dispense psilocybin legally would be to obtain a federal research permit, which “would not be applicable to Dr. Aggarwal at this time.”

Out of the gate at oral argument Thursday, judges initially expressed skepticism over whether they even had jurisdiction to hear the case at this point. DEA maintains its letter to the clinic was simply an informal opinion, not a reviewable decision.

“Isn’t that the beginning and the and of this case?” Judge Ryan D. Nelson, an appointee of President Donald Trump, interjected barely 10 seconds after arguments began. “They wrote, seeking instructions on how to proceed… So if they sought instructions, how can a response for instructions ever be a final order?”

Attorney Matthew Zorn, who represented the patients and clinic suing DEA at Thursday’s oral arguments, replied that the agency’s response effectively gave them no options. “That response was: There is no process,” Zorn said. “If they had identified a process, we would have used that process. Because the agency said, ‘There is nothing for you to use,’ there is nowhere for us to go.”

For several minutes, judges on the panel—which also included Trump appointee Judge Mark J. Bennett and Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush—peppered Zorn with questions about whether DEA’s reply was even reviewable under court precedent.

“You didn’t ask [DEA] for an interpretive rule,” Nelson said.

“You asked for guidance,” agreed Ikuta.

“We didn’t ask for it,” Zorn told Nelson, “but that’s what we got.”

“I agree if that’s what you got the case might be different,” Nelson answered with an audible chuckle.

Though Zorn’s allotted time ended with some questions from judges unanswered, the panel’s mood appeared to change as the attorney dissected a federal court decision out of the Eastern District of Tennessee, which Nelson raised as a challenge. Zorn explained how he thought that decision was made in error, running contrary to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling dealing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is crystal clear. I do think that court erred,” Zorn argued, as Nelson nodded his head.

Speaking after Zorn, Gonick, the Washington State deputy solicitor general, offered arguments on behalf of that state. Lawmakers there, where the AIMS Institute is located, passed a state right-to-try law unanimously in 2017, allowing terminally ill patients access to treatments that have passed Phase 1 of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s approval process.

“The average time, Phase 1 to FDA approval, is seven to 10 years,” Gonick told judges, “and Congress and 41 states determined that was just too long for some patients suffering life-threatening illnesses.”

The laws express the recognition that some patients “may not have time to wait for FDA approval to receive treatments,” he added, “treatments that currently have ‘no accepted medical use,’ as the drugs in Schedule I have been designated” under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The DEA attorney, Department of Justice (DOJ) appellate lawyer Thomas Pulham, argued the case itself should be dismissed because the court lacks jurisdiction. If the agency had explicitly rejected the clinic’s application for a research permit, he said, only then could that decision be appealed.

“DEA’s action is not subject to judicial review, because it neither reflects the consummation of a decision-making process nor results in any legal consequences,” Pulham said. “It was an informal response to a request for assistance from a member of a regulated community that did nothing more than provide the agency’s view on existing law.”

The agency also argued to the court in a June filing that loosening restrictions on psilocybin could fuel the illegal drug trade.

Judges were skeptical of the government’s stance, however, and repeatedly asked Pulham how the clinic and its patients should have proceeded, in DEA’s view.

“What about under the Right to Try law, though?” asked Judge Ikuta. “Is there a pathway where they could apply under the Right to Try Act?”

No, the lawyer for DEA replied. “As the agency indicated in its letter, there’s no procedure available under the Right to Try Act, because the Right to Try Act does not provide the agency any authority to waive the requirements of the Controlled Substances Act.”

Pulham argued that if the AIMS Institute and its patients were to proceed with psilocybin therapy and face enforcement action by the DEA, they could raise their right-to-try arguments at that point.

“Usually we don’t require a party to go and subject themselves to liability in order to appeal,” interrupted Judge Nelson. “It sounds like there might actually be some legal consequences here. I mean, it is prohibiting them from doing what they want to do, and it’s subjecting them to enforcement action if they were to go forward.”

“The letter does not do that,” Pulham stressed. “The Controlled Substances Act does that.”

“When Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, it designated psilocybin as a controlled, Schedule I controlled substance based on findings that the drug had a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use,” he continued. “That determination made psilocybin, in the Supreme Court’s words, contraband for all purposes, except for one exception, which is research.”

