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Schedule I—Congress’s Bad Trip Gone Too Far

Schedule I—Congress’s Bad Trip Gone Too Far

Noura Eltabbakh


Individuals suffering from treatment resistant mood disorders deserve to have safe and immediate access to any unconventional method of treatment that produces significant results. The health and wellbeing of its citizens is a legitimate state interest.[1] Federal regulation of hallucinogens directly impedes on the distinct state right to regulate a legitimate state interest.[2] The Federal Government must reclassify hallucinogens in order to facilitate research, ensure patient access, and permit its legal regulation.

Summary of Argument

We are experiencing a mental health crisis in this country. The pharmaceutical industry has failed us.[3] Of all individuals diagnosed with depression, 30% to 50% of them have treatment resistant depression.[4] Pharmaceutical drugs fail to provide these individuals with the effective treatment they so desperately need.[5] The number of individuals diagnosed with depression increases by about 20% every year.[6] Meaning, the number of people that pharmaceutical drugs will fail will only increase. We must begin to look beyond conventional treatment methods if we wish to slow the growth of this mental health epidemic.

Fortunately, medical researchers from top universities have begun to investigate unconventional treatment methods for mood disorders including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.[7] Researchers from Johns Hopkins, University of California Los Angeles, University of California, San Francisco, and Purdue University have all conducted groundbreaking studies showing the efficacy of hallucinogenic drugs in treating mood disorders.[8] Unfortunately, these treatments are widely unavailable outside of an experimental setting because almost all hallucinogens are Schedule I drugs.[9]

Schedule I is the most restrictive category.[10] Physicians are unable to prescribe Schedule I drugs.[11] States will be incapable of effectively addressing their population’s health and wellbeing if the law continues to preclude physicians from administering what could be lifesaving treatments. The federal government must make way for legalizing hallucinogens for medical use.

My Note analyzes the likelihood of success for legalizing hallucinogens and psychedelics for medicinal use. Part I provides an overview of criminal drug laws and presents an overview of current legal analysis concerning these drugs. Part II shows the efficacy of hallucinogens in treating serious mood disorders. Part III argues that in order to begin decriminalization of these drugs, we must begin to understand these drugs as serving a vital medical purpose. Part IV concludes with presenting model statutory language to begin legalizing hallucinogens for medicinal use.

Questions and inquiries regarding this Note may be forwarded to the author at

[1] See Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243, 270 (2003) (explaining that the limitations of federalism allows states “‘great latitude under their policing powers to legislate as to the protection of the lives, limbs, health, comfort, and quiet of all persons’”) (quoting Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U.S. 470, 475 (1996)).

[2] See Barnes v. Glen Theater, 501 U.S. 560, 569 (1991) (“The traditional police power of the States is defined as the authority to provide for the public health, safety, and morals. . .”)
[3] Erick H. Turner et al., Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy, 358 New Eng. J. Med. 252, 258 (2008); Elliot Valestein, Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health 165–199 (Simon and Schuster, 2002); Graham C.L. Davey, Overprescribing Drugs to Treat Mental Health Problems, Psychol. Today (Jan. 30, 2014),
[4] David L. Dunner, Treatment-Resistant Depression: An Overview of the Problem, Psychiatry Wkly. (last visited Feb. 19, 2015),
[5] Id.
[6] Stephanie Farris, Depression Statistics, Healthline (Mar. 28, 2012),
[7] International Conference Shares Leading Research Results, Treating PTSD with MDMA Assisted Therapy (last visited Feb. 19, 2015),
[8] Id.
[9] Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 811 et seq. (2000); 21 C.F.R. § 1308.11(d)(23) (2015); 21 C.F.R. 1308.11(d)(31) (2015).
[10] Benton Brooks Bodamer, Psychoactive Substances, Dietary Supplements, and the War on “Drugs”: Law, Myth, and Tradition as the Social Control of Consciousness, 66 Ohio St. L.J. 1311, 1340 (2005).
[11] Id.

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