Psychedelic Activism in Canada

Psychedelic Activism in Canada

Within the past 2 years, psychedelic activism has seen a steady increase, with numerous cities across the United States decriminalizing naturally occurring psychedelic plants. This comes in the wake of relatively new research showing that psychedelics, namely (the “active compound” in magic mushrooms), show immense promise in treating a wide-range of mental health disorders and addictions when paired with therapy. This new wave of research and legal change has come to be known as the “psychedelic renaissance”, as promising research and social change from the 1960’s was effectively halted by Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs” campaign. In Canada, psychedelics have yet to be decriminalized, but that doesn’t mean movements aren’t underway to see that change come to fruition, and decriminalization is usually seen as a stepping stone to legalization. You may be wondering, how do I get involved with psychedelic activism in Canada and advocate for the beneficial use of these substances? Continue reading to see how you can get involved and help the psychedelic renaissance.


Psychedelic Activism in Canada - therapsil
Therapsil’s Logo

Founded in 2019, Therapsil is a non-profit coalition of healthcare professionals, patients, community members, and advocates who are committed to providing Canadians experiencing end-of-life anxiety access to legal psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Even though psilocybin was outlawed in 1974 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), The Minister of Health, Minister Patty Hajdu, can make exemptions under Section 56(1). On August 4th 2020, Therapsil aided 4 palliative Canadians suffering from end-of-life distress in accessing “Section 56 exemptions” for psilocybin. This was the first set of medical exemptions for psilocybin since it became outlawed. Since then, as of August 2021, Therapsil has successfully supported 35 Canadians from different provinces in receiving access to legal psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. The requirements to apply for access are as follows:

  1. 19+ Resident of Canada, with a terminal diagnosis OR in remission from a life-threatening diagnosis (i.e cancer survivor) and/or receiving palliative care
  2. As a result of your past or present life-threatening diagnosis, you experience psychological distress (anxiety/depression/demoralization)
  3. You are interested in trying psilocybin therapy and have identified a potential supply of psilocybin mushrooms
  4. Your emotional distress has not successfully responded to other treatments.

If one qualifies for treatment, they then undergo these steps with the Terapsil team:

  1. Check whether you qualify and contact Therapsil
  2. Discuss with TheraPsil’s clinical team about if psilocybin therapy is right for you
  3. If eligible, they will provide materials and support for your section 56 exemption application
  4. Wait for a response and/or approval of your section 56 exemption to access psilocybin-therapy.

However, even though Minister Patty Hadju has granted exemptions to some, there are still over a thousand Canadians who qualify for section 56 exemptions still waiting for a response from Minister Patty Hadju, who has stopped granting these exemptions to both patients and healthcare professionals. Further, non-palliative patients who could benefit from psilocybin-assisted therapy are not even being considered. So how can you get involved to see that these Canadians seeking compassionate use of psilocybin to treat their existential distress get the treatment they are seeking?

Therapsil is seeking to get Minister Patty Hadju to adopt regulations for psilocybin-assisted therapy in order to replace section 56 exemptions, which are slow, resource-intensive, and do not guarantee a response. Since Therapsil is a non-profit initiative, donating towards the cause is one way to start. They are aiming to raise $200,000 by September 16th 2021 through this fundraiser, in order to advocate for psilocybin regulations through public education, research, and patient advocacy.

Another way to show support and advocate for psilocybin regulations is to write an email to your local Member of Parliament (MP), which Therapsil has made it easy for you to do with their pre-populated email template. All you have to do is enter your name, email and postal code here, and your letter will be sent to Justin Trudeau, Minister Patty Hadju, and your local MP.

You can also register Therapsil’s webinar series, happening Wednesday’s at 4pm PST and view advocacy videos urging Minister Patty Hadju to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy for those in need.

Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Canada

Psychedelic Activism in Canada - MAPS
Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Canada Logo

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Canada is a registered non-profit organization that was established on July 11th 2011 with the goal of supporting MAPS USA, specifically for the phase 2 study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD as a study site was planned for Vancouver. Since then, the MDMA study has moved to phase 3 with extremely promising results, and a study utilizing MDMA for the treatment of anorexia nervosa is being explored as well. Overall, MAPS Canada is committed to planning, conducting and publishing scientific research and education supporting the beneficial uses of psychedelic medicines, including treatment for medical conditions, neuroscience, creativity, spirituality, and striving to ensure Canadians have safe access to the beneficial uses of psychedelic medicines by working with partners in government, business and community.

