Activists are staging a demonstration outside of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) headquarters in Virginia on Monday to demand that the agency allow terminally ill patients to access psilocybin therapy.
The event—which is set to include civil disobedience and possible arrests—is meant to call attention to DEA’s obstruction of Right to Try statutes at the federal and state level that patients and advocates say should facilitate use of psychedelics.
Patients, veterans and key advocates will be participating in the demonstration. One terminally ill patient, Erinn Baldeschwiler, is involved in ongoing litigation against DEA over its refusal to give her access to psilocybin.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps CEO David Bronner, who has been involved in numerous drug policy reform reform campaigns, will be there. Advocates based in D.C. such as Psychedelic Medicine Coalition’s Melissa Lavasani and Decriminalize Nature DC co-founder Adam Eidinger are also participating.
Watch the psychedelics demonstration outside of DEA headquarters live in the video below:
“To absolutely prohibit access, when state and federal law are intended to allow access, that is impermissible,” Kathryn Tucker, who is representing Baldeschwiler in the legal challenge against DEA, said. “These dying patients could have immediate, substantial, and sustained relief from debilitating anxiety and depression.”
“Why anyone would obstruct access to that kind of relief for a dying patient is impossible to comprehend,” she said.
Advocates have pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already granted psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” designation.
In February, a Seattle doctor specializing in end-of-life care filed a formal petition with DEA challenging the government’s Schedule I classification of psilocybin, the main psychoactive component of psychedelic mushrooms.
The petition requests the agency to reschedule psilocybin as a less-restricted Schedule II drug, pointing to its relatively low potential for abuse and “exceptional promise in relieving debilitating symptoms in those with intractable and otherwise untreatable illness,” including the severe anxiety and depression that can result from a terminal illness.
Attorneys for Dr. Sunil Aggarwal filed the federal petition almost immediately following a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that dismissed on procedural grounds a lawsuit Aggarwal and two of his terminally ill cancer patients filed against DEA last year. In that case, plaintiffs argued they should be allowed legal access to psilocybin under state and federal right-to-try laws, which are intended to let patients with terminal conditions try investigational medications that have not been approved for general use.
Separately, in January, a bipartisan group of members of Congress sent a letter urging DEA to let terminally ill patients have access to psilocybin. The agency, lawmakers said, is “obstructing access to psilocybin for therapeutic use consistent with the letter and intent Right to Try (RTT) laws.”
Congress and 41 states have adopted right-to-try laws, which allow patients with terminal conditions to try investigational medications that have not been approved for general use. Lawmakers said that DEA “has failed to abide” by the law.
DEA has increased production quotas for the production of certain psychedelics like psilocybin in an effort to promote research, but its scheduling decisions have continued to represent obstacles for scientists.
Image courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.