For years, the US federal government has waged a ridiculous, horribly damaging, and incredibly expensive war on drugs. Enough money has been spent to ruin lives, that it’s maddening, and all for something that was never going to work. It says quite a bit about the recent turn in tides, that rather than being more restrictive, the DEA just stated it wants more marijuana and psilocybin produced, for research purposes.
What’s the news?
In the last couple days, the DEA made a complete 180º turn from its general stance of ‘cannabis is bad’ and ‘psychedelics are bad’, and turned it into, ‘let’s make more’. Yup, the US Drug Enforcement Agency announced that it intends massive increases in the production of both marijuana and psilocybin for research purposes, specifically to get federally approved medicinal products to market. The notice was published on September 2nd, 2021. The notice states the DEA’s intention to increase the amount of:
“…the schedule I substances psilocybin, psilocin, marihuana, and marihuana extract, which are directly related to increased interest by DEA registrants in the use of hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trial purposes… DEA firmly believes in supporting regulated research of schedule I controlled substances… Therefore, the increases reflect the need to fulfill research and development requirements in the production of new drug products, and the study of marijuana effects in particular, as necessary steps toward potential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drug products.”
It should be remembered that all of these substances, whether psychedelic mushroom-related, or cannabis-related, are currently Schedule I in the DEA list of Controlled Substances. Which means the DEA wants the Schedule I substances THC and psilocybin to be used as medications, and is upping the ante to get them to market. Even though these substances are currently 100% federally illegal, and considered not to have any medical value at all.
This is not the first time the DEA has adjusted quotas for the production of Schedule I compounds. However, it does stand out in terms of the DEA’s stated desire to actually get products FDA-approved, and to market, signaling an understanding that things are changing in terms of popular opinion. This is backed up already by the 18 states legal for recreational cannabis use, the over 30 that are cool with medical use, and the new inclusion by Oregon in 2020 for legal medical psilocybin.
If the DEA wants more marijuana and psilocybin, how much does this mean?
It should be noted that the term used by the DEA is ‘marijuana’, and not ‘cannabis’, showing the intent for high-THC plants, not just cannabis in general. How much more does the DEA want to see produced in 2021? A massive two million grams, which equals about 4,400 pounds, and which is an increase of 500,000 grams from its initial quota amount. As far as cannabis extracts, it more than doubled the original quota, bringing the new amount to 500,000 grams of extracts.
When it comes to the two main psychedelic compounds of magic mushrooms, psilocybin and psilocin, compounds that have not yet reached the acceptance level of cannabis, the DEA is aiming for pretty big production increases as well. The quota for psilocybin just skyrocketed from 50 grams to 1,500 grams, a 2,900% increase for those following along. That’s pretty big! In terms of its counterpart psilocin, the DEA is looking for an increase to 1,000 grams from 50. While 1,000 might not seem high, it’s a massive increase from the current 50.
This is all great news for activists, medical patients, researchers, and advocates who want these substances legalized for medical use, and beyond. Many are still irritated, however, by the idea that plenty of medical evidence already exists confirming the efficacy and safety of these compounds, and yet they’re still in Schedule I…which is especially confounding considering some of the most dangerous drugs, opioids, are given out like candy.
What happens next?
Will it happen right away? No, that’s not how things tend to work in government. In this situation, there will be a 30-day period for people to submit feedback on this possible increase, which is available to do here. The subject might require a public hearing before changes can officially be made to update the 2021 quota amounts. Realistically, this proposed increase shows the necessity the government must be feeling to update laws, in order to not be left behind by its own country, which is defying federal mandate almost everywhere (when adding up medical and recreational legalizations, as well as decriminalization measures).
While this is more true for cannabis than psilocybin, the fact that psilocybin has been increasingly in the spotlight signals that the same process is happening with it, as it is with cannabis. Perhaps the government would be smarter this time by getting out in front of it, instead of trying to stop it, while being defied by state after state.
The groundwork for all this was set earlier in the year when the DEA ended the monopoly that the University of Mississippi has enjoyed since 1968, for the production of federally sanctioned marijuana. This should make meeting the new proposed production goals that much more possible. With additional growers approved for production, considerably more marijuana can be legally produced, which begs the question of whether the ending of the monopoly really was a first step, meant to facilitate the increase being put forward now.
To give an idea of how split everything still is, a petition was filed in a federal appeals court, which was ruled on at the end of August. The appeal was to require the DEA to reevaluate the current scheduling of cannabis. The court dismissed the petition, requiring no reevaluation or change to the Controlled Substances list. However, to shine a light on the understanding that such rulings won’t hold for much longer, one judge was forward-thinking enough to state that he thinks the DEA will be forced to make a policy change soon, owing to the glaring misinformation about the therapeutic value of the plant, which current laws are based off. U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Watford stated the following:
“I write separately to note that, in an appropriate case, the Drug Enforcement Administration may well be obliged to initiate a reclassification proceeding for marijuana, given the strength of petitioners’ arguments that the agency has misinterpreted the controlling statute by concluding that marijuana ‘has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.’”
Why the DEA wants more marijuana and psilocybin for research
The reason this is happening is stated in Judge Watford’s statement, or at least partially. He stated the likely need to update laws based on misinformation about health benefits, but what he left out was that the overall tide is changing on these compounds, leading states to break with federal mandates in large amounts. Considering how much this erodes federal government power, it really will become a necessity, if the federal government doesn’t want all 50 of its states to have some kind of marijuana and/or mushrooms policy in direct contrast to its laws. The federal government has initiated a few bills for legalization, but whether they are capable of passing yet is hard to say.
The DEA is not the first government agency to make it clear it wants products on the market with these compounds. In terms of marijuana, we already know the federal government is okay with it, because there already are plenty of marijuana products on the market. They come in the form of Dronabinol (marketed under Marinol, Syndros, REDUVO and Adversa), which was created by Solvay pharmaceuticals; and Nabilone, which was originally developed by US pharma company Eli Lilly and Company in 1985 (also known as Cesamet, among other trade names). In that sense, the contradiction already exists that pharmaceutical cannabis products are somehow not Schedule I, but other non-pharmaceutical products, are…
In terms of psychedelics, in 2019, the FDA earmarked psilocybin as a ‘breakthrough therapy’ for major depression, and this was the second time it did it. This designation is meant to speed up products to market, though the agency doesn’t just dole out this title randomly. When a company is doing trials that show a compound to be possibly better than existing options, it can apply for this label, which Compass Pathways, and Usona Institute, now have.
Just to make it clear how much psychedelics are entering the main stage, these designations given to psilocybin, came after a 2017 breakthrough therapy title was given to MDMA, due to its trials by the organization MAPS, for use with PTSD. In this case, the FDA actually worked in conjunction with MAPS to plan phase three if its trials, to ensure results would meet regulation standards.
DEA, Marijuana and Psilocybin – Conclusion
The federal government has sure been dragging its heels in terms of acknowledging the backward nature of current laws concerning marijuana and psychedelics. It does seem fine to let pharmaceutical products in, a stunning, often ignored, contradiction that doesn’t get enough attention. There are already legal products on the market for both drug classes. I’ve mentioned the marijuana products earlier in the article, and in the case of psychedelics, the compound esketamine, which was legalized for use with depression in 2019, and then updated for suicidal thoughts in 2020. The company that puts it out? Johnson & Johnson, under the name of Spravato. To simply say the federal government is against these compounds, is absolutely ludicrous.
Luckily, when public opinion changes to the point of being out of the control of lawmakers (as in, smear campaigns can’t work anymore), it means change can happen, even if at a slug-like pace. Considering the DEA now wants an increase in marijuana and psilocybin production, and the FDA is earmarking psychedelics as breakthrough therapies, it’s quite likely legalizations are coming soon. The government seems to finally be realizing that it no longer has a choice.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.
You know the tides are turning when the DEA puts out a notice saying it wants more marijuana and psilocybin produced for research purposes. Luckily, a lot of the US is already legal, and this means there are a range of products on the market, and not just standard marijuana. Take delta-8 THC for example. This half-brother to delta-9 THC creates less psychoactive effect, provides virtually the same medical benefits, and causes less anxiety, cloudy head, and couch locking effects. This is preferable to many users, highlighting why having options is imperative. Learn more by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.