As MAPS Canada is a charitable non-profit organization, they are entirely funded by public donations, so the best way to lend support is by making one. You can donate, on a one time or monthly basis, using Paypal, e-transfer, cheque, or even using certain cryptocurrencies.

If you’d like to donate your time instead of money, you may want to consider volunteering for MAPS Canada. Though they are based out of Vancouver, BC and Toronto, ON, there are several support groups across Canada and most volunteer duties are remote. As of August 2021, MAPS Canada is not recruiting for general volunteers and instead is looking to fill specific positions, which will be updated in September of 2021. The committees of MAPS Canada include the blog, diversity, drug policy, fund development, journal club, marketing, podcast, research, social, tech, webinar and youtube committees. Once open positions are posted and you feel you have valuable background experience, you can send your resume, a summary of why you are interested in volunteering with MAPS Canada and skills of yours that you believe an expanding non-profit organization may benefit from. You can find out more information here.

Recently, MAPS Canada also sent a letter to the Parliament of Canada regarding suggested improvements to bill C-22. Though the form is now closed, receiving over 400 supporters, you can read about that here and read Frshmind’s interview with MAPS Canada National Drug Policy Lead Taylor Rodrigues on the topic here.

Canadian Psychedelic Association

Psychedelic Activism in Canada - CPA
Canadian Psychedelic Association (CPA)

The Canadian Psychedelic Association, or CPA, officially became a non-profit organization in late 2019, but grew from a diverse group of individuals wanting to do their part to push psychedelics into the mainstream in a conscious and considered way. The founding team included individuals active in Vancounver’s psychedelic community for decades as well as medical and therapeutic professionals newer to the scene. The CPA has worked with groups devoted to ethics, research, communications, and public relations and seeks to forge alliances with local, national, and international players in the psychedelic space.

They seek to bring together MD’s, therapists and mental health professionals who want access to research, training programs, experts and peers involved in the work of psychedelic therapies, coaches and practitioners wanting to learn about harm reduction methods and best practices to use with their clients, practitioners from indigenous cultures and celebrated pioneers who’ve been using psychedelics / plant medicines for decades and are willing to share their invaluable wisdom, advocates and others lobbying our government for policy reform and access, companies, organizations, training programs and retreat centers serving this space, as well as “everyday people” who are curious about psychedelics and the benefits they can provide to themselves or their family members.

The CPA operates on a membership program (which you can check out here) for $14/month, or at a reduced one time fee of $100 for the year as to cover basic operational expenses and to fund initiatives and projects that educate, advocate and lobby for government reform, and support the hours and unpaid services of their dedicated board of directors, advisory council, and volunteers. Becoming a founding member allows you to connect with the community with their soon-to-be launched interactive membership platform, meet and ask questions to experts at their members-only interactive “town hall” sessions, access lectures and interviews, learn about specialized training courses, and receive discounts of conferences. As well, becoming a member allows you to receive complimentary tickets to their on-going webinar series on a variety of topics including the latest scientific research, decriminalization and policy reform (and how you can get involved), success stories and best practices of medical and mental health experts, and invaluable wisdom from psychedelic pioneers and indigenous practitioners with decades of experience.

Another initiative launched by the CPA is the Decriminalize Nature Canada Campaign. Similar to the Decriminalize Nature campaigns occurring in the United States, this campaign advocates for the decriminalization of naturally occurring psychedelic plants such as psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, ibogaine, and ayahuasca. They’ve made it easy for you to contact your local MP to show your support for this initiative. As well, you can donate to the CPA and this initiative through Paypal here.

The landscape and stigma on psychedelics thanks to research and early therapies is rapidly changing in Canada. However, the legal landscape is not changing as fast, resulting in blockades to important research and alternatives to treatments that many Canadians could benefit from. As well, current drug laws disproportionately affect marginalized communities and result in the over incarceration of BIPOC. Now more than ever it’s important to advocate and do your part to help the psychedelic renaissance progress so we can see an improvement to the mental health crisis in Canada and damage done to marginalized communities due to the war on drugs. Please consider lending you money or time to the organizations above!

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About the Author

Passionate about studying the psychedelic/mystical experience from a neuropsychological lens, Emily is a member of MAPS Canada Research Committee and graduated with an Honours BSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology from York University.  She currently leads a team of RAS with a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial investigating microdosing psilocybin for persistent depressive disorder.

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