Canada Should Legalize All Recreational Drugs
The social harms of prosecuting drug users far outweigh any public health benefits from prohibition
Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is a professor in the department of sociology at U of T Mississauga. Read a different view of drug legalization by Robert Mann, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Why are most recreational drugs illegal? If the rationale for the war on drugs is to decrease drug use, it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t stopped the production or importation of drugs. Quite the opposite: there are billions of dollars to be made from the illegal drug trade. This often comes with serious violence – sometimes in Canada, but more often in Mexico 1 and other source countries in South America and Central America.
The United States, in particular, has been waging a war on drugs for several decades, 2 and it’s still one of the world’s largest consumers of cocaine. 3 This should tell us that we’re not going to reduce drug use through the enforcement of laws.
Some people use drugs because they enjoy doing so. Many Canadians already consume a number of drugs each week: alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are the most common. People also use harder drugs recreationally, and of course, some of these people develop substance use and abuse problems. But arresting and incarcerating them is not going to help them deal with the issues that are leading them to use or abuse harder drugs in the first place. This is why a public health approach to all drugs, where we’re striving for harm reduction rather than elimination of use, makes the most sense.
For most of human history, drugs haven’t been illegal. It’s only in the last 110 years that we’ve had drug prohibition in Canada. Even so, my neighbours in downtown Toronto often express surprise that cannabis was legalized just recently. Many think it’s been legal, or at least decriminalized, for some time. They think this because of what they look like and where they live: they don’t have to worry about being arrested.
The unequal enforcement of drug laws has profoundly harmed the individuals that are targeted, their families and their communities
As a criminologist, I’m particularly interested in how Black males perceive and experience the police. And you can’t do research around race and policing without focusing on drugs. The war on drugs drives many of the inequalities we see in our justice system.
We know that Canadians use drugs at similar rates across racial groups. 4 But in practice, drug laws are used to intrude into the lives of certain segments of the population. In Toronto and in many other cities, the unequal enforcement of drug laws 5 has profoundly harmed the individuals that are targeted, their families and their communities. A higher proportion of members of these communities have criminal records for drug possession that impede their ability to finish their education, to gain meaningful employment, to find housing and to travel.
It’s this profound injustice that has led me to believe that the social harms caused by drug prohibition far outweigh the potential health harms of legalizing and regulating access to drugs.
One of the imbalances in how drug laws are applied that we’ve seen with cannabis comes with the exercise of police discretion. Because some police officers viewed cannabis possession as a relatively minor crime, they’d confiscate the drug without making an arrest. But that’s not true of everyone the police have caught. The data show that positive police discretion has not been exercised when it comes to racialized people. 6 The difference is in who gets stopped and searched, who’s found in possession and who ends up being arrested and convicted. Black and Indigenous people in Canada are disproportionately arrested for cannabis possession. 7
We’ve spent billions of dollars to prosecute people for the possession of small amounts of drugs. 8 We’re doing our whole country a disservice. We’re locking away people’s talents and potential because we criminalize drug use.
Consider a society in which all drugs are legal; a society in which people can buy a small quantity through a government-approved pharmacy at fair prices and know exactly what they’re getting (unlike on the black market). If they wished, people could take the drug under the supervision of a health-care professional at an injection site or similar facility, greatly reducing the risk of overdose. Under these conditions, the black market for drugs – and much of the associated violence, social harm and health risks – could be virtually eliminated. Opponents cite fears that drug use would soar. But the evidence from Portugal, the only jurisdiction in the world that has decriminalized all drugs, indicates the opposite: problematic use would actually decline, 9 as would the negative consequences associated with criminalization.
Governments could use a percentage of sales revenues for research and services around addictions and mental health. At the local level, the city could use police arrest data to identify neighbourhoods that have been overpoliced with respect to drugs, and direct a portion of the tax revenue to the most criminalized communities. City councillors and members of the public could engage in discussions about how best to use these funds to meet the needs of each jurisdiction. The money might be directed to after-school programs, skills training or community health centres.
Of course, I have concerns about how drug legalization would be implemented. In Canada, one is legally permitted to possess 30 grams of cannabis. The limit for cocaine, opioids and other drugs would have to be set low, recognizing that you can overdose on these drugs in a way that you can’t with cannabis.
There could be no drug advertising, and sales would have to occur through tightly regulated government outlets. There would be strict penalties for selling drugs to underage youth and against using and driving – just as there are now for alcohol.
