- In a Landmark Decision by Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Four Terminally Ill Cancer Patients Receiving End-of-Life Care Will Be Legally Allowed to Carry and Consume Psilocybin Mushrooms, Commonly Referred to as Magic Mushrooms
- Back in April, the Four Cancer Patients Petitioned Health Minister Hajdu for Permission to Use Psilocybin as Part of Their Psychotherapy Treatment
Canadian Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, officially granted the request on Tuesday, with the support of TheraPsil, a non-profit coalition “advocating for psilocybin-assisted therapy for end-of-life distress.” The historic decision marks the first time that Canadians have received a legal exemption from the Canadian Drugs and Substances Act, and the first time since 1974 — when psilocybin was made illegal in Canada — that Canadians will be able to legally use the compound as part of their treatment.
“Health Canada is committed to carefully and thoroughly reviewing each request for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant considerations, including evidence of potential benefits and risks or harms to the health and safety of Canadians,” a government spokesperson explained via email to Marijuana Moment. “These exemptions do not change the fact that the sale and possession of magic mushrooms remain illegal in Canada.”
Heartfelt Thank-Yous from the Patients & Advocates
After 100 days of waiting for a response from the Canadian government, the terminally ill patients finally got the answer they were hoping for — an exemption that will help relieve the end-of-life distress they face.
“I would like to personally thank the Hon. Minister Hajdu and the team at the Office of Controlled Substances for the approval of my section 56 exemption,” says Thomas Hartle, one the section 56 applicants battling cancer, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “This is the positive result that is possible when good people show genuine compassion. I’m so grateful that I can move forward with the next step of healing.”
Another applicant facing end-of-life distress — Laurie Brooks from British Columbia — shared similar relief following the announcement.
“I want to thank the Health Minister and Health Canada for approving my request for psilocybin use. The acknowledgement of the pain and anxiety that I have been suffering with means a lot to me, and I am feeling quite emotional today as a result,” says Brooks. “I hope this is just the beginning and that soon all Canadians will be able to access psilocybin, for therapeutic use, to help with the pain they are experiencing, without having to petition the government for months to gain permission. Thanks also to TheraPsil for helping the four of us in this fight. To Thomas Hartel and the other two patients – I think of you often and wish you only good things, especially good health!”
Similarly, Dr. Bruce Tobin, the Founder and Chairman of TheraPsil, publicly expressed his thanks to Minister Hajdu and the Canadian government regarding their historic permission of psilocybin use.
“We would like to extend our incredible gratitude to the Honorable Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, and to our government. Although it has taken a long time, we are impressed with their willingness to listen to patients who have not been heard and to shift focus and policy to accommodate their interests and protect their needs,” explains Tobin. “We also thank the brave Canadian patients who have been public in their fight for psilocybin access, along with the honourable Canadian MPs who have demonstrated courage, standing up for patient rights, including Marcus Powlowski, Ed Fast, Elizabeth May, Paul Manley, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Helena Jaczek, and Hedy Fry.”
Lastly, TheraPsil’s Executive Director, Spencer Hawkswell, expressed his support for the decision:
“At this point, psilocybin is a reasonable medical choice for these individuals,” explained Hawkswell. “This is about the minister being compassionate and using her ministerial abilities to help give patients access to something that’s going to help them.”
The Government Responds With Caution
It’s widely acknowledged among therapists who practice psilocybin-assisted therapy that responsible use of psilocybin can help those who struggle with anxiety and depression, and can even help end-of-life patients come to terms with death.
However, in a statement issued to Marijuana Moment, the Canadian government pointed out that the use of psilocybin mushrooms can also have negative effects, including increased blood pressure and heart rate, flashbacks, and bad trips that could potentially result in injuries, risky behaviour, and possibly even death.
According to the Health Canada website, the production, possession, or sale of psilocybin remains strictly illegal “unless authorized for clinical trials or research purposes.” It also notes that “currently there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada.”
Despite the cautious approach being taken by the government, Dr. Bruce Tobin of TheraPsil remains hopeful.
“Canadians now have the right to die, and this was legally recognized in the medical assistance in dying legislation that came in a few years ago,” Tobin explained to CTV News in June 2020. “If Canadians have the right to die acknowledged, surely they must have the right to try … to have a better life before they finally do pass away.”