The push to decriminalize magic mushrooms

The drive towards decriminalizing or legalizing psychedelics such as magic mushrooms is gaining momentum. Galvanized by research exploring the medicinal promise of psychedelics as a potential treatment for mental health disorders, patients’ groups and the business and medical community are pushing to make psychedelics more readily legally accessible.

Ottawa is paying heed. Over the past year Health Canada has quietly opened the door for extremely limited use of psilocybin, a naturally occurring hallucinogenic compound produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms. Psilocybin, like most psychedelics, is a Schedule III controlled substance under Canada’s principal federal drug statute. It can only be accessed under a section 56(1) exemption of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) granted by the federal Minister of Health. So far, 47 exemptions have been granted to patients suffering from end-of-life psychological distress, 19 to healthcare practitioners for professional training purposes, and several more to institutions and companies for research, with another 149 exemption applications in the pipeline, according to Health Canada. “This is just the beginning,” said Leila Rafi, a securities lawyer with McMillan LLP who has clients in the psychedelic sector. With the stigma surrounding psychedelics slowly being chipped away by research supporting its therapeutic use, Rafi expects exemptions will “become more commonplace.”

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This story was originally published in the National, a publication by the Canadian Bar Association.

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