In his few remaining minutes of argument for rebuttal, Zorn emphasized that his clients are merely asking DEA to explain how clinicians and patients should move forward under right-to-try laws. “The agency has said it has no authority to give us what we’re asking for, which is a process to apply for a waiver and exemption to vindicate right-to-try use,” he said, “which is very different from research use.” He also noted that DEA has accommodated some ceremonial use of controlled substances under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which is also not explicitly exempt from the CSA.

Zorn’s colleagues and clients cheered Zorn’s performance and said they hope it helps persuade the three-judge panel to rule in their favor.

“I am so grateful for such a landmark day in a higher court for us, in which our legal team was able to help in the slow chipping away of the DEA–CSA industrial complex status quo that stymies public health, healthcare, religious freedom, and the needs of the seriously ill,” Aggarwal, co-director of the AIMS Institute, told Marijuana Moment. “Now we await a swift and just ruling.”

Attorney Kathryn Tucker, who also represents AIMS and the patients, said that the panel “appeared over the course of the argument to appreciate that the agency had left no avenue open and hence the matter was properly before the court.”

“The sense I had watching the arguments was that the judges wanted to know how DEA would accommodate RTT and enable access for therapeutic use,” she said. “DOJ had no good answer to that.”

As AIMS and its patients challenge DEA’s restrictions on therapeutic psilocybin for end-of-life care, jurisdictions across the country are increasingly removing or reducing penalties around drug possession and consumption, especially when it comes to psychedelics.

A task force in Seattle, where AIMS is located, recently called on the City Council, as well as state lawmakers and other municipalities, to decriminalize all drugs as a way to curb overdose deaths. The group’s report also notes the potential shown by psychedelics in particular for treating various mental health disorders.

At the state level, Washington lawmakers reduced the state’s felony charge for drug possession to a misdemeanor earlier this year and earmarked more money for treatment following a state Supreme Court decision that overturned the states felony law against drug possession completely.

Not far north, in Canada, the country’s Health Ministry has granted case-by-case approval for some patients, as well as health care professionals, to access psilocybin for therapeutic use.

In California, meanwhile, a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics advanced through several Assembly committees this session, but it will not move further this year following a decision by the sponsor that more time is needed to build the case for the reform and solidify its chances of being enacted.

California psychedelics activists also recently filed a petition for the 2022 ballot to make the state the first in the nation to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for any use. Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization. The state’s nonpartisan Legislation Analyst’s Office said this week that the statewide ballot measure could save the state tens of millions of dollars in annual enforcement costs.

In Michigan, the Ann ArborCity Council approved the policy change last year—and local lawmakers recently passed a resolution to officially designate September as Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month.

In Massachusetts, cities that have enacted the policy change include NorthamptonSomerville and Cambridge.

In Denver the first city to adopt psilocybin reform, activists are now pushing to expand the psilocybin decriminalization policy to cover gifting and communal use of the substance.

The governor of Connecticut recently signed legislation recently that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms, meanwhile, and Texas recently enacted a bill to require the state study the medical benefits of psychedelics for military veterans.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.

After Ann Arbor legislators passed a decriminalization resolution last year, a county prosecutor recently announced that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi—“regardless of the amount at issue.”

The Aspen, Colorado City Council discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and proposals to decriminalize such substances at a meeting in May. But members said, as it stands, enacting a reform would be more better handled at the state level while entheogens remain strictly federally controlled.

Activists in Portland, Oregon, meanwhile, are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.

In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support expanded marijuana studies, for example

It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

When it comes to broader drug policy reform, Oregon voters also approved an initiative in November to decriminalize possession of all drugs. This year, the Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill, but it later died in the Senate.

In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

DEA Proposes Massive Increase In Marijuana And Psilocybin Production For Research To Develop FDA-Approved Medicines

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer

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.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

Politics

House Officially Passes Defense Bill With Marijuana Banking Protections, But Key Senators May Block Path Ahead

Published

on

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a large-scale defense spending bill that includes an amendment to shield banks that works with state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators. Now advocates and industry stakeholders are left wondering: what’s the fate of the reform in the Senate? And can it make it to the president’s desk?

New comments from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)—who’s helping lead the charge to advance comprehensive marijuana legalization and who has been severely critical of efforts to enact banking reform first—signal that the path to pass the incremental policy change through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) could be in jeopardy in the Senate. Other key senators have also expressed skepticism about the reform’s prospects through this process.

