Protestors Target the DEA in Support of Psilocybin for Terminally Ill Patients
Peaceful civil disobedience, a longstanding American tradition, will take place at the doorstep of the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, next month where activists say they will block entrances to the building to draw attention to the right of terminally ill cancer patients to use psilocybin.
The protest will take place on May 9 and will be led by psychedelic palliative care activists and advocates for veterans health.
The mobilization will protest the DEA’s decision to block the use of psilocybin, an experimental medicine guaranteed by the federal “Right to Try” law, for the treatment of terminally ill cancer patients.
Philanthropist David Bronner, cosmic engagement officer for the progressive soap company Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, is organizing and helping to fund the action. Organizers say they will bring together terminally ill people, their families, patient advocacy and support groups, together with veteran health advocates and the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute’s Psychedelics & Healing Initiative.
Bronner is seeking an answer from the DEA about why it is not abiding by the “Right to Try” law passed with unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Trump.
“Desperately ill end stage cancer patients have been blocked by the DEA from accessing effective psilocybin therapy, and on May 9th we plan to return the favor and block the DEA entrances with a peaceful sit-in,” says Bronner, who is also a board member of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
Bronner added that he was prepared to commit an act of peaceful civil disobedience in support of medicinal psilocybin palliative care because “blocking DEA entrances [will serve] to unblock their obstruction of this healing therapy for end-of-life suffering.”
Upholding Right To Try
Bronner told Lucid News he was galvanized to act and organize the sit-in after learning that “time is running out” for two patients, Erinn Baldeschwiler and Michal Bloom. Although they are suffering with a diagnosis of end-stage cancer, Bronner says these patients were blocked by the DEA from receiving relief from medicinal psilocybin, despite state and federal “Right to Try” laws that provide access.
Psilocybin, also known as “magic mushrooms” in its fungal form, is considered an eligible medicine under the “Right to Try” act because it has completed an FDA-approved Phase 1 clinical trial and met the other criteria of the law. Well-documented medical research shows that psilocybin provides immediate and lasting relief from the anxiety and depression that terminally ill patients have described as “excruciating.” In clinical trials, MDMA has also shown to be effective in treating life-threatening PTSD in veterans.
The DEA has declined multiple requests from Lucid News for comment and is now facing scrutiny from U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “After hearing from these patients, my office asked the DEA directly about the issues they are raising – and I am going to keep pushing the DEA and Biden Administration for answers,” the Senator told Lucid News earlier this month.
“On May 9th, it appears that Senator Murray will not be the only one knocking on DEA’s door,” said Kathryn Tucker, the lead attorney representing the doctor at the integrative oncology clinic in Washington state who had originally requested medicinal psilocybin for two dying cancer patients.
“Is the DEA going to comply with duly enacted state and federal law and allow access to psilocybin?” asked Tucker. “The DEA has chosen not to permit access even though state and federal “Right to Try” law provides for that access.”
Tucker added that the DEA is failing to act on numerous requests to provide psilocybin for the patients “We have patiently and persistently attempted to gain access using all legal means including a federal lawsuit. The court sent the matter back to the DEA, and we renewed our requests, but the DEA is just sitting on the requests for access.”
If Bronner is arrested at the DEA next month for blocking entrances, it will not be the first time he has been arrested for civil disobedience. In 2009, Bronner was arrested after planting hemp seeds on the front lawn of DEA headquarters. The soap company is known for its support of psychedelics. The New York Times has estimated that some $23 million has been donated by Dr. Bronner’s to help support psychedelic-related causes, including funds to support MAPS.
Bronner asks that donations in support of “Right to Try” access to psilocybin be sent to the Nowak Society, a 501(c)3 with a focus on psychedelic education. He added that participants “ready to engage in civil disobedience” can register at the campaign’s website to request financial help to defray the cost of travel to the nation’s capital.
Bronner said he is motivated by the courage of the end-stage cancer patients who have used their scarce time and energy to advocate for access to the benefits of “Right to Try” which was passed with bipartisan support. He also cited the tenacity of their attorney, Tucker, co-chair of Psychedelic Practice at the Emerge Law Group and a co-founder of the Psychedelic Bar Association.
The patients trying to access psilocybin under “Right To Try” shared their concerns in a recent Lucid News article. Bronner also points to a Psychedelics Today podcast with Tucker as inspiration for the action.
“These terminally ill patients do not have the luxury of time,” said Tucker. “Justice delayed for these patients is justice denied. The clock is ticking.”
Image: Nicki Adams