The attorney general of Kentucky announced on Wednesday that the state will be distributing $42 million in funding for research into the potential of the psychedelic ibogaine for the treatment of opioid addiction.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), who is also the Republican nominee in this November’s Kentucky gubernatorial election, said at a press event that a state opioids commission will be spearheading the psychedelics research effort, using funds received from a legal settlement with major opioid manufacturers.
“We need to explore a new approach,” Cameron, who was one of 18 state attorneys general who called on President Joe Biden to declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction last year, said. “We have to imagine new possibilities. We have to invest in programs, in potential solutions, for tomorrow.”
Several military veterans and family members participated in the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission event alongside the state official, sharing information and anecdotes about ibogaine, which has been credited for helping people overcome substance misuse disorders when traditional therapies have failed.
“I hope that the commission will seek and find the next big breakthrough—that its members will initiate the investigation and dialogue necessary to make Kentucky a leader in the 21st century opioid treatment,” the attorney general said. “Not just treatment but also healing.”
The funding will be used to establish clinical trial sites for ibogaine therapy, with the commission coordinating research efforts with academic universities.
The non-profit Veteran Mental Health Leadership Coalition (VMHLC), which has also advocated for congressional psychedelics reform legislation, helped organize Wednesday’s briefing and brought together a coalition of people to speak to the potential of ibogaine.
“In collaboration with law enforcement, veteran organizations and our elected officials in Missouri, we will ensure that Kentucky is not alone as access to these revolutionary therapies is advanced,” Eapen Thampy, a lobbyist working on psychedelic therapies, told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday.
Cameron’s participation in the effort is notable, especially in the context of his race to replace incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear (D). He’s prioritized addressing the state’s challenges with opioid addiction, but his support for examining how ibogaine could be used to combat the crisis is novel.
A couple of weeks before Beshear signed a medical marijuana legalization bill into law in March, Cameron said that he would’ve been willing to approve reform legislation if lawmakers “can get around a framework that is responsible.”
When he was running for attorney general in 2019, he said “we need a discussion about medical marijuana,” though he acknowledged that law enforcement was “a little bit leery” about the issue.
But on psychedelics, he hasn’t moved to advance the potential alternative treatment until now.
As the psychedelics reform movement has spread, public awareness about different substances has increased—but ibogaine is still arguably less well-known than other substances like psilocybin and MDMA.
A flyer from the attorney general’s office that was distributed for the event briefly discusses the legal status, medical use, effects and possible risks and benefits of ibogaine.
“When delivered in an appropriate setting by trained providers, ibogaine has shown: anti-addictive effects (alcohol, opioids, cocaine, etc.), repairs, maintains, and protects brain tissue, boosts and regulates mood, and deep introspection resulting in profound psychotherapeutic improvements,” it says.
The research funding is being made possible from settlement money that each state received from major pharmaceutical companies that were found to be partly liable for the opioid addiction crisis. Nothing requires states to use the money in a specific way, but several have invested in drug prevention and treatment. The Kentucky initiative is the first time the funds are being used to advance psychedelic science.
Meanwhile in Kentucky, the governor called on the legislature to legalize medical cannabis “this session” during his State of the Commonwealth speech in January, saying that it’s an essential reform for the state to make sure it is “treating people right.”
The speech came after Beshear signed a pair of executive orders in November, allowing patients who meet certain criteria to possess up to eight ounces of medical cannabis legally obtained from dispensaries in other states and also regulate the sale of delta-8 THC products.
Following that action, Cameron criticized the action and said Beshear “seems to relish ruling by decree instead of by the law.”
“Kentucky’s General Assembly is the sole and final policy-making body of this state and they must be allowed to have their say,” he said. “We are reviewing these executive orders to determine next steps.”