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  Request for a Public Hearing

    RICHARD ALPERT, Ph.D., 1965

        From: LSD, Richard Alpert and Sidney Cohen, The New American Library, ©1966

The first realistic step toward making the legislation concerning control and use of psychedelic chemicals based primarily on light rather than heat is public education. Toward this end I submitted to the Government this spring a request for a PUBLIC hearing. The text of this request follows:

ROOM 5440

LSD and the other psychedelic (mind-manifesting) chemicals represent a new fact for our society. These chemicals, the most powerful mind-altering substances known to man, are presently being researched for their therapeutic potential with alcoholics, drug addicts, autistic children, psychoneurotics, and prisoners, as well as for their potential to increase man's creativity in problem-solving and their value to the military. Significant research has also demonstrated that these chemicals are capable of altering the perception of terminal cancer patients in such a way as to alleviate their fear of dying. The Native American Church continues to use peyote as a medicine in its religious ceremonies.

In addition to these "authorized" uses of psychedelic chemicals, there is, as a result of increased restriction on who is considered a "qualified researcher" with psychedelics, a significant increase in "private research," i.e., research not authorized by the U.S. Government. The data from a variety of public and private sources indicate that this extralegal activity is not limited to any specific segment of society. Among these private explorers are numbered religious leaders of all faiths, scientists in both the natural and social sciences, medical men specializing in general practice as well as psychiatry; writers, artists, performers, musicians, educators, students, journalists, psychic researchers, businessmen, housewives, mystics, philosophers, lawyers, socialites, engineers, and "beatniks."

When these chemicals have been ingested with suitable preparation and in a supportive setting, by far the majority of these psychedelic researchers have reported that their experiences with the chemicals have enriched their life experience, helped them to feel a greater sense of satisfaction. For some of these people the experience has provided this increased satisfaction spiritually, for others through helping their marriages to achieve new depth and meaning, for others in their professions, and for the majority through their ability to experience each day more fully with a sense of increased awareness.

There is at the present time no statistical evidence that psychedelic chemicals are either dangerous or physically addictive. In terms of suicides and psychosis, psychedelics used in currently recommended dosages are considerably safer than, for example, a four-year liberal arts education As far as psychological risk (post-experience depressions, etc.) is concerned, most of this can be prevented by education and preparation of the researcher as well as design of the setting.

At present in our society there is no existing social institution which provides a citizen with the opportunity to utilize psychedelic chemicals to explore his own brain or consciousness in order to increase his awareness should he so desire, be it for spiritual, educational, therapeutic, or esthetic reasons. The potential for mankind in these chemicals cannot be realized under existing governmental policies. Thus the presence of the psychedelic chemicals as well as the growing public interest in serious exploration with them poses a real need for CREATIVE LEGISLATION. It is to be hoped that our vision and our commitment to growth of the individual and the society will prevent us from legislating out of existence one of man's greatest chances to expand the boundaries of his mind, his individuality, and his culture.

Lyndon Johnson speaks of "The Great Society." It is interesting to speculate whether such a society as he envisions has a place for a genuinely new institution which could significantly alter the institutions of the society itself.

Since 1963 many of us who are deeply concerned about the welfare of mankind have attempted to interest the Government in a genuinely open-minded search for a constructive program regarding who should use and who should control psychedelics. We have suggested that Government-controlled privately supported centers be created under limited licensing (a policy presently used with radioisotopes) which would provide a suitable setting and assistance for any responsible member of our society to carry on explorations of his own consciousness with psychedelics for whatever purpose he chose. Not only has the Government failed to seriously consider this proposal, but every indication is that the restrictions are mounting, and the Government is attempting to ignore the uniqueness of the situation by treating psychedelic chemicals as similar to other drugs.

