Advocates have drafted a framework for regulated access to psilocybin for medical and therapeutic uses one year to the day since the first psilocybin exemptions were granted in Canada.
On Tuesday, Victoria-based non-profit TheraPsil released the legalization framework, Access to Psilocybin for Medical Purposes Regulations (APMPR), after consulting with patients, lawyers and regulatory experts.
The proposal is an outline for legal access to psilocybin under the discretion of a patient’s healthcare provider instead of going through the federal government for an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
“These exemptions do not go far enough,” says TheraPsil CEO Spencer Hawkswell.
He describes the government approach so far as “half-assed” as it allows exemptions but doesn’t provide a safe supply of psilocybin.
“If you need chemotherapy or cannabis, you don’t go to our elected Federal Minister of Health and ask them for access because they’ve got a ton of important things to do.”
Fight for medical cannabis lays foundation
The framework aims to implement a predictable system for medical psilocybin with regulations similar to what Canada has done with cannabis.
The proposed APMPR is based on Canada’s 2016 regulations for medical cannabis, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
“Everything that’s gone into cannabis, I would say, 95 per cent of it is applicable to psilocybin and, of course, I’m not ignorant there are differences as well,” Hawkswell says, explaining the framework covers what’s similar and will need to be discussed with patients, doctors and government.
But he doesn’t expect the push for regulated access to medical psilocybin will last as long as the 20-year fight to get cannabis to where it is today.
“My prediction is it’ll happen in the next six months.”
‘We need regulations today because patients are using psilocybin today’
Dozens of Canadians have received exemptions to access psilocybin through section 56 of the CDSA, but those are typically issued for research.
Hawkswell points out there are also hundreds of people waiting to hear if they’ll qualify for an exemption. Even then, patients have to rely on black and grey markets to get psilocybin without a regulated supply in place.
“We need regulations today because patients are using psilocybin today,” he says.
The Canadian government has been issuing exemptions without providing access to safe supply for a year, Hawkswell continues, though there are places openly selling psilocybin in Vancouver.
“And when the government isn’t responding, what else can they be doing other than turning a blind eye?”
One year ago today @PattyHajdu compassionately granted sec 56 exemptions to Psilocybin for 4 Canadians.
In the name of compassion, we need regulations today because Canadians are using Psilocybin today.
Below is a first draft, more work is needed…https://t.co/7uul8pYGDB
— SpencerHawkswell (@SpencerHawkswe1) August 4, 2021
TheraPsil hopes to hear from the public on the draft framework and will be launching a form to gather and analyze feedback before bringing recommendations to Health Canada.
The organization has been helping people legally access psilocybin for treatment, and has been calling on Minister of Health Patty Hajdu to develop regulations as well as provide a legal source.
So far, TheraPsil has helped 34 patients and 19 healthcare professionals across Canada receive section 56 exemptions.
Canadians support approval for psilocybin-assisted therapy
Meanwhile, a poll from the Canadian Psychedelic Association shows strong support for legal access to psilocybin-assisted therapy in certain cases.
Data shows 82 per cent of Canadians approve of the therapy for people suffering from an end-of-life illness, while 78 per cent say they’d support a government that legalized such treatment to improve the quality of life for palliative and end-of-life patients.
The Canadian Psychedelic Association is united by the need for access to psychedelic medicines for patients who need it most.
— Canadian Psychedelic Association (@cdnpsychedelic) August 4, 2021
Sixty-four per cent of Canadians believe the government should expand legal access to psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for those who qualify under the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) rules.
About 38 per cent of people say they have heard about psilocybin-assisted therapy, and that number is much higher in British Columbia at 69 per cent.
“The proof is in the research and patient improvement,” said Dr. Pamela Kryskow, a medical doctor and psychedelic researcher, in a statement.
“We’ve seen positive clinical evidence that shows that psilocybin-assisted therapy works tremendously well for addressing many mental health challenges where other options are ineffective. The healthcare practitioners are ready, the patients deserve this, and we’re ready to provide this medical service to Canadians.”