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Activists Arrested for Protesting at DEA Headquarters over Psychedelic Treatments

protest dea psychedelic treatments

Activists staged a demonstration outside the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) headquarters in Virginia earlier this month. They demanded the agency allow terminally ill patients access to psilocybin therapy.  The event intended to bring the DEA’s obstruction of Right to Try statutes to the public’s attention at the federal and state levels. Patients and advocates should facilitate the legal use of psychedelics.

The Recent Protest

Protestors at DEA headquarters got creative with their protesting, setting off colorful smoke bombs, plastering the building with violation notices, holding a die-in outside one of the entrances and vandalizing office windows. You can read their media release here.

Federal police made 17 arrests that night, including One terminally ill patient, Erinn Baldeschwiler, who is currently involved in ongoing litigation against the DEA. 

“We’re here today to demand that the DEA open a pathway to access,” says Baldeschwiler’s legal counsel, Kathryn Tucker. “Not one more dying patient [should have to] endure debilitating anxiety and depression when relief could be had.” 

Despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledging the amazing therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, the DEA continues to block access. In response to this, Tucker says that “to absolutely prohibit access, when state and federal law are intended to allow access, that is impermissible.”

“These dying patients could have immediate, substantial, and sustained relief from debilitating anxiety and depression,” she claims. “Why anyone would obstruct access to that kind of relief for a dying patient is impossible to comprehend.”

Dr. Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps has been involved in numerous drug policy reform campaigns and was also in attendance. Coalition’s Melissa Lavasani and Decriminalize Nature DC co-founder Adam Eidinger participated.

“We’re not asking DEA to be compassionate,” Bronner said at the opening of the protest before being detained hours later. “We’re asking them to follow established law.

Groups Across The Country Are Mobilizing To Decriminalize Psilocybin. 

In February, a Seattle doctor filed a formal petition with the DEA challenging the government’s Schedule I classification of psilocybin. The petition requests the agency reschedule psilocybin to Schedule II. Its low abuse potential and “exceptional promise in relieving debilitating symptoms in those with intractable and otherwise untreatable illness” are some of the most compelling reasons presented to justify its rescheduling.

This petition was filed almost immediately following a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissing a terminal cancer patient’s appeal to use psilocybin. Separately, in January, bipartisan Congress members urged the DEA to loosen restrictions on psilocybin for terminally ill patients. 

Despite 41 states and Congress passing Right-to-Try laws and states like Oregon fully legalizing psilocybin therapy, the DEA still considers it a Schedule I drug. The impact of classic psilocybin differs significantly from other Schedule I drugs like methamphetamine or heroin. 

Veterans have actually become some of the primary leading advocates pushing to legalize psilocybin. In Washington state, several veterans testified in favor of a proposed legalization bill.

“For a few hours, it takes the blinders off that keep you focused on the scary, painful things that are in front of you,” Eric Gaden, a veteran and nurse, says. “Rather than just masking a symptom, it allows you to go and look at the cause of the problem and figure out the best way to address that moving forward.”

For more information on the Washington State initiative to legalize psilocybin, check out our article on the topic. 

Activists across the country have been working tirelessly to allow American’s the right to psychedelic therapy. Millions of people have been denied life-changing therapy thanks to the War on Drugs and obsolete politicized falsehoods regarding the safety of psychedelics. We’re excited to see lawmakers and everyday people caring about the movement!

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