For supporters, things may have been more simple if the Senate had moved to include cannabis banking reform in its own version, but the text of NDAA released by Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday does not contain that language. That means the matter will need to be settled in a bicameral conference committee after the full Senate formally passes its bill. At that point, negotiators from both chambers will work to resolve differences between their separate proposals.

Already, there’s pushback from key senators to including the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the NDAA that’s ultimately sent to President Joe Biden. That’s not especially surprising considering that leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), has insisted on passing comprehensive justice-focused marijuana legalization first rather than advance an incremental reform on banking. But recent statements do raise questions about the prospects of enacting the reform through the defense bill.

It’s not that the SAFE Banking Act is partisan or especially controversial on its face; it’s a matter of legislative priorities for certain senators and a question of germaneness in NDAA. As of Tuesday, when the reform amendment was officially attached to the House version of the bill, it has now passed five times in the chamber, usually along largely bipartisan lines.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), chief sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, spoke with Marijuana Moment about the process moving forward in a phone interview on Wednesday. He was optimistic about the measure’s prospects with NDAA as the vehicle, though he conceded that he hadn’t spoken with Schumer or other key senators who are actively finalizing legalization legislation that they hope to see move first.

“I think the fifth time is the charm,” he said. “I mean, obviously, we still have to do some work to make sure that it remains part of the NDAA as the House and the Senate go to conference. So we still have work to do with the Senate to make sure that it remains part of it. But I think that it will.”

“I mean, the fact that it deals with cartels and national security, on top of the need for the public safety piece of this thing, I think that we’ll be able to convince the conference committee and the conferees generally to keep it in,” he said. “But we still have work to do.”


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 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.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Some advocates have expressed support for enacting the achievable banking policy change while working to build support for more comprehensive reform.

“Enactment of the SAFE Banking Act would improve public safety and business efficiency in the 36 states that currently permit some form of retail marijuana sales,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “The Senate should ensure this provision remains in the final version of this funding package and enact it swiftly.”

“The SAFE Banking Act is only the first step toward making sure that state-legal marijuana markets operate safely and efficiently,” he said. “The sad reality is that those who own or patronize these currently unbanked businesses would still be recognized as criminals in the eyes of the federal government and by federal law. This situation can only be rectified by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances.”

Schumer and certain other senators, meanwhile, have insisted the banking issue should be tackled by holistically ending marijuana prohibition. They argue that it is inappropriate to pass what is seen as an industry-focused reform that helps businesses and investors while leaving unaddressed the harms of decades of racially disparate prohibition enforcement that should be addressed with equity-focused legalization.

Booker, who is helping Schumer alongside Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) to produce a final legalization bill has said he would proactively work to block any senators who attempt to get marijuana banking reform passed before enacting social justice-focused legalization legislation.

And Booker told Politico on Wednesday that cannabis banking is “something that should not be included” in NDAA.

“It undermines the ability to get comprehensive marijuana reform and the kind of things that are harder to get done like expungement of people’s records,” he said, echoing a point that Schumer made in an interview with Marijuana Moment in April. And a spokesperson for the majority leader affirmed that his position has not changed in light of the House development.

Should a senator propose a floor amendment to the chamber’s version of the defense bill to incorporate SAFE Banking, Booker left open the possibility of standing in its way.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), sponsor of the standalone Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act, also declined to say whether he would push to attach the reform to NDAA and told Politico he’d “love to see if we can even do the more comprehensive [reform]—that’d be even better.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI), meanwhile, told Roll Call that the issue hasn’t been discussed by members of his panel. And bipartisan supporters of the reform—including Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rand Paul (R-KY)—told the outlet they weren’t certain that the Senate would pursue marijuana banking through NDAA.

Schatz also said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “doesn’t like” the marijuana banking proposal, and so “he’s going to have to consult with the Republicans in his conference who are in favor of this reform, but so far he’s been blocking it.”

Based on these comments, it seems increasingly clear that the effort to enact SAFE Banking through the must-pass defense bill faces a tough road ahead. And despite bipartisan support for the proposal on its own, it’s an open question as to whether the negotiators in committees of jurisdiction will be able to reach a consensus.

At an initial meeting of the House Rules Committee about NDAA on Monday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who is managing the bill for the chamber, acknowledged that while some members might consider certain amendments “superfluous” to defense spending matters, the annual legislation has been used as a vehicle to advance non-germane legislation in the past. He added, though, that doing so has historically required the issues at hand to have broad bipartisan support in order to survive the House-Senate conference committee process.

