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Harvard Law School

Harvard Law is Researching Psychedelics 

Harvard Law School is launching the first ever research initiative focused on psychedelics and the law.

The new initiative, titled Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation (POPLAR), is a three-year project focusing on promoting safety, innovation, equity and access in psychedelic research and treatment, The Harvard Crimson reports.

“Right now, there are a handful of psychedelics research centers at universities around the country. However, they are focused on clinical research,” Mason Marks, Senior Fellow and Project Lead at POPLAR, says in a press release. “There is no systematic research being done on psychedelics law, and POPLAR will fill this gap.”


In recent years, psychedelics have become a popular topic in the conversation around mental health and therapeutic care.

“Psychedelics are one of the most exciting and promising new technologies in mental health care to come along for decades, and they could represent a true paradigm shift for mental health care and neuroscience research in general,” Marks tells the Crimson. “That’s why the Petrie-Flom Center is such a great place to house the project.”

Federal law, however, still lists psychedelics such as psilocybin under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. A number of states and jurisdictions, including Oregon and Washington D.C., have moved to decriminalize psychedelics.


POPLAR will focus its research in five key areas: ethics in psychedelics research and therapeutics, challenges at the intersection of psychedelics and intellectual property law, opportunities for federal support of psychedelics research, access to psychedelic therapies and equity in emerging psychedelics industries, and the role of psychedelics in healing trauma.

The POPLAR team will publish academic research, host events and roundtables, and partner with clinical researchers to streamline legal and ethical roadblocks in their work.

“Preliminary research suggests that psychedelics could hold major benefits for people experiencing trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Jeannie Suk Gersen, John H. Watson Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, says. “By analyzing social, legal, and political barriers to access in this context, we hope to advance the understanding of their potential impact as therapeutics.”

Sources: The Harvard Crimson, Harvard Law, Rolling Stone




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