legal

medicine

Jewish psychedelics advocate working to turn drug into legal medicine

When Rick Doblin was in his early 20s, he had a dream in which he was escorted back in time to witness a Holocaust survivor’s narrow escape from the Nazis.

In his mind, Doblin traveled to Eastern Europe to witness thousands of Jews lined up alongside a mass grave as the gunners open fire, toppling the bodies into the earth. The man spends three days alive underground before emerging and fleeing to the woods, where he survives the war in hiding.

The man then tells Doblin that he survived this horror only to deliver a message that Doblin should devote his life to promoting psychedelics as a cure for human ills and an insurance policy against another Holocaust. Then he expires.

Doblin took the advice to heart. For much of the next four decades, he waged an often frustrating battle to get public health authorities to recognize the value of psychedelics, the perception-shifting compounds popularized in the 1960s that have been a source of both fear and fascination ever since.

“I’ve always felt that the response to the Holocaust is helping people realize our common humanity,” Doblin said. “And that there are many ways to do that, and psychedelic mystical experiences are one of the ways. And so I felt like what I’m doing is to try to prevent another Holocaust and that that’s the deepest motivation.”

In the United States, research on these chemicals has been banned since the 1960s because, in the government’s judgment, they have no recognized medical value and a high potential for abuse. But a growing body of research has shown their efficacy for a range of mental illnesses that have proven resistant to other treatments, including post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, depression and anxiety. Research underway at Johns Hopkins and New York University is also investigating whether psychedelics can be of use in a wider array of applications, including one study on whether the drugs can induce spiritual experiences among religious clergy.

Doblin has funded some of this research as the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit he runs from his home here in suburban Boston. And after years of effort and $100 million raised, he now stands on the cusp of a major victory.

In late October, Doblin received preliminary results from a MAPS-funded phase 3 study of the effects of MDMA — better known as the club drug Ecstasy — on PTSD. Phase 3 trials are typically the final hurdle before the Food and Drug Administration authorizes a drug for public use. Those preliminary results showed MDMA surpassed the FDA’s threshold for statistical significance in treating PTSD.

A formal scientific paper is due early next year and Doblin expects government authorization for prescription use will eventually follow. If it does, it would be the first time the federal government has ever approved a psychedelic to assist in psychotherapy.

“It’s enormously satisfying because it was something

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health

N.J.’s medical marijuana chief douses senator’s pipe dream of legal weed for sale immediately after the election

EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider produces exclusive weekly content and monthly events geared toward those interested in the marijuana and hemp industries. To subscribe, visit njcannabisinsider.biz.

Not long after state Sen. Nick Scutari claimed on Tuesday legislators and regulators may “be able to flip the switch and people might be able to get marijuana, legally, right after the vote,” the head of the state medical cannabis program doused that pipe dream with a bucket of cold water.

“(Some dispensaries) literally do not even have the space to accommodate the level of demand that personal-use sales would bring,” said Jeff Brown, who helms the Department of Health’s Medicinal Marijuana Program. “I could say unequivocally that opening up sales even a few months after the election would be a disaster and would really hurt access for patients who need this as medicine. My number one priority is to ensure that the patients have access — that’s going to be our priority first and foremost.”

Since the passage of Jake Honig’s Law, the medical program continues to grow in terms of patients and demand — about 7,000 patients per month on average and nearly 95,000 patients enrolled in total — but the program continues to face supply challenges for just the current patient population due to the small number of operational cultivators and canopy space.

Scutari, in his comments during an interview with NJ Cannabis Insider streamed live on NJ.com’s Facebook page Tuesday, that “(the) currently operating medical cannabis dispensaries would have an opportunity to sell to the general public for people over 21, if they can certify that they have enough product to satisfy their patients that they’re already treating.”

Brown, who also participated in a closed portion of the webinar, tamped down the senator’s suggestion at the time. He said he wants to keep an open dialogue with legislators and make the program’s priorities clear to medical patients and Garden State citizens as a whole.

“Inventories at alternative treatment centers are increasing, too, but it’s uneven,” he said. “We have some that are expanding capacity and then we have others that are simply maintaining and have really no room to expand cultivation in their current footprints.”

For the past six months, Brown said, the medical cannabis program has averaged about only 2,100 pounds in sales per month, rising to nearly 2,500 in September with a similar trend in October. Based on an average of the patient population, patients typically only buy a half-ounce each month, he said.

As of this past Friday, Brown said, there were about 10,000 pounds of medical cannabis in the market — about evenly split between flower and extracts, though flower tends to have higher sales. That means there’s enough medical cannabis to last about four months, given current sales trends and more limited choices for patients.

Part of the challenges dispensaries face, Brown said, is the small indoor canopy. There’s a dozen cultivators in New Jersey, but the average dispensary only has a canopy of

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