From pot to shrooms: What's next for decriminalization?

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Are shrooms the new cannabis in Canada?

In the U.S., the Washington D.C. Board of Elections is allowing an initiative to decriminalize psychedelic plants, including “magic mushrooms,” to appear on November’s ballot, after supporters gathered more than 25,000 signatures, according to the Washington Post.

If approved, the U.S. capital would join Denver, Oakland, Calif., and Santa Cruz, Calif., which have decriminalized psychedelics.

But, not so fast, says Canada’s federal government.

Yes, earlier this month, Health Minister Patty Hajdu allowed four incurable Canadian cancer patients to undergo therapy which used psilocybin — the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms — to ease their distress.

But that doesn’t mean magic mushrooms, and other psychedelics, currently banned and only allowed in clinical trials or research in Canada, are on the fast track to decriminalization or legalization.

“The Government of Canada is not proposing to decriminalize psilocybin or other controlled substances at this time, “ said Public Health Agency of Canada spokesman Tammy Jarbeau.

“In 2019, Health Canada authorized psilocybin for use in a clinical trial for patients with treatment-resistant depression.”

Still, CNN reported that the Canadian government’s decision marks the first time since 1974 a legal exemption cleared the way for patients in this country to use psychedelic treatment.

Local cannabis advocate Lisa Campbell believes medicinal mushrooms are following the path of medicinal marijuana in Canada with recreational mushroom use still years away.

“There are so many companies that are pivoting from cannabis to psychedelics, we’re going to see a lot of research to not only decriminalize but legalize psychedelics, at first for medical use, but it could push them to recreational use, as cannabis has done,” said Campbell, the Toronto-based CEO of Mercari Agency Ltd., a cannabis sales and marketing company.

“A lot of universities are finally more open to psychedelic research. It’s finally becoming mainstream,” she added. “It’s really fascinating that this is being done in Canada. For many years, people have been preparing for this paradigm shift in drug policy so the fact that we’re finally here in 2020 is really progressive and inspiring to be at the forefront of this movement.”

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Campbell said a Toronto clinic recently opened to treat those suffering from drug-resistant depression and anxiety with ketamine. While abused as a party drug, ketamine is primarily utilized in veterinary surgery.

She also said there are also mushroom dispensaries popping up online.

“In Vancouver, there’s almost de facto decriminalization,” said Campbell. “It’s much more progressive there.

“It has been for years,” she added. “They had the medical cannabis dispensary movement that started in Vancouver on the West Coast. It’s so interesting to see how the same trends that we saw with cannabis, with the medical (use), are happening as well with mushrooms.”

CNN reported New York University Langone Health researchers published a study this year in which 29 patients suffering from cancer-related anxiety and depression were given a single dose of psilocybin with psychotherapy. According to the findings, and 60% to 80% showed improvement.

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