Psychedelics in Canada could be looking at a good trip on the immediate horizon.
Toronto lawyer Rick Moscone says he expects an accelerated process for the legalization of these mind-altering drugs.
This may through a Charter challenge against the country’s drug laws or an act by government itself, according to Moscone, a partner with the Fogler, Rubinoff law office.
“I do think in the next five years, for sure we will see psychedelics move forward,” Moscone said in a phone interview Friday (May 1).
In some way, Moscone anticipates that the legalization of pyschedelics could mirror the path taken by cannabis.
However, Moscone said that this comes with a caveat.
While psychedelics could be legalized for medical purposes, the Toronto lawyer does not see this class of drugs legalized for recreational use like cannabis.
“The hurdle for legalizing psychedelics is the powerful reactions that result from their usage,” Moscone said.
“I don’t think governments will be comfortable allowing recreational use of such products without the oversight of a doctor,” he continued.
According to Moscone, this is the reason why start-ups in the psychedelic sector are focused on microdosing of things like magic mushrooms.
“They want to focus on the potential benefits, without the significant reactions,” he said.
Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin and psilocin, which are hallucinogenic chemicals.
It is illegal to sell, posses, and produce psilocybin and psilocin under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
“Much like what happened with cannabis, I expect that at some point at the very near future, we’ll get a court decision, which says that it infringes somebody’s Charter rights for them not to be able to use psychedelics for medical purposes,” Moscone said.
Cannabis was declared illegal in Canada in 1923, and it wasn’t until 2001 when medical cannabis became legal.
That development was made possible with a 2000 decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case involving Terry Parker, a man suffering from epeliptic seizures.
The court held that access to cannabis for people with a legitimate medical need is a right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Parker successfully argued that the prohibition against cultivation and possession of cannabis for medical purposes is a violation of Section 7 of the Charter, which protects the right to life, liberty and security of a person.
Responding to the court’s decision, the federal government issued the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations in 2001.
Government rules on medical cannabis have since evolved following further challenges brought before the courts.
For example, the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015 decided that it was unconstitutional to limit medical patients to dried cannabis alone.
According to Health Canada, psilocybin found in magic mushrooms is being studied for its potential use to treat a number of mental health conditions.
These include anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and problematic drug use.
“Currently there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada,” the federal agency states on its website.
In March 2020, Moscone and Teodora Prpa, an articling student with Fogler, Rubinoff, released a paper titled “Getting Pyschedelic in Canada: Legalities of Pyschedelic Therapies“.
Moscone and Prpa explained that a person who wishes to possess controlled substances, such as psychedelics, for scientific research or clinical trials must receive an exemption under Section 56 of the CDSA.
According to the authors, Section 56 grants the Minister of Health “discretionary power to provide an individual with an exemption to possess a specified quantity of the controlled substance and to administer the controlled substance to human subjects or animals for the purpose of research”.
“By its very nature, a Section 56 Exemption may be granted only in exceptional circumstances,” Moscone and Prpa wrote.
They also pointed out Section 56 exemptions are “not mechanisms to promote or encourage the use of substances for which approval for general marketing in Canada has not been granted or to circumvent other conventional avenues of access”.
In the U.S., researchers and scientists can apply to obtain psychedelic substances though a designation for breakthrough therapy under that country’s drug laws.
In their paper, Moscone and Prpa recalled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018 granted breakthrough therapy designation status to a psilocybin trial for treatment-resistant depression and major depressive disorder in 2018.
Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo