The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is asking a federal appeals court to throw out a lawsuit aimed at clearing a path to the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the main psychoactive compound in psychedelic mushrooms—arguing that allowing limited medical access could boost the illegal drug trade.
Two cancer patients and a Seattle-based physician specializing in end-of-life care sued the agency in March, seeking legal access to psilocybin under state and federal right-to-try laws, which allow patients with terminal conditions to try investigational medications that have not been approved for general use.
DEA wants judges to dismiss or deny the case. In a brief filed on Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton argues on behalf of the agency that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the dispute and further contended that right-to-try laws don’t actually let patients access drugs that are prohibited under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
“The Right to Try Act exempts eligible investigational drugs from specifically identified requirements in the [U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act],” DEA’s brief says. “That exemption does not rescind the CSA or modify the restrictions that the law places on Schedule I substances.”
“On the petitioners’ reading of the Right to Try Act,” it argues, “DEA would be powerless to prevent an unscrupulous doctor from obtaining Schedule I substances from an unregistered manufacturer.”
Allowing psilocybin to be dispensed under federal right-to-try laws would also fuel illicit drug sales, the agency claimed.
“The persistent existence of the narcotics trade despite criminal enforcement efforts ‘suggests that no small number of unscrupulous people will make use of [the Right to Try] exemptions to serve their commercial needs whenever it is feasible to do so,’” the agency brief says, quoting a prior Supreme Court case