Psychedelics Take A Long, Strange Trip Back To Mainstream Research

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With the ever-increasing acceptance of marijuana as a legitimate treatment for a number of medical conditions, a newfound interest in the use of psychedelics as a form of medical treatment is gaining traction once again.

Companies are conducting research and development in the use of psychedelics as a form of medical treatment and are operating within the lawful parameters established by federal statute.

For those who have studied the history of psychedelics – or are old enough to remember – this news carries an echo.

From Ivy League Labs to Illegal

Psychedelics, sometimes referred to as hallucinogens, are substances that alter perception, mood and cognitive processes. They include LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA and DMT.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, psychedelics were studied for their potential psychological benefits as treatments for, among other things, mood and addiction disorders. That research – generally from “establishment” universities such as Stanford and Harvard – ultimately morphed into the 1960s anti-establishment counterculture, including Timothy Leary and the “acid tests,” as they came to be known, with the Grateful Dead as the featured house band. We now know that psychedelics were also heavily studied by the CIA over two decades for potential mind-control military uses.

In response to the counterculture movement of the 1960s – and parental fears that kids would take Timothy Leary’s advice to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” – psychedelics were categorized as Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act[1]. Legally, this meant that psychedelics were deemed to be subject to likely abuse, had no medical qualities and could not be administered for medical purposes under the supervision of a physician.

A 21st Century Revival

Recently we have seen a renewed interest by mainstream players in the potential medical uses of psychedelics. This research and development includes life sciences companies that are publicly traded in the United States.

These companies are acting in conformity with traditional and well-settled statutory and regulatory guidance promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice, as well as under the auspices of the applicable federal health authorities in countries other than the United States.

For example, Mind Medicine (psychedelic medicine company doing research in accordance with all state and local laws) is now listed as of last week on the NASDAQ under the oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Compass Pathways, another company performing similar work, is also listed on the NASDAQ.

Traditional big-pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson and Abbvie have also made moves into the medical psychedelic market. At the same time, cannabis has also gone mainstream with the FDA’s approval of Epidiolex™ for the treatment of rare forms of childhood epilepsy.

The future seems bright for further research and develop and application of psychedelics for the treatment of certain medical conditions. The Cannabis Law Group at Fox Rothschild is closely following this industry and is working with companies that are launching psychedelic-based investment vehicles. The sky appears to be the limit for this trip.


[1] The Controlled Substances Act was enacted to replace the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 which was declared unconstitutional in Timothy Leary v. United States, 395 U.S. 6 (1969).

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