Canada is allowing terminally ill people access to psilocybin mushrooms. Photo by Peter Dejong/Associated Press
The Canadian government is allowing people with terminal cancer to legally consume psychedelic mushrooms as part of their end-of-life care, a decision that’s expected to pave the way for more people to access psilocybin therapy. Psilocybin and psilocin, the active ingredients in magic mushrooms, are prohibited under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, unless an exception is made for a clinical trial.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu approved the use of psilocybin for four people with incurable cancer under a Section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is the first known time such an exemption has been granted specifically for the consumption of mushrooms, according to TheraPsil, a nonprofit organization that advocates for psychedelic therapy in end-of-life care in Canada. While more research is needed, a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in January found that psilocybin use in patients with life-threatening cancer resulted in a reduction in anxiety, depression, and hopelessness for prolonged periods of time. In a news release by TheraPsil, Laurie Brooks, one of the patients granted an exemption, said she hopes the decision will lead to more Canadians being able to access psilocybin without having to wait months for the government’s permission. “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,” Brooks said. Some U.S. cities, including Denver and Oakland, have decriminalized possession of mushrooms. In Jamaica, where mushrooms are legal, psilocybin retreats are available as a form of dealing with personal issues and trauma. In Canada, legal access to medical cannabis also started with a Section 56 exemption. Follow Manisha on Twitter