He didn’t specifically cite the cannabis banking proposal, but Perlmutter himself said earlier in the hearing that “whether something is superfluous is always in the eyes of the beholder,” signaling that he feels his measure’s germaneness in this context is up for interpretation.

Smith said that “whatever superfluous items the Rules Committee decides to put in order and get attached to this bill, we go to conference, and in conference, we work in a bipartisan fashion.”

But beyond Smith and Reed, it will also be up to leading members of key committees that handle banking issues to decide whether the measure gets a ride to the president’s desk in NDAA.

“We’re not going to pull one over on anybody here. We’re going to have to work with committees of jurisdiction—not just the chairs, but the ranking members as well—to come to some agreement on those before we go forward,” he said. “So if you see an item that you consider to be superfluous being added to the bill, don’t freak out.”

The chair’s comments about needing support from leaders of committees of jurisdiction raise questions about whether the amendment stands a chance in conference with the Senate following House approval. Not only did House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) vote against the standalone SAFE Banking Act this year and in 2019, but on the Senate side, even Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has been generally unenthusiastic about advancing the reform.

On the flip side, House Finance Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is a supporter of the banking reform and brought it through her panel last Congress. Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA), for his part, has previously voiced support for advancing the SAFE Banking Act.

Perlmutter has said that he appreciates that Senate leadership is pushing for a more comprehensive end to federal marijuana prohibition—and he agrees with Booker that promoting social equity is an important objective—but he feels the SAFE Banking Act is urgently needed to address public safety issues resulting from the industry’s lack of access to traditional financial institutions.

Some of the strongest proponents for broad reform like Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) voted in favor of the SAFE Banking Act in April despite the body yet having taken up a legalization measure this session.

FBI Clarifies That Using Marijuana More Than 24 Times Disqualifies Would-Be Agents

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Deal On Medical Marijuana Legalization, Plan To Request Special Session

Published

on

Lawmakers reached a deal on key provisions such as which agencies should be responsible for regulating the medical cannabis market.

By Geoff Pender, Mississippi Today

Legislative negotiators and leaders have agreed on a draft of medical marijuana legislation, and are anticipated to ask Gov. Tate Reeves (R) as early as Friday to call the Legislature into special session, sources close to the negotiations said Thursday.

Legislative leaders on Thursday released some details of the proposal—which had been kept close to the vest for months—such as that cities and counties will be allowed to “opt out” of having medical marijuana cultivation or dispensaries, although local voters can override this.

Negotiations have dragged on throughout the summer on crafting a medical marijuana program to replace one passed by Mississippi voters in November but shot down in May by the state Supreme Court on a constitutional technicality.

House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) in a Thursday interview on a Supertalk radio show said he believed the House and Senate leadership and negotiators are “in agreement” on a draft bill, and he believes both chambers have the votes to pass such a measure. He said he planned to get together with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann (R), then barring any last minute glitches “inform the governor we are ready.”

Other sources close to the negotiations on Thursday told Mississippi Today they anticipate that request to the governor would happen as soon as Friday. Reeves has sole authority to call lawmakers into special session, and would set the date and parameters of a special session. Although legislative leaders have expressed interest in dealing with COVID-19 and other issues in a special session, Reeves has appeared unwilling but said he would call a session for medical marijuana, pending lawmakers are in agreement and he agrees with the measure.

Gunn in his radio interview on Thursday gave some particulars of the bill, but said “don’t hold me to it” and deferred to Rep. Lee Yancey, (R), the lead House negotiator on the measure. Yancey has worked with Sen. Kevin Blackwell, (R), the lead Senate negotiator. Blackwell could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Yancey gave Mississippi Today some highlights of the draft bill, which would be subject to changes by the full Legislature. They include:

Cities and counties could opt out. Voters could opt back in. City councils or aldermen, or county boards of supervisors, within 60 days of passage of legislation, could opt out from allowing cultivation or dispensing of medical marijuana within their borders. However, voters could gather 1,500 signatures, or signatures of 20 percent of voters, whichever is less, and force a referendum on the issue. If such a referendum to allow it fails, voters could try again in two years, similar to state alcohol referenda. Yancey said that under the draft measure, “Once it’s in, it’s in,” meaning once approved, a locality could not come back and ban it.