It will become increasingly difficult with the implementation of new and more stringent restrictions for free and open research to proceed with these chemicals in the United States. According to the new Drug Abuse Control Amendment, an individual can possess psychedelics for the use of himself or a member of his household but cannot legally purchase or receive the chemical. The results of such control without simultaneously making provisions for the opportunity for responsible citizens to research their own consciousness legally will be predominantly unfortunate, leading to, for example: (1) an increase in the manufacture of homemade psychedelic chemicals having little or no quality control; (2) an increase in the paranoia connected with psychedelic chemical usage which in turn will increase the danger of negative psychological reactions to the experience; (3) an increase in the number of responsible and useful citizens who, because of their deep conviction about the value of psychedelic research, will continue such research and thus become criminals in the eyes of law; (4) an attempt by the Government to enforce an obviously unenforceable law because of the numbers of citizens involved, thus re-creating the effects of prohibition, during which time the Government enforcement agencies lost respect in the eyes of the populace; and (5) a possibility of losing what might be a key for man to free himself of the limitation of his own present vision which has caught him so deeply in alienation and paranoia, be it at the personal or national level.

It is in view of the situation as outlined above that we hereby request that the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration hold public hearings concerning the inclusion of psychedelic chemicals as listed in the Federal Register, January 18, 1966, under the Drug Abuse Control Amendment. We further request that these hearings be addressed to the following questions:

1. Does the inclusion of psychedelic chemicals under the Drug Abuse Control Amendment unnecessarily curtail an individual's rights provided by the First Amendment of the Constitution? Specifically we wish to explore the implications of this Act for religious freedom.

2. Is there indeed sufficient evidence to warrant Government control of psychedelics on the basis of real danger to the public safety?

3. What is a "qualified research investigator" in the field of psychedelic chemicals?

4. Are medical practitioners, in view of the nature of their training, suitable supervisors for the administration of psychedelic chemicals?

5. Were the Commissioner to bring a chemical under the control of his department based on a categorization of the chemical as producing "ecstasy" or "impairment of acquired social and cultural customs," (Federal Register, December 18, 1965), would he not be setting a dangerous precedent concerning ideas and experiences which could significantly contribute to the growth of the society?

6. Has the Commissioner heard sufficient testimony concerning the sociological, psychological, educational, philosophical, and spiritual implications of controlling psychedelics to determine his decision to include these chemicals within the Act, on a sufficiently broad cultural basis?

7. Does one have the right to decide for himself whether he wants to explore his own consciousness or change the nature of his own consciousness?

8. If, with the knowledge that the ingestion of psychedelic chemicals by some people leads to negative reactions, an individual chooses to ingest a psychedelic agent in order to explore his own consciousness, does the Federal Government have the right to interfere with such a person who is willing to assume the risk? Is the Government by so doing assuming the right to protect an individual from himself?

9. Does the Food and Drug Administration have the right to initiate punitive action in connection with psychedelic chemicals where the individual has not harmed himself or society? Does the Food and Drug Administration have the right to impose punishment for effects of altered consciousness, or is the criminal law and punishment only reserved for actual wrongdoing and harm to society?

10. Does the end justify the means? Can enforcement of the Food and Drug Administration law under consideration occur without gross invasion of the right of privacy? How will a violation come to the attention of the Food and Drug Administration? Will the willing possessor of psychedelic chemicals report a violation of this law?

11. Is it desirable for a law to be enacted that creates an estimated 100,000 to one million criminals?

12. Will the Food and Drug Administration be brought to the same level of respect as the Prohibition Unit of the Federal Government during the Prohibition era? Will the promises offered by the Prohibition Unit that "if we can have stiffer penalties and more Prohibition Agents, alcohol will be stamped out" be offered by the Food and Drug Administration when it finds itself unable to "stamp out" the prohibited substance? If the Prohibition Unit failed in enforcement of the Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment despite every effort, will not this similarly unenforceable and corruption-breeding Food and Drug Administration law meet with a similar fate?

13. Finally, we request that the hearing be addressed to the matter of inclusion of another "drug" as fulfilling the criteria for inclusion as "hallucinogen" (Federal Register, December 18, 1965) under the Drug Abuse Control Amendment. This drug is commonly referred to as "alcohol." We wish the Food and Drug Administration to justify how it can impose controls upon psychedelic chemicals because of "dangers" and "abuse" in view of the comparative statistics concerning the "dangers" and "abuse" attendant to the use of alcohol.


From: LSD, Richard Alpert and Sidney Cohen, The New American Library, Copyright 1966

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