Shaunacy Ferro reveals the dizzying red tape that surrounds scientific research on psychedelics:
Currently, according to the DEA, it takes about 9 months to get FDA and DEA approval for a license to research Schedule I substances, though researchers are a little more skeptical. “The DEA’s not in a hurry to grant these licenses,” according to [David Nichols, one of the founders of the Heffter Research Institute to study psychedelics].
Only 349 scientists have them, and that number is on the downswing: Three years ago, there were 550 licenses in the U.S. Nichols suggests that this could be a result of the DEA cracking down on researchers with extraneous licenses. In the past, Schedule I licenses had been renewed on a yearly basis without much fuss, but in recent years the agency has required Nichols to submit his current protocol and justify why he still needs the license.
The free market hasn’t stepped up because “no pharmaceutical company needs or wants to get involved”:
There’s no money in it for them. Though drugs like LSD and psilocybin are relatively easy to make in the lab, as [ Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies] founder Rick Doblin pointed out in a 2012 interview, “psychedelics are off-patent, can’t be monopolized, and compete with other psychiatric medications that people take daily.”
“My colleagues say to me, in these days of nanotechology and targeted therapy, what are you doing?” says Donald Abrams, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco who has done research on medical marijuana. “We live in the 21st century. Studying plants as medicine is not where most investigators are putting their money.” And without the outside funding to continue researching, a scientist’s career goes nowhere, so even fewer scientists want to get involved.