“This gives businesses the certainty they need to get started,” Yancey said. “No licenses will be issued the first 60 days after passage for cultivation and processing, and licenses (for cannabis use) and dispensaries wouldn’t start until the 90th day.”

Smoking cannabis would be allowed. There had been debate on whether Mississippi’s program would allow smoking of cannabis by patients, as most states with programs allow, or prohibit it, as Alabama does with its recently approved program.

“There are those who have certain debilitating conditions who need the effects of medical cannabis to take effect immediately,” Yancey said. “Ingesting a gummy or something like that could take 45 minutes to an hour. Whether it’s terrible seizures or pain and suffering or not being able to eat, there are those who need relief as immediately as possible… There are those who look at this from a bias of recreational use, but that’s not apples to apples, not fair. There are people who are suffering, who need the palliative relieve medical cannabis can provide, and our main goal is to allow people who are suffering terrible illnesses to get relief.”

Medical marijuana would be subject to sales tax and an excise. The state’s sales tax, currently at 7 percent, would be levied on medical marijuana, as well as a $15 an ounce excise. Yancey said the goal was to have a 5 percent excise, but that going rates for marijuana vary by potency and product, so the weight-based tax was the easiest way to get near that mark. Weight for edibles and other product would be based on the cannabis weight, not food or other product. Yancey said this tax rate would put Mississippi roughly in the middle of states with legalized medical cannabis.

“The going rate for mid-range (marijuana flower) is about $300 an ounce, so if you do the math, $15 an ounce would be around the 5%,” Yancey said. “If a product sold for lower, you would pay higher than that rate, if sold for more, you would pay less.”

Outdoor growing would not be allowed. Lawmakers during hearings this summer were told by officials from other states that regulating growing and safety of medical marijuana is easier with indoor growing facilities.

State Health Department would be in charge, with Department of Revenue, Agriculture Commission sharing some responsibilities. The Mississippi State Department of Health would oversee the state’s medical marijuana program, but the state’s taxing and agriculture agencies would share some regulatory duties. State Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson has told lawmakers he will not participate in regulating medical marijuana because marijuana is still federally illegal. Gipson has threatened to sue if lawmakers try to force him to participate.

Yancey said the proposal would allow Gipson to subcontract growing regulations to someone else.

“For instance, if the Board of Pharmacy said it was interested in regulating the plants—like they do with compounding pharmacies—they could do it,” Yancey said. “In a sense Andy wouldn’t have to do it himself, he could farm it out, no pun intended.”

Preference would be given to in-state companies. Yancey said cultivators would be licensed in tiers—from “micro cultivators” to large ones, based on square footage of canopy space. Micro growers, under 2,000 square feet, would have to be “100 percent Mississippi resident participation.” Larger ones initially would have to have 35 percent Mississippi ownership, but that requirement would be repealed after one year. Yancey said this could help Mississippians be involved in the business, but help the state avoid lawsuits other states have faced from out-of-state growers. Yancey said there would be a similar setup for processors, based on amount of pounds of product they produce.

Potency would be regulated. Yancey said there would be THC potency limits of 30 percent on flower, 60 percent on concentrates and infused products. He said any product above 30 percent THC would have to have a warning label.

This story was first published by Mississippi Today.

Mississippi Agriculture Department Should Have No Role In Medical Marijuana Regulation, Commissioner Tells Lawmakers

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

Feds Fund Study Into Whether Psilocybin Can Help People Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Published

on

A top federal drug agency is funding a study into how psilocybin could help people quit smoking cigarettes—one of the latest examples of the government’s growing interest in psychedelic therapy.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently approved the grant, which will enable researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), New York University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham to explore how so-called magic mushrooms can help people curb their addiction to cigarettes.

Matthew Johnson, a professor at JHU who will be a lead investigator in the study, announced the grant funding on Monday. He said he believes that this is the “first grant from the US government in over a half century to directly study therapeutics of a classic psychedelic.”

The research initiative will be a “multi-center, high-risk clinical study” into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin in tobacco addiction. It would build on earlier research that’s indicated that the psychedelic could play a valuable role in substance misuse disorders.

“This is extremely encouraging. Public funding for psychedelic science is critical,” Peter Hendricks, a University of Alabama professor who will be involved in the study, told Truffle Report. “My hope is that this opens the door to further scientific inquiry, and ultimately, the advancement of a treatment paradigm that has the potential to alleviate suffering across the globe.”

