The Right to Try Act lets people with life-threatening illnesses try experimental drugs, some lawyers assert. That includes mushrooms, LSD and ecstasy. One guy's already doing it.
With tumors in his spine that spread into his brain, unable to work and doctors unsure how long he has to live, Jerry (not his real name) is taking psilocybin mushrooms to deal with it.
Jerry tells Rooster Magazine that psilocybin helps him with the physical pain as well as the anxiety and PTSD that comes from the fear of dying.
And he's doing it legally, he believes.
This is an untested legal theory, but one that could open up a new front in the battle to legalize drugs.
And it's all based on a new law called the Right to Try Act. President Trump signed the bill in late May, which says that people who have a "life-threatening" illness can try drugs that aren't fully approved by the FDA.
Trump signed it surrounded by folks with cancer and a kid with a rare disease.
But psilocybin, MDMA (ecstasy) and LSD are also experimental drugs, that also have also been through the first phase of clinical trials at the FDA — and so are seemingly eligible for the Right to Try law.
Jerry's assertion that tripping for him is legal is supported by Denver for Psilocybin, which is pushing to legalize the drug in Denver. The Nowak Society, a Colorado nonprofit promoting responsible use of drugs, believes this as well after consulting with the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.
Jerry isn't using his real name because while he believes what he's doing is legal, he's still afraid to go public. There have been no test cases on Right to Try. And he has to be vague about where he gets his mushrooms. But Jerry got the psilocybin approved by his doctor, as the law requires.
This fight mirrors one that happened during the early stages of the movement to legalize marijuana, when cancer and AIDS patients used weed to soothe their worst symptoms. Society listened, and carved out exemptions in the laws for them.
For Nowak board member Shannon Hughes, this is personal. In 2013, when her husband Teno — a former Marine with a charismatic personality — was 37, a stomach ache turned out to be colorectal cancer. He would be dead within a year and a half.
Teno was terrified. Searching online, he came across studies from Johns Hopkins Universities on psilocybin and death. Hopkins had 51 cancer patients take psilocybin. Eighty percent of them said it helped them feel more optimistic and less scared of death. "He wanted to have an experience like that," Hughes said.
Back then, Hughes had no idea where to get mushrooms or how to do them. Today, thinking about the missed opportunity, Hughes tears up.
"What a gift this would have been for him," Hughes said.
Armed with the conviction that they've found a new legal way forward for folks like Teno — a way to let grass grow from a crack in the concrete, they say — The Nowak Society is working to build a network of people interested in testing the Right to Try law, so that more people besides Jerry can take advantage of the new law.
Interested parties are starting to line up.
Kim Mooney, for example, has been working in hospices for 22 years and runs a business called Practically Dying. She's sort of a death coach. After hearing from the Nowak Society about Right to Try, and attending an information session this week in Boulder, Colorado, she plans to tell her clients about the possibility.
"Most of them are saying, how do I get out of this without being afraid?" Mooney said. "This could easily be the step that could help people to transition."
For Jerry, the man with the life-threatening tumors, psilocybin works. He says Xanax and Valium just mask the symptoms of his end-of-life anxiety, while he feels the psilocybin is actually rewiring his brain. This is making it easier for him to live, which could make it easier for him to die.