Canada’s officials are facing a possible lawsuit over the right of dying patients to access psilocybin therapy.
Before “magic mushrooms” became synonymous with hippies and flower power, scientists used them for cutting-edge medical research and treatments. But, unfortunately, prohibition quickly drove common usage of mushrooms and other psychedelics to the fringes and all but cancelled all studies into these entheogens. Now, in stark contrast to this recent history, researchers worldwide are ramping up the testing of psilocybin as a treatment for some psychiatric conditions. Even the Australian government is on board, to the tune of $15 million in research funding.
Thanks to Canada’s activists, lawyers, lobbyists, researchers, and the media, the country seems to be at the forefront of psychedelic drug reform. However, there are still many several complex hurdles to overcome before Canadians have real access to psilocybin as a medicine.
The Fight for Medical Use of Psilocybin Is Moving to Canada’s Courts
Journalist, Curt Petrovich, wrote about the potential for a Canadian psilocybin medicine court case for The Tyee and spoke to several of the people involved in persuading Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu to issue more exemptions under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which gives the Minister discretion to issue such exemptions so that patients can legally access psilocybin for medical purposes.
The legal challenge is being marshalled by TheraPsil, the B.C.-based non-profit that last August helped a cancer patient secure the first exemption under Canada’s drug laws to use psilocybin for psychotherapy.
In a letter to Hajdu, TheraPsil’s lawyer says they intend to challenge the constitutionality of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act’s provisions on psilocybin-containing mushrooms.
Canadians Will Remember That Cannabis Legalization Started In the Courts
The story is reminiscent of the well-known case, R v. Parker, that rocked the Court of Appeals and set Canada on a journey of cannabis legalization.
After being hospitalized more than a hundred times due to accidents resulting from his seizures, Canadian man Terry Parker tried growing cannabis to use as medicine. On July 18, 1996, Parker was arrested for possession, cultivation and trafficking, and he fought back – claiming the charges were an affront to the Charter rights guaranteeing “life, liberty and security of the person.” In 1997 the trial judge agreed that Parker’s Charter Rights were violated and ordered the police to return the plants they had seized.
Later on, in July 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the law prohibiting marijuana possession was unconstitutional because it did not take into account the needs of those suffering from debilitating medical conditions. Justice Marc Rosenberg wrote, “I have concluded that the trial judge was right in finding that Parker needs marihuana to control the symptoms of his epilepsy. I have also concluded that the prohibition on the cultivation and possession of marihuana is unconstitutional.”
Can Psilocybin for Treat Psychiatric Disorders? It’s More Than a Psychonaut Moonshot
This week, you may have read that Yale researchers found that even a single dose of psilocybin given to mice helps spur the growth of lost neural connections lost due to depression. Yet depression is only one of several psychiatric disorders that could benefit from psychedelic-assisted therapy.
A review conducted by three researchers in Italy looked at studies revolving around psilocybin and various mental health disorders. The paper (which has not been funded or peer-reviewed) concludes that “recent studies provided further evidences supporting the suggestive hypothesis of a therapeutic use of psilocybin for treating various psychiatric disorders including: pathological anxiety, mood depressive disorder and addiction.”
Furthermore, “despite the methodological limitations showed by clinical studies currently available, the promising antidepressant and anxiolytic effects induced by psilocybin support the need for further and more robust trials in order to better understand the potential therapeutic properties of this psychedelic.”
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