Johnson at JHU has been proposing a pilot study into the medical value of psilocybin for this treatment since 2014, stressing in a paper for the Journal of Psychopharmacology at the time that “despite suggestive early findings on the therapeutic use of hallucinogens in the treatment of substance use disorders, rigorous follow-up has not been conducted.”

Now NIDA is putting money toward the research project. But the parameters of the study and the level of funding is unclear. Johnson didn’t reply to several requests for comment.

There’s a sense of urgency to invest in psychedelics research, especially given that a new federal survey identified a rise in the use of hallucinogenic among young adults at the same time that alcohol consumption is declining.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that the increased media attention to psychedelics research, and the reform movement to loosen restrictions on these substances, is contributing to that trend.

“People start to discover the potential that these drugs have for therapeutics and the current trials that are ongoing,” she said. “This takes on a momentum because the ideal world of having a drug that can cure things very dramatically [is appealing].”

It makes sense that JHU would be take a lead role in the NIDA-backed research project.

Researchers at the university have been studying psychedelics for decades, and in 2019, it launched a first-of-its-kind psychedelics research center. The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research has focused primarily on potential therapeutic uses for psychedelics, such as smoking cessation and treatment for depression, Alzheimer’s disease, anorexia and opioid withdrawal.

Interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics is growing, and there are some early signals that the issue may even be bipartisan.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a veteran who recently moderated a conversation with a top psychedelics reform advocate, recently filed an amendment to a defense bill that would have allowed the secretary of defense to approve grants for research into the medical value of certain psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine and 5–MeO–DMT for active duty military members with post-traumatic stress disorder. That measure wasn’t allowed a House floor vote to the large-scale legislation, however, but it’s another example of how the issue is gaining momentum at the highest levels of government.

A former Republican congresswoman also recently touted the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, sharing the story of how a close family friend was able to recover from alcoholism with the help of psilocybin.

The psychedelics reform movement is also continuing to grow.

Last week, California activists were cleared to begin collecting signatures for a historic initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state.

Detroit could also become one of the next Michigan cities to decriminalize psychedelics, with the reform proposal making the local ballot for this November.

The Ann Arbor City Council has already elected to make enforcement of laws prohibition psychedelics like psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT among the city’s lowest priorities—and lawmakers recently followed up by declaring September Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month. Advocates have also introduced a reform resolution to the Grand Rapids City Council.

In California, Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization.

Oregon voters passed an initiative last November to legalize psilocybin therapy.

Washington, D.C. voters also approved a ballot measure last year to deprioritize enforcement of laws criminalizing psychedelics.

Meanwhile, Denver activists who successfully led a 2019 campaign to make the city the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin possession have their eyes set on broader reform, with plans in the works to end the criminalization of noncommercial gifting and communal use of the psychedelic.

Massachusetts cities that have enacted the policy change are: NorthamptonSomerville and Cambridge. In July, state lawmakers heard testimony about a bill to create a task force charged with studying the implications of legalizing psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca.

The governor of Connecticut recently signed legislation recently that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Texas also recently enacted a bill to require the state study the medical benefits of psychedelics for military veterans.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.

In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.

The Aspen, Colorado City Council discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and proposals to decriminalize such substances at a meeting in May. But members said, as it stands, enacting a reform would be more better handled at the state level while entheogens remain strictly federally controlled.

Seattle lawmakers also recently sent a letter to members of a local task force focused on the opioid overdose epidemic, imploring the group to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like ayahuasca and ibogaine in curbing addiction. In response, the task force issued a recommendation for the widespread decriminalization of all drugs. The group said psychedelics in particular could represent a promising treatment to address substance abuse disorders and mental health issues.

Meanwhile, Portland, Oregon activists are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.

In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.

Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged NIDA to support expanded marijuana studies, for example. It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.

There was an attempt by a Republican congressman to attach language into a defense spending bill that would promote research into psychedelics therapy for active duty military members, but it was not made in order in the House Rules Committee this week.

When it comes to broader drug policy reform, Oregon voters also approved an initiative in November to decriminalize possession of all drugs. This year, the Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill, but it later died in the Senate.

In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.

Marijuana Banking Sponsor Discusses Path Through Senate After House Approves Reform For Fifth Time

Image courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment