Psychedelics Weekly – AIMS vs. the DEA: An Update on the Fight to Reschedule Psilocybin

February 10, 2023
Featuring: David Drapkin & Kathryn L. Tucker, JD

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In this episode of Psychedelics Weekly, David is joined by Kathryn L. Tucker, JD: Director of Advocacy at the National Psychedelics Association and a founding member of the Psychedelic Bar Association with over 35 years in advocacy in protecting the rights of dying patients. 

Tucker is currently working with Dr. Sunil Agarwal of the Advanced Integrative Medical Science (AIMS) Institute in a battle against the DEA: Agarwal works with end-of-life cancer patients and approached the DEA to see how they’d accommodate state and federal Right to Try laws to grant his patients access to psilocybin, which the DEA denied. This led to the federal case, AIMS vs. the DEA (AIMS I), then AIMS II (which petitions their denial of Right to Try access), and now, AIMS III, which appeals their denial of the petition to reschedule psilocybin. 

As with all things government-related, the story shows how little these people actually care about any of us, but Tucker gracefully walks us through the whole convoluted mess; explaining each step, what should happen next, where the DEA blatantly disregarded rules, what you can do to help, and ultimately, the importance of this case in how situations like these could be handled in the future (from both sides). She discusses the problems with state legalization under federal jurisdiction; what we can learn from what we saw with safe injection sites being canceled in Philadelphia; Cory Booker and Rand Paul’s Breakthrough Therapy Act; the idea of having state-legal programs actually run by the government to create a federal safe harbor; and more.  

And in the news, they cover recently submitted legalization bills, Australia legalizing the medical use of psilocybin and MDMA (for specific conditions by approved practitioners), and the concern over what will happen with ketamine telehealth when the Covid-19 Emergency is finally put to an end in May.

Notable Quotes

“As you may have seen just last week in Australia, MDMA and psilocybin were rescheduled. And you might have noticed in the press release a reference to the fact that the Australian agency took in a considerable amount of medical and scientific data when it was considering that rescheduling. That’s proper. That’s necessary. That did not happen here. So what happened in Australia exemplifies and throws into sharp light that the DEA failed as a matter of process here.”

“The problem with state legalization as mentioned earlier is that it can do no more than offer state safe harbor. It cannot alter federal law. …Under the Oregon statute, all psilocybin must be consumed at a psilocybin service center, which must be licensed by the state, and it must be purchased and consumed at that center in the presence of a licensed facilitator. That is what is legal under Oregon state law. However, the operation of those psilocybin service centers is still a federal crime. And I think there has been a hope and possibly even an expectation that the federal government is going to look the other way. We have no indication that that is going to happen.”

“Within the Controlled Substances Act, there’s a provision that if the action is taken by a government official, then there is a federal safe harbor. So one of the ways that one might be looking at creatively revising these state legalizations is to have the program be run by the government. Now could you make an argument that when, for example, the Oregon Health Authority issues licenses to Oregon service centers, that that means it’s a government-run facility? Maybe. I mean, I think that’s an argument worth fully vetting, because it could bring you within federal safe harbor.”


National Psychedelics Association

Psychedelic Bar Association

Psychedelics Today: PT307 – Kathryn L. Tucker, JD – The Right to Try Act and the Battle for Psilocybin Access Right to Try

Pubmed: Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial S.4575 – Right to Try Clarification Act Cory Booker And Rand Paul File Bill To Reschedule Psychedelic Breakthrough Therapies And Remove Research Barriers The 101 of the Bipartisan Breakthrough Therapy Act

DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor’s Revolutionary Research Into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences, by Rick Strassman

Marijuana Moment: Psychedelics Bills Filed In Four More States As 2023 Reform Efforts Heat Up Psychedelic Legalization & Decriminalization Tracker Cole Memorandum Appellate Court Agrees with Government that Supervised Injection Sites are Illegal under Federal Law; Reverses District Court Ruling Overdose Prevention Centers and the Federal “Crack House Statute” Activists Protest the DEA for Psilocybin Access

The Nowak Society: Right to Try Psilocybin Advocacy Fund The Future of Ketamine Telehealth When Biden Ends the Covid-19 Emergencies in May 2023 Field Trip and Nue Life Are Collaborating To Bring Psychedelic Therapy Into the Home

David Drapkin 2-min

In this Episode

David Drapkin

Director of Education and Training

Kathryn Tucker 2

Kathryn L. Tucker, JD

Kathryn L. Tucker, JD is the Director of Advocacy at the National Psychedelics Association, a founding member of the Psychedelic Bar Association, and serves as Liaison to the Psychedelic Lawyering Task Force within the American Bar Association. Across her 30 year career, Tucker’s work has focused on advocacy to protect and expand the rights of the terminally ill. She served as Executive Director of the End of Life Liberty Project (ELLP), which she founded during her tenure as Executive Director of the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC), the nation’s oldest disability rights advocacy organization. Tucker served two decades as Director of Advocacy and Legal Affairs for Compassion & Choices. Prior to that, she practiced law with Perkins Coie. Professor Tucker has held faculty appointments at Loyola/Los Angeles, the University of Washington, Seattle University and Lewis & Clark, Schools of Law, teaching in the area of law, medicine and ethics at the end of life. Tucker served as lead counsel representing patients and physicians in two landmark federal cases decided by the United States Supreme Court, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, asserting that mentally competent terminally ill patients have a constitutional right to choose aid in dying. These cases are widely acknowledged to have prompted nationwide attention to improving care of the dying, and to have established a federal constitutional right to aggressive pain management. Tucker played a key role in successfully defending the Oregon Death with Dignity Act from attack by the United States Department of Justice, resulting in the landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court, Oregon v. Gonzales, representing the patient plaintiffs. Tucker was part of the team that succeeded in enacting the nation’s first state law permitting psilocybin therapy (Oregon Measure 109, 2020). She serves as lead counsel representing a palliative care physician and an oncology clinic in the first effort to apply Right to Try laws to psilocybin therapy, AIMS et al v DEA.