About 60 health professionals across the country plan to continue their fight in court to be able to use magic mushrooms for medical purposes in their practices, even though a ruling earlier this week did not rule in their favor .
Megan McLaren, who works as a licensed clinical counselor in British Columbia, is one of those professionals who filed an application in the Federal Court seeking an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
This exemption would allow them to take magic mushrooms themselves as part of “experiential training”, before being able to offer them in treatments offered to patients.
After using magic mushrooms in group therapy to work through her grief following the death of her mother in 2021, McLaren believes more people should have access to the tool.
“At the moment, there are people in Canada who can use medical assistance in dying, but who cannot even take mushrooms,” she laments in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“It’s a bit retrograde to allow people to end their lives, but not give them the chance to prolong their lives or, at least, die with less anxiety. »
Ms. McLaren and a group of 60 other health professionals therefore asked the Federal Court to overturn an old decision which denies them access to the authorization they need to move forward with their project.
However, a nearly identical application filed by nearly 100 other health professionals in 2022 was rejected Monday by a Federal Court judge, who upheld the court’s previous ruling.
In his ruling, the judge argued that “there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate the necessity or benefit of experiential training with psilocybin.”
“The evidence does not establish that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy by an experienced practitioner is safer or more effective,” he wrote, noting in passing that his decision does not prevent patients from access psilocybin under their own exemption or access psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy.
Call if necessary
Nicholas Pope, who is a lawyer specializing in human rights in Ottawa, assures that he will appeal this case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary.
He is convinced that case law supports professionals who wish to ultimately be able to offer treatments with magic mushrooms based on psilocybin.
“We are talking here about a substance which is safe and whose effectiveness has been proven. We have two decades of laws that say people have a right to access it, so it’s only a matter of time before these cases are heard in the right courts,” he says.
According to the lawyer, it is “absurd” that almost anyone can obtain magic mushrooms from the illegal dispensaries that have popped up across the country, while people with “serious medical problems and health problems and urgent” are fighting for legal access.
“That’s why I decided to get involved in so many cases and handled them on a voluntary basis. “It’s something that needs to change,” he says.
Difficult for patients
In July 2022, Mr. Pope notably filed a lawsuit on behalf of several patients to challenge the ban on the use of psilocybin. According to him, this ban is unconstitutional.
According to Thomas Hartle, one of eight plaintiffs in the case, the real problem is not access to magic mushrooms, but rather access to qualified therapists who can administer the treatment.
Diagnosed with colon cancer eight years ago, Mr. Hartle was one of the first people in Canada to receive approval to legally consume magic mushrooms under the Special Access Program for Assisted Psychotherapy .
However, he had to fly from his home in Saskatchewan to British Columbia for treatment.
Traveling so much is both physically and financially exhausting, he laments. He had to spend thousands of dollars on travel, food and accommodation to receive therapy in another province due to a lack of qualified therapists closer to home.
In an interview Friday, Mr. Hartle revealed that his stage four cancer continues to progress, but that mushroom therapy sessions have been effective in easing his end-of-life anxiety.
“I think I will no longer be here to see the outcome of this legal saga,” he sighs. I really wish I had the chance to know the end of the story, but at the rate things are going, I don’t think the odds are in my favor. »