Canada Update: Psychedelics Legal Landscape, Overview & Near-Term Predictions - Optimi Health (OTC:OPTHF)

Canada is hosting discussions on legal access to psychedelic-assisted therapies, especially after Alberta passed regulatory measures for this type of health service. 

So, does this mean that those who could benefit from these treatments will soon be able to lawfully request them? 

Health Canada places psilocybin and psilocin under Schedule III of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act (CDSA), which means production, sale and possession are illegal unless authorized via a Special Access Program (SAP)’s license, an individual exemption or clinical trials.

The state’s psilocybin law, which implies that constitutional access to the psychedelic must be done through a doctor, was recently questioned in a lawsuit on behalf of seven terminally-ill patients. Nonprofit Therapsil also legally challenged patients’ inability to obtain an exemption.  

As reporter Dave Hodes recalls, Therapsil’s psilocybin access challenge takes two major cannabis cases –R v. Parker in 2000 and R. v. Smith in 2015- as precedents where the court actually recognized and consequently ruled on the fact the prohibition of cannabis by the CDSA is a mistake.

After both rulings, Canada finally amended the CDSA to allow for the medical use of cannabis without any further bureaucratic approval.

Now, what the Canadian government ultimately decides is believed to be directly connected to what might happen with the psilocybin legalization in the US and psilocybin access as medicine as well as for general well-being purposes.

Reactions Following Alberta’s New Policy

The provincial government of Alberta has decided to regulate psychedelics psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and ketamine as treatments for psychiatric disorders.

Alberta’s associate minister of health and addictions and former police officer Mike Ellis stated at the time that “some of the strongest supporters are among first responders and veterans who suffer from high rates of PTSD and other mental health conditions,” and that he wants to ensure any promising practices enhancing quality of life for those suffering from these conditions are available to them “in a professional way.”

Optimi Health OPTHF CEO Bill Ciprick recently said: “We have seen widespread, bipartisan support for psilocybin and MDMA bills introduced in state legislatures across the US, the Biden administration has appointed a special task force to understand and prepare for the regulation of psychedelics in the US, and recently Canadian Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Carolyn Bennett, admitted that Canada needs a safe supply of drugs to fight the spiraling opioid crisis.

“While we await further details on Alberta’s regulatory framework, we encourage other provincial health ministries to start asking the right questions about psychedelic therapy, and to seek further guidance from the Psychedelic Association of Canada’s Memorandum of Regulatory Analysis (MORA) which provides a step-by-step regulatory framework for end-of-life and palliative Canadians.”

Based in British Columbia, Optimi grows psilocybin mushrooms and aims to supply  Alberta clinics. “We’d like to help them with the framework on how it’ll work, how you secure a safe supply and how we fit in,” Ciprick said.

Along with other clinic operators, Ciprick says he believes Alberta’s new regulatory framework will influence other provinces to take similar decisions that would lead Health Canada to widen the therapeutic use of psychedelics and eventually end the current situation in which licensed therapists have to source psilocybin from black market suppliers.

Ketamine clinic Zylorion Health’s CEO Dr. Peter Silverstone says Alberta’s newly adopted regulatory model is set to be followed throughout Canada and could ultimately propel the approval of other psychedelics, namely MDMA. He also hopes that psychedelic treatment will be covered by public healthcare insurance in the future.

Spokesman of minister Ellis’ office Eric Engler commented: “As it emerges, it’s definitely important to understand what’s happening. We anticipate as things move forward and schedules in (employing) psychedelics change, we want to be ready.”

Nonetheless, Engler did clarify that the provincial government is not buying psychedelics at the moment and that novel treatments will be in the hands of the private sector in the near future.

Provincial medical lead on addictions education Dr. Robert Tanguay added, “I don’t think we have enough data to loosen things up. What the province’s move does is set the stage for further research and reduces some of the stigma around it.”

Facing inquiries from therapists, advocates and potential suppliers about the new regulations and the possible expansion of psychedelics’ use, Ellis’ office said approval for the use of controlled substances is under Health Canada’s jurisdiction, and that the province can only regulate practitioners’ adeptness.

On the other side of the spectrum, some advocates are not quite so optimistic about the new regulations, foreseeing they will bring about some problematic situations.

For instance, Nick Kadysh of Psychedelics Canada recently said the regulations are heavily tied to physicians. “Any clinic has to have a psychiatrist responsible. Any patient has to talk to a psychiatrist before getting access to these therapies and we just know that there is an incredibly long wait time for psychiatry services in Alberta. So it becomes a patient access issue.”

Kadysh’s colleague Liam Bedard added, “There are a number of qualified practitioners that can oversee these therapies and by mandating that only psychiatrists can manage them, it’s creating bottlenecks in accessing these potentially very valuable therapeutic tools.”

Photo by Igor Kyryliuk on Unsplash

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