Psychedelic drugs for terminally ill patients, new federal bill includes additional psychedelics research funding, DEA faces FOIA suit
Plus: A poll of investors, and the Latest in Oregon
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose. Here’s the news of the week:
New Right to Try amendment. On Wednesday, U.S. senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the “Right to Try Clarification Act.” Congress passed the Right to Try Act in 2018, granting terminally ill patients the ability to try “investigational drugs” as part of their treatment. For two years, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal of Seattle’s Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute and two of his patients who are terminally ill, Erinn Baldeschwiler and Michal Bloom, have been seeking access to psilocybin-assisted therapy under Right to Try laws. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has told them that Right to Try laws do not exempt drugs like psilocybin from their Schedule I status.
The new bill would amend the federal Right to Try law, adding a statement that allows patients to access investigational drugs even if they are classified as Schedule I controlled substances. U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) are expected to introduce a companion bill in the House. Even with such an amendment, manufacturers of experimental drugs are under no obligation to provide them to Right to Try patients, making the pathway to actual access unclear.
More money for psychedelics research and more access for veterans and active military. In more U.S. congressional news, last week representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) each added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to widen veterans’ and active military members’ access to psychedelics. Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment loosens federal restrictions for drug studies to allow for more research using MDMA and psilocybin, while Crenshaw’s included those as well as ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT — according to The Intercept, “there is little indication that the two representatives worked in concert.” The bill passed last Thursday.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. Don’t miss a beat.
Psychedelic Alpha polls investors. While public interest in psychedelics surges, psychedelic stocks are falling. Major psychedelics companies like atai, Compass Pathways, Cybin, Field Trip, and Numinus have seen a steady drop in their share prices over the last year. To understand investors’ attitudes, Psychedelic Alpha polled 183 people who had personally invested in psychedelics in the last year or were investing on behalf of an institution. While the vast majority had invested less than $5,000 in psychedelics, some respondents reported investing more than a million dollars. The survey found that those investing more than $500,000 in the last year were more likely to report that they wanted to increase their level of investment, while those who had invested a significant but smaller sum — between $10,000 and $250,000 — were more likely to say they were looking to leave the psychedelics market.
Psychedelic Alpha pointed to two main concerns from respondents. The first were regulatory and legislative barriers. “Despite promising signals from regulators and governments in terms of modestly reducing barriers to psychedelic research, it is clear that our investors still have concerns around a politically-motivated backlash against psychedelics as they become more mainstream once again,” the report reads. The second concern was that companies may not be able to maintain valuation, or that they’d run out of money for research and development. Respondents pointed to “poor inexperienced management” and “high valuations, high costs, too little cash” as worrying trends — one investor summed it up as “a chaotic, disorganized, wild-west of a market.” The full report is available for download here.
DEA faces FOIA suit. A group of lawyers and a doctor are suing the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for “abuse and unlawful diversion of legitimate Freedom of Information Act requests.” The suit, filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the southern district of Texas, alleges that the DEA has been unlawfully labeling FOIA requests as “complex” or raising “unusual circumstances” whenever a request requires the agency to reach out to any other agency office, and requests that the court declare the DEA’s policy unlawful and “implement a corrective action plan.” The case was filed by Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, the physician seeking access to psilocybin-assisted therapy for his terminally ill patients; the AIMS Institute, where Dr. Aggarwal works; and Kathryn Tucker and Matthew Zorn, attorneys representing Aggarwal and his patients.
If the case moves forward, it could force the DEA to fulfill the plaintiffs’ outstanding FOIA requests related to Aggarwal and AIMS seeking the DEA’s guidance on Right To Try laws. But it could also have wider effects for anyone making FOIA requests to the DEA; the suit cites FOIA data to allege that the DEA has been marking more cases as “complex” over the last two years, and that the agency has been slower to handle such cases.
The Latest in Oregon: More counties seek to “opt out” of Measure 109. Last week, Deschutes County commissioners held a public hearing to discuss a proposal, which would add a ballot measure in the November election banning psilocybin. Those who spoke at the hearing voiced unanimous opposition to the proposal, but on Wednesday, commissioners voted 2-to-1 to advance it, according to local news channel KTVZ.
KTVZ also reports that in Crook County, Deschutes County’s neighbors to the east, officials will vote on a similar proposal on August 3. Officials in Clackamas County, just south of Portland, are now also considering a proposal which would place a two-year ban on psilocybin services.
Audio files from Oregon Psilocybin Services’ public listening sessions have been posted on the agency’s website.
Reporter Chris Walker, a Ferriss-UC Berkeley Psychedelic Journalism fellow, has a new podcast out called Ballot Trip, which takes listeners inside Colorado’s psychedelic decriminalization efforts.
Law firm Harris Bricken has launched a psychedelics glossary that defines everything from “adaptogenic mushrooms” to the “U.S. Department of Justice.”
VICE’s Shayla Love examines the historical overlap between psychedelics and paranormal research and what such research means for the ethics of informed consent in psychedelics research.
I’ll be interviewing Michael Pollan at Town Hall in Seattle next Thursday, July 29. Join us in person or online by purchasing a ticket here.
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend. Stay tuned on Monday for a new issue of 5 Questions.
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