Momentum Building For U.S. Psychedelics Legal Reform

  • As the need for psychedelic medicine reaches critical levels, we are now (finally) seeing serious signs of regulatory movement toward greater access to psychedelic medicine in the United States




The decriminalization of psychedelic drugs (and psychedelic medicine) has been a long time coming.

Psychedelic drugs were heavily criminalized in the early 1970s, primarily as an Establishment backlash against notorious “psychedelic guru” Timothy Leary. His exhortation to the young to “tune in, turn on, drop out” was seen as an intolerable provocation to the social and economic order.

What followed is the War on Drugs: a half-century of law enforcement failure, heinous injustices, and nearly immeasurable social and economic harms from this failed campaign. The folly of U.S. alcohol Prohibition was not simply repeated, it was amped-up to an absurdly self-destructive level.

Caught in the crossfire was psychedelic medicine.

Even before the War on Drugs, increasing bodies of medical research were establishing the enormous potential of psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin to treat a wide assortment of mental health disorders. However, the War on Drugs banished such research to a regulatory deep-freeze.

Only in the last decade has a thaw commenced in this hardline and irrational approach to psychedelics regulation. Old research has been dusted off, and almost immediately, new clinical results were bolstering the case for psychedelic medicine.

Today, such clinical research has reached a critical mass.

We know that psychedelic medicine can/will dramatically raise the standard of care for mental health treatment. As the first clinical trials of these psychedelics-based therapies advance into their late stages, all that remains to be determined is how much psychedelic medicine can/will advance the treatment of mental health disorders.

The need for psychedelic medicine is off the charts

Even before draconian government measures to “fight” the Covid-19 pandemic, there were roughly two billion people globally with treatable mental health disorders: the Mental Health Crisis.

Since the start of Covid, mental health issues have soared exponentially. By September 2020, “nearly everyone” in Canada had already seen their mental health impacted to a greater or lesser degree – and that was 16 months ago.

In the U.S., the number of Americans with depression is reported to have nearly quadrupled, with 80 million now exhibiting symptoms of depression. Rates of anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse are also rising exponentially. In 2020 alone, U.S. drug overdose deaths soared by 30%.

Conventional mental health therapies have proven to be grossly inadequate, if not totally obsolete, for decades. Two billion people (1 in 4) didn’t develop mental health disorders overnight.

Clinical results using psychedelic medicine have clearly shown that psychedelics can revolutionize the treatment of mental health, providing actual cures where obsolete conventional therapies can provide only ineffectual crutches.
 
Standing in the way are our archaic drug laws.

However, recent news from both Canada and the United States is indicating that (finally) momentum is now building for the necessary legal normalization of these substances – to allow these amazing therapies to reach the People.

Encouraging recent developments in the normalization of psychedelic medicine

With 2022 not yet a month old, we have already seen more significant signs of regulatory thaw in the U.S. and Canada than we saw through the whole of 2021.

Canada was first to make the news, via amendments to Health Canada’s Special Access Program (SAP). As of January 5, 2022; the Program has been expanded to allow physicians to apply for access to any psychedelic medicine as a therapy for any (serious) medical condition.

This is a qualitative change in access to psychedelic medicine in Canada. Previously, Section 56 “exemptions” via the SAP were limited to only psilocybin-based therapies and (primarily) for terminally-ill patients.

Health Canada has been explicit that this is not intended as a back-door to psychedelics legalization. Nor do they contemplate large-scale access to psychedelics-based therapies via the SAP. Even so, it’s hard not to see this putting Canada squarely on the path to broader legalization of at least some psychedelic medicine.

In the United States, progress particularly at the federal level has been slower. However, also in January, we are suddenly seeing obvious signs of regulatory thaw in the U.S.

None other than Nora Volkow of the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) fired the first salvo.
 
For most of the 50-year-old War on Drugs, NIDA has been the leading voice against normalization of these substances. The reversal of its position on psychedelic drugs is as dramatic as it is historic.
 
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow said people are going to keep using substances such as psilocybin—especially as the reform movement expands and there’s increased attention being drawn to the potential therapeutic benefits—and so researchers and regulators will need to keep up.

“Researchers and regulators will need to keep up.”

The psychedelic drug industry is taking care of the research. As Psychedelic Stock Watch regularly observes, the industry is rapidly advancing its psychedelics-based drug development both vertically and horizontally.

Now, the primary drug research bureaucracy in the U.S. with respect to these controlled substances is saying that the regulators (and politicians) need to get it in gear.

Were the politicians listening? Only a day after Nora Volkow urged U.S. regulators to move into the 21st century with respect to drug reform, we saw this.
 
The DEA remains a major obstructionist with respect to rational and needed reform of psychedelic drug laws. Desperately attempting to position itself as still relevant while the War on Drugs is increasingly discredited, the DEA is blocking even compassionate access to psychedelic medicine for terminally-ill cancer patients.

The DEA continues to refuse to provide Right To Try legal exemptions for psilocybin medicine (for the terminally ill), relying on the flimsiest and most pathetic of legal arguments.

Now Congress is finally asking the DEA to account for its harsh and irrational position with respect to psychedelic medicine. If the DEA won’t cooperate with Congress, ongoing court challenges on this front are almost certain to succeed.

It would seem that the American people are also behind legal reform to increase access to psychedelic medicine. On the same day that we read about Congress going to bat for psychedelic medicine, the results of a U.S. survey on psychedelics were released.

Key findings include:
 
  • 65% of Americans with mental health conditions wanted (legal) access to psychedelic medicine
  • 83% of Americans suffering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse or PTSD were “open to pursuing alternative treatments”

Despite the War on Drugs-induced stigma around psychedelics, public support for psychedelic medicine in the U.S. (and Canada) continues to grow rapidly. And with little surprise.

Conventional mental health therapies don’t work. Clinical results from psychedelic medicine are showing spectacular potential to improve treatment outcomes. Sick people want access to these therapies.

For psychedelic medicine, the future is now

Politicians. The People. An important regulatory body.

In the span of less than 48 hours, the psychedelic drug industry saw more signs of U.S. regulatory thaw along all three of these avenues than in all of last year.

This comes in the context of increasing numbers of state and local governments in the U.S. that are either actively “studying” psychedelic medicine, or proactively removing regulatory barriers to these substances.

Psychedelic medicine is here.

The research is maturing rapidly. The People are ready for these therapies.

Now it’s time for the regulators “to keep up”. Belatedly, they seem to be getting the message.
 
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