Bills To End The War On Drugs: Mass Lawmaker Files Act Concerning Prescription MDMA Costs

“Most people can safely use ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin at home … to capture the same benefits without these unfair prices.”

Ed. Note: While Talking Joints Memo is focused on cannabis culture and products, we also see that psychedelics are the next theater in the war to end the War on Drugs. The movement is very much underway already, as the volunteer network Bay Staters for Natural Medicine (BSNM) has successfully pushed efforts to decriminalize psychedelic plants in Somerville, Cambridge, Easthampton, and Northampton, with various similar efforts underway elsewhere. BSNM currently has three pieces of legislation filed in the Massachusetts legislature, and to help walk readers through them we asked the group’s board to summarize them in brief. This is the fourth post outlining their efforts on Beacon Hill.

Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, a grassroots community group with more than three thousand volunteers across New England, has worked with five city councils to pass measures decriminalizing psychedelic plants, including psilocybin mushrooms. Now the group has set its eyes on another goal: ensuring that psychedelic treatments are kept affordable for residents in the future.

A Republican State Representative, Nick Boldyga of Massachusetts’ Third Hampton District, has just filed HD 2137, which will automatically reschedule MDMA if the federal government approves it for treating PTSD. Unlike similar legislation passed in Colorado, however, this legislation will put a price cap of $5,000 on these treatments. This price cap will be put in place to keep care affordable, since approval of MDMA by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will give a single corporation the exclusive right to sell the treatments for six to twelve years per the New York Times.

“This is a huge win for affordability and raising awareness of how one corporation, MAPS, is lobbying for an exclusive monopoly over MDMA therapy. We must ensure this care is affordable and innovative, not exclusive” BSNM Founder James Davis said.

If $5,000 still sounds like a hefty price tag, it’s important to consider that MAPS is currently planning to charge $15,000 or more for each MDMA treatment if it is given exclusive rights to sell it under FDA exclusive authorization. Over half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford a $500 medical expense without going into debt. In fact, a MAPS partner organization, the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative, has admitted that the out-of-pocket costs for this care will be “prohibitively high for lower-income patients even if they have insurance.”

“We have countless PTSD-afflicted veterans struggling to just survive financially. The MAPS corporation is using these veterans to push for a monopoly. And they’re admitting that only the richest of the rich will be able to afford MDMA treatment. It’s sickening,” remarked Mike Botelho, a disabled Marine Corp Veteran and a founder of New England Veterans for Plant Medicine.

This monopoly also has critical implications for the mental healthcare system beyond MDMA. This is because the lucrative opportunity to charge these prices to high-income clients is leading many therapists to leave their practices that serve low and middle income residents at a time when Massachusetts already has a critical shortage of therapists.

“The solution is educating people on how to safely use psychedelics at home with a trusted friend,” said Colomba Klenner, the Communications Director for Bay Staters. “Most people can safely use ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin at home and then simply see their therapist the week after to capture the same benefits without these unfair prices.”

MAPS has previously drawn fierce scrutiny for its handling of several profile incidents, and advocates for psychedelic access privately worry that giving this one corporation control over MDMA could harm the movement. For example, journalists at New York Magazine have extensively reported on ethics breaches by MAPS therapists, who for example crossed professional boundaries by lying in bed with a sexual trauma victim without her consent. New York Magazine had formerly reported on MDMA’s initial criminalization, citing early colleagues of MAPS founder Rick Doblin that say he is “single-handedly responsible for the emergency scheduling of MDMA” after he had contacted Nancy Reagan’s Drug Task Force to inform them that professionals like Anne Shulgin were using MDMA for couple’s therapy in California in the late 1970s.

Moreover, a MAPS board member was recently and credibly accused of stealing nearly $4 million from an elderly holocaust survivor and the corporation was held liable for the death of a young woman under their care at a musical festival. Together, these events alarm many psychedelic advocates who believe that MAPS’ faltering reputation and scandals will give psychedelics a bad reputation.

BSNM’s position: “Giving one company a monopoly will force countless talented care providers to pay tens of thousands of dollars for trainings we already offer by donation. If the FDA gives MAPS a monopoly over MDMA therapy, it will slow down innovation in the space for decades to come.”