Legal Experts Discuss Regulation of Cannabis and Psychedelics at Petrie-Flom Center


A panel of legal experts discussed lessons the psychedelics industry can learn from the history of U.S. cannabis policy during a virtual event hosted by Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center.

The panel, which discussed the implications of cannabis legalization in many states for the psychedelics industry, was moderated by Mason Marks, a Florida State University College of Law professor and a senior fellow at the Petrie-Flom Center. The event also featured law firm partners Hadas Alterman, Ariel Clark, and Vincent Sliwoski, as well as Vanderbilt Law School professor Robert Mikos.

Alterman said many private industries need to prepare for the potential decriminalization of psychedelic drugs, noting that the United States would require many more therapists and psychotherapists in the event more psychedelic drugs are legalized.

“That’s an entire universe of legal needs, corporate practice of medicine considerations, interactions with state agencies, federal agencies,” she said.


Clark said the regulation of cannabis in some states has rendered the drug unaffordable. He said the psychedelics industry should “create relationships” with the health care industry and other businesses to avoid the “same sort of bad outcomes that we see with cannabis.”

“We need to incorporate religious and community use, we need to have very minimal regulation and taxation. The cost of these medicines — it needs to be truly accessible,” she said. Otherwise, “psychedelics will look just like what we see in the pharmaceutical industry and in this country where health care and medicine is really just affordable for some.”

Alterman added that the regulation of the psychedelics industry needs to be socially equitable.

“At the most basic level, we need consistent, safe, high-quality care across the board. We need certified practitioners who are operating at or above a uniform standard of care, who have been trained rigorously to do this work,” she said. “That will be a balancing act between protecting consumers and not over regulating.”

Additionally, Clark suggested that regulations for psychedelics should also encompass religious and recreational uses of the drugs, rather than simply medical applications.

“We need to have all of these different points and paradigms of access and meet people where they are,” Clark said. “And it needs to be broadly inclusive and cannot just favor sort of a medicalized, therapeutic approach — that’s not culturally thoughtful.”

Carmel D. Shachar, executive director of the Petrie-Flom Center, said in an interview the event was held in light of a Colorado ballot measure, Proposition 122, which asked voters to weigh in on the decriminalization and regulation of certain psychedelics.

“I hope that what people will take from this event — regardless of where they personally stand on the legalization of psychedelics — is that it is really complicated to move, regulating these [substances] from the criminal system into legalization,” Shachar said.