The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is taking another shot at banning two psychedelics after abandoning its original scheduling proposal last year, teeing up another fight with researchers and advocates who say the compounds hold therapeutic potential.
In a notice published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, DEA again proposed placing 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI) and 2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine (DOC) in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The agency said that its scientific and medical basis for proposing the ban “remains the same” as it was last year, so it’s making an identical argument that the phenethylamine hallucinogens hold high abuse potential with no known medical value. What’s changed in the new notice appears to be related to the administrative process of requesting a hearing challenging the facts or laws governing the scheduling action.
When it withdrew its earlier notice, DEA mentioned that it would be “publishing a new proposed rule using an amended procedure.”
DEA doesn’t explain why the amended procedure was necessary, but it is the case that scientists rallied last year to request a hearing on its DOI and DOC scheduling proposal. The psychedelic research company Panacea Plant Sciences had also filed a motion contesting the policy change, which could’ve resulted in an administrative judge scheduling a hearing.
Unlike the previous notice, this latest filing says that the “decision whether a hearing will be needed to address such matters of fact and law in the rulemaking will be made by the Administrator.” There are suspicions that DEA is effectively complicating the process for outside parties to challenge the proposal.
In any case, Panacea Plant Sciences is again sounding the alarm. Founder and CEO David Heldreth told Marijuana Moment on Friday that the “response to our rallying cry to fight the DEA’s illogical rule making has been amazing.”
“The psychedelic community from lawyers and researchers to community activists and even individual people have really come together in opposition to the DEA prohibition mindset,” he said. “Panacea have had contact with at least 10 groups that want to be involved or support the legal fight against the DEA attempt to criminalize DOI and DOC. These compounds are intrinsically important to researchers and the scientific study of the mind and body.”
Just sent the info on this over to @calyxlaw & others a few min ago – We will be challenging this action again via a request for hearing & if necessary an appeal court challenge. Who wants to join the fight? https://t.co/18kSQM4NXQ
— PanaceaPlantSciences (@PanaceaPlantSci) December 14, 2023
For DOI and DOC, the agency’s notice still lacks evidence that directly connects the compounds to serious adverse health events or demonstrated a high abuse potential.
“To date, there are no reports of distressing responses or death associated with DOI in medical literature,” it says. “The physiological dependence liability of DOI and DOC in animals and humans is not reported in scientific and medical literature.”
DEA said that anecdotal reports posted by people online signaled that the substances have hallucinogenic effects, making it “reasonable to assume that DOI and DOC have substantial capability to be a hazard to the health of the user and to the safety of the community.”
It did point to one report of a death of a person who had used DOC in combination with two other unspecified drugs—as well as two reports of hospitalizations that it said were attributable to the use of DOC with other drugs—but scientists say that hardly constitutes reason enough to place them in the most strictly controlled schedule.
Also on Wednesday, DEA posted a separate Federal Register notice announcing that it is explicitly classifying three other psychedelics—known as BUTINACA, α-PiHP and 3–MMC—in Schedule I of the CSA. However, it said the substances are already technically considered Schedule I because they’re “positional isomers” of banned drugs, so this action is simply to individually list them.
At the same time, DEA is looking to substantially build up domestic production of delta-9 THC and other cannabinoids for research purposes next year, while also maintaining high levels of psychedelics production as scientific interest continues to grow.
Meanwhile, a federal appellate panel has denied a motion by lawyers for a Washington State doctor trying to reschedule psilocybin under the CSA. In an order this week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the doctor’s request for a rehearing of an earlier court decision that returned the matter to DEA.
DEA is separately warning Georgia pharmacies that dispensing THC is unlawful because it remains a Schedule I drug after the state became the first in the U.S. to allow pharmacies to sell medical marijuana, with nearly 120 facilities applying to sell cannabis oil.
Taken together, the administrative actions are somewhat unnerving for advocates, who are eagerly awaiting the results of DEA’s scheduling review into marijuana after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommending moving cannabis to Schedule III. While the proposed ban on the psychedelics doesn’t have direct bearing on the marijuana review, the agency’s arguments about a lack of medical value and high abuse potential echo its long-standing justification for prohibiting marijuana.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.