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The state of Psychedelics in Canada in 2023

Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au -While therapy shows promise, the road to legalization is still long

By Kimberly BurnsRose M. Carter, Karen M. Gardiner, Rocky SwansonMay 24, 2023Share

After a period of intense market interest in 2021, investment in psychedelics has cooled somewhat, although results from clinical trials remain positive. Lexpert spoke with Kimberly Burns, Rose M. Carter, Karen Gardiner, and Rocky Swanson of Dentons about where the psychedelic industry is now, and where it might go next. 

  1. While psychedelics like psilocybin (magic mushrooms) remain illegal on a federal level, some cities like Vancouver and Toronto have decriminalized possession in certain circumstances.  Is this foreshadowing a path to legalization? What experiences can be gained from Canada’s legalization of cannabis?

Psychedelics are positively portrayed as promising medications to treat depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), among other conditions. The 2020 Netflix documentary, Have a Good Trip, explored the view that potential threats of psychedelics are largely exaggerated.

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This year, Australia became the first country in the world to legalize the medicinal use of psychedelics. From July 1, 2023, Australian physicians are allowed to prescribe MDMA (better known by the street names, ecstasy or molly) to treat PTSD, and psilocybin, the hallucinogenic substance found in “magic mushrooms,” to cope with treatment-resistant depression.[1] Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

While some Canadian cities have decided to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, including psilocybin, it is important to distinguish between decriminalization and legalization. Decriminalization can be viewed as a harm reduction mechanism to assist in reducing stigma and ensuring those using illicit drugs feel that they can access support when it is needed. Even where decriminalization of possession of illicit drugs is in place, without broader changes, possession of larger amounts as well as the production and sale of these drugs is still illegal.Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

Generally, the recreational use of psychedelics is illegal in Canada: under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”). They are classified as “controlled substances”,[2] meaning that with limited exceptions or unless an exemption is granted, possession, sale, import, export, production, transfer and transport is prohibited. Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

When considered necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or otherwise in the public interest, The Canadian Minister of Health (the “Minister”) may grant an exemption under Section 56 of the CDSA (a “Section 56 Exemption”) from any or all provisions of the act.[3]Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

Despite expanding awareness in medical literature and popular culture, Health Canada has been selective in granting access to Section 56 Exemptions and the special access program, discussed further below. For example, in July 2022, over 100 Canadian healthcare practitioners applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review of a Health Canada decision rejecting their application to use psychedelics in psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy[4], and the City of Toronto is waiting on a potential Section 56 Exemption from a January 2022 application[5]. Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

On January 16, 2023, Alberta became the first Canadian province to regulate the medicinal use of psychedelics, though access to psychedelics through the new regime is still subject to several provincial restrictions as well as the federal regulatory regimes outlined in this Article.[6] Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

The College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta (“CPSA”) regulates physicians and surgeons holding Alberta licensure to practice medicine in the Province. The CPSA also sets facility accreditation standards for all aspects of the practice of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. In Alberta, it is necessary for a facility wishing to provide psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to first be assessed and accredited by the CPSA. The facility must submit an application to the CPSA requesting an assessment. Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

Under the Mental Health Services Protection Regulation[7], psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy must be provided within a CPSA-accredited medical facility by a psychiatrist or a physician in consultation with a psychiatrist. Patients require a referral from their physician to be treated at a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy facility.[8] Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

The CPSA provides standards of practice to be adhered to by physicians holding CPSA licensure.[9] As of April 2023, the CPSA does not have a Standard of Practice specifically addressing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy although the CPSA’s Standard of Practice “Practicing Outside of Established Conventional Medicine” is applicable to facilities and physicians practicing in the area of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

Physicians are required to provide assessments and diagnoses consistent with the standards of conventional medicine and be informed by current best-available evidence. Thus, a patient must be offered a conventional medical approach before being offered any therapy outside of conventional medicine. Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

In addition, the CPSA expects its members to practice within the CPSA Standards of Practice relating to “Informed Consent” and “Prescribing: Drugs Associated with Substance Use Disorders or Substance-Related Harms”.

Finally, licensed psychedelic drug treatment service providers are required to report to the Ministry of Health any serious injury or death that occurs in relation to the provision of services. The CPSA has advised that accredited standards to support the provision of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be made available in the next few months to further facilitate safer use of therapy and community settings.[10] Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

While there are clear similarities between psilocybin and cannabis, when comparing the legalization trajectory for the two, biotech experts involved in the development of psychedelic products warn against the direct comparison of this sector with the cannabis industry and any resulting heightened expectations of psychedelics.[11] Buy golden teacher mushrooms in au

Prior to the 2018 Cannabis Act[12], both cannabis and psilocybin were regulated under the CDSA. Importantly, however, cannabis was also included in the Narcotic Control Regulations (“NCR”)[13], which meant that it was part of the legislative framework for medical access to a subset of drugs regulated by the CDSA. Psilocybin is not listed in either the NCR or the Benzodiazepine and Other Targeted Substances Regulations (“BOTSR”)[14], leaving it positioned further from standardized access for medical purposes than cannabis was in 2017. Given the seventeen years between the medical legalization and the recreational legalization of cannabis in Canada[15], we appreciate that when speaking of psychedelics legalization industry players mean the medicinal use of these substances and agree that it is generally still too early to discuss the legalization of recreational psychedelics.

At the same time, no one denies that the psychedelics sector remains an attractive industry that has great potential, before and after Canada legalizes the use of these substances. The first economic results of cannabis legalization show that the legal manufacturing and sale of illicit substances is a lucrative business: In the three years since recreational marijuana became legal, the cannabis sector has contributed $43.5 billion to Canada’s GDP.[16]

 By 2021, the industry had created 98,000 jobs across the country. In October 2022, Health Canada launched a review of the Cannabis Act and the overall impact of the cannabis sector on the Canadian economy. Even though the results of the review have not been made public yet, cannabis legalization is generally viewed as an economic success. This precedent for economic growth may assist our Canadian legislators in creating a path to monetize the medical legalization of psychedelics. 


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