Trudeau Liberals reject call by thousands of Canadians to decriminalize psychedelics

Close to 15,000 petitioners asked the government to recognize “sacramental and medicinal plants”

Canada prohibits the use and distribution of psilocybin and psilocin, the psychedelic substances found in magic mushrooms. ddggg/Getty Images


Canada will continue to enforce laws prohibiting psychedelics. Moreover, it will not change legislation and decriminalize these substances.

Members of the federal Liberal government delivered this message in response to a petition presented in Parliament.

Close to 15,000 Canadians signed a petition to allow the use of plants and fungi with psychedelic properties.

Green Member of Paliament (MP) Paul Manly of the B.C. riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith presented the petition at the House of Commons.

In connection with this move, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tabled a response on November 16, 2020.

Joël Lightbound serves as the MP for Louis-Hébert in Quebec. He also carries the title of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

In a signed response, Lightbound stated that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will “continue to enforce existing statutes”.

These include those that prohibit or impose restrictions on the manufacture, possession, and trafficking of controlled drugs and substances.

No plan to amend current drug laws

Magic mushrooms represent the most common example of psychedelic plants and fungi.

Further, this type of fungi contains psilocybin and psilocin, substances currently outlawed in Canada.

In addition to Lightbound, two other government representatives delivered a response.

MP Darren Fisher represents the Nova Scotia riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. He also works as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

In his signed response, Fisher stated that there will be “no amendments to the current legislation or regulations”.

This means that prohibitions in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) will stay.

According to Fisher, the CDSA and FDA, and their respective regulations “already provide a mechanism to access such organisms for medical or scientific purposes”.

In addition, current rules provide exemption “for reasons that are otherwise in the public interest”.

As an example, psychedelics can be used for “religious” purposes.

Fisher also cited clinical trials as another “potential option to access products that have not yet been licensed for sale in Canada”.

Clinical trials require authorization from Health Canada.

“The decision to pursue clinical trials is at the discretion of sponsors (e.g., a manufacturer, a research centre, or a physician),” Fisher stated.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti also filed a response to the petition. The Quebec MP represents the riding of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun.

Lametti stated that the CDSA “fulfills” Canada’s obligations under international treaties regarding drugs.

“Any plant or fungi that contains a substance listed in Schedules I, II, III, IV, or V of the CDSA is regulated as a controlled substance in Canada,” he noted.

Moves to decriminalize psychedelics

The government’s response demonstrates that Canada lags behind a number of jurisdictions in the U.S. in measures to decriminalize psychedelics.

In the November 3, 2020, election, voters in Oregon passed Measure 109, which legalizes the use of psilocybin in therapy.

Because of this move, Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to legalize psilocybin therapy.

In addition, voters in D.C. (or District of Columbia), home of the U.S. capital, supported Initiative 81, which decriminalized a range of psychedelic substances.

As examples, these include ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocyn.

Further, this means that D.C. police will treat these substances as low-level priority for law enforcement.

Moreover, the city council of Santa Cruz in California approved a measure to decriminalize use, possession, and cultivation of psychedelic plants and fungi.

As a result, Santa Cruz became the third U.S. city adopt such a measure. It followed Denver, Colorado, and Oakland, California.

In Canada, the petition presented to parliament by Green MP Manly called for the recognition of “sacramental and medicinal plants”.

The petition stated that these plants and fungi contain “healing and therapeutic properties”.

Trevor Millar, a founding member of the Canadian Psychedelic Association, started the petition, which garnered 14,910 signatures.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo

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