It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the many health harms associated with drug use. But we need to be honest about the reasons people use them – and the potential benefits. We’re seeing that psilocybin, the psychoactive component of mushrooms, and MDMA may have potential for people with PTSD and a range of other mental health issues.
We also must be honest about the substantial social burden associated with criminalizing drug use. Criminalization has utterly failed to stop individuals from using. We’ve spent enormous amounts of money and devastated countless lives – often from racialized communities – enforcing laws that don’t work. Legalization is a sensible alternative.
ALBANY – Shortly before efforts to legalize marijuana failed in the State Senate last June, the measure’s sponsor made a dire prediction: The issue would be dead in 2020.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, believed then that lawmakers would fear taking on such a controversial issue in an election year.
“I’ve changed my mind,’’ Krueger said last week.
The author of the Senate bill, Krueger believes election-year politics are no longer the threat she thought they’d be. Now, she and other lawmakers believe the plan has a better chance of getting approved in the coming months than at any point in 2019.
On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will present his 2020 state budget plan, a document in which he will also lay out his latest proposal for permitting the cultivation, distribution, sale and use of marijuana in New York.
Much of its contents are expected to mirror plans from last year, and there will still be much tussling over some of specifics. Among the top: how will the state spend the roughly $300 million in projected annual marijuana tax revenue.
There is already rising confidence among marijuana legalization supporters that this is their year, though a broad range of health, law enforcement and other opponents are now engaging to defeat the push again.
A visit to the Berkshires
Last year, legalization had support in the Democratic-run Assembly. But it stalled in the Senate in June over concerns raised by suburban New York City Democrats on Long Island and Westchester County.
Some were firmly opposed and some, such as freshman State Sen. Peter Harckham, wanted efforts to slow down.
Harckham, a Westchester County Democrat who represents parts of three suburban New York counties, last summer visited two communities in western Massachusetts, home to some of the commonwealth’s newest government-regulated stores that sell cannabis products from buds to gummy bears. Harckham talked to operators, to health care and law enforcement officials and to people in public schools. He saw the parking lots filled with cars – most license plates were from New York State, which has seen thousands of people cross state lines to buy marijuana.
Since that visit, Harckham has done more research, and his views have morphed. In an interview last week, he said he’s no longer in the slow-things-down side of the debate. He came away from Massachusetts, where voters legalized marijuana in 2016, with a key observation: “The sky is not falling,” he said.
On marijuana legalization this year in Albany, Harckham said: “I’m certainly in a better place.’’ He added: “The reality is you can buy marijuana anywhere in the state, in any high school. The private market has won, so we should be regulating this and getting the tax revenue.”
Harckham’s support is significant because he is the chairman of the Senate’s alcoholism and substance abuse committee. He said Krueger has heavily amended her marijuana bill to secure backing from him and other senators; he said one change would give a “tremendous shot in the arm” to woefully underfunded substance abuse education, prevention and treatment programs by dedicating 25% of marijuana tax proceeds to such efforts.
Not all opponents or those sitting on the fence in the Senate have seen their concerns assuaged, making legalization still not a done deal for 2020.
Sen. Monica Martinez, a Democrat, represents the far eastern end of Long Island. A former educator, she has heard concerns about legalization from school officials, students and parents. If it came for a vote today, she would vote no, in part, because of what she witnesses as the drug’s effect on teens.
“I just think it’s a little bit hypocritical that we’re trying to fight an opioid epidemic but at the same time trying to legalize a drug,” she said of marijuana. Instead, if New York wants to legalize it, officials should hold a statewide referendum, as they did in 2013 for casino gambling.
“It’s an issue that should be in the hands of our voters,” the Suffolk County lawmaker said.
2020 versus 2019
Only two years after dismissing legalization efforts and calling marijuana a “gateway drug,” Cuomo jumped on the legalization bandwagon in 2019. He proposed a massive and complex regulatory and taxing scheme, guiding everything from the licensing of marijuana farms to rules for new smoking lounges.
But the effort faced organized opposition, led by law enforcement and health groups, the state PTA and a number of moderate lawmakers; especially nervous were new or relatively new Democratic senators from districts previously held by Republican senators.
In the end, two things killed the 2019 effort: a split within the Senate Democratic conference and an uneasiness by legalization proponents, including Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, over Cuomo’s refusal to guarantee that a large portion of the drug’s tax revenues would be steered to low-income communities hit hardest by decades of marijuana arrests.
“I’ve been most concerned about that,” Peoples-Stokes said last week. The sponsor of marijuana legalization in the Assembly, Peoples-Stokes recently met with Cuomo advisers to explain “in detail” why the revenue component she wants is so crucial. “I think they get it,” she said of the Cuomo administration. Whether that means Cuomo will embrace it in his budget plan won’t be known until Tuesday.
Cuomo’s office declined comment in advance of the budget release on Tuesday.
‘Momentum is there’
Krueger believes a key thing is playing out in 2020. “The governor is clearly much more interested this year than he was last year,” she said.
Last June, Krueger criticized Cuomo for not getting involved in efforts to convince fence-sitting Senate Democrats to back legalization. Cuomo has since met with neighboring governors to seek a consensus on legalization laws for the region. Today, he is “much more comfortable” with legalization, said Krueger, who is the influential chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.
But would Cuomo jump in this year to move reluctant Democrats? “Yes, my gut tells me he will,” Krueger said.
One way is if he jams the policy matter into the state’s budget. If shoved into budget bills, political cover is created for those who might not support legalization but can’t afford to vote no for a budget that contains everything from public school financing to popular health programs.
What’s driving the legalization optimism in Albany? Part of it is public opinion polling. Part of it is the decriminalization law passed last year when legalization failed. Part of it is the widespread market for CBD products, which are produced from hemp plants but don’t contain the ingredients to get people high. And part of it is legalization efforts that have occurred elsewhere, like Massachusetts.
“The momentum is there and it’s pretty fast and furious,” Krueger said of 2020 legalization. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat, recently said she believes legalization is “inevitable,” though she added more work is needed.
Foes ramping up for fight
Opponents are not sitting by. Several groups involved in last year’s battle held a conference call Tuesday to discuss strategy, and there is talk of a renewed focus on health concerns and problems – such as driving while high arrests and accidents – seen in some states that have legalized the drug.
Critics also wonder why the state is looking to ban flavored vaping products for adults at the same time it wants to legalize marijuana. And they note the dangers of marijuana were brought out in full display by the rash of lung-related illnesses and deaths across the nation among people who used THC-containing e-cigarettes, obtained in the vast majority of cases through what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “informal” sources, such as drug dealers or friends. Fifty-seven deaths have been attributed to the outbreak.
“I don’t understand why they would want to move forward with legalization,” said Kyle Belokopitsky, executive director of the New York State PTA, of the vaping crisis that emerged nationwide over the summer.
There is a “disconnect” between state public health efforts to crack down on vaping and tobacco products while at the same time legalizing marijuana, critics say. Moreover, it’s an election year, and Albany already is facing sticky fights over everything from tax hikes for the wealthy to to whether to change a controversial new cash bail law.
“I would agree they are excited,” said Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, of Democrats’ push for marijuana this year. “But they are wrong.”
The state went too far last year, he believes, in decriminalizing possession of marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess up to 2 ounces of the drug. “This is a massive, sweeping change that’s not being properly paid attention to,” Flanagan said of the legalization push.
Backers ‘cautiously optimistic’
Marijuana proponents say the issue has been studied and debated and that legalization will bring thousands of jobs – in the form of retail, agriculture and other sectors – as well as $300 million in annual tax revenue to New York once implemented.
Moreover, these backers believe the vaping crisis that hit states beginning last summer proves their point: that legalization will bring safer marijuana products, regulated by the state, to the marketplace and not be spiked with any range of fillers and other unknown ingredients.
“Consumers need to know what they’re getting,” said Melissa Moore, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s New York office.
Moore said conversations with lawmakers and Cuomo advisers continued after 2019 session’s end last June.
Proponents also know an Albany truism: Seldom do major policy ideas get approved in one year. For-profit companies that produce and distribute medical marijuana products in New York, which is already legal, are better coordinated in 2020 to lobby with pro-legalization groups in Albany, advocates say.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Moore said of legalization this session.
Those split on the issue could agree on one thing for the coming months in Albany. “It’s going to be a fight,” said Belokopitsky, the PTA leader.
Story from The Buffalo News
Traditional drug dealers are still formidable competitors in U.S. states where cannabis is legal. Governments planning for huge tax windfalls and investors expecting rapid market-share gains have to adjust to a slower burn.
Legalization of cannabis in California, currently the world’s largest recreational pot market, has been bumpy. Restrictions on adult use were lifted in January 2018 and the Californian legislature projected $1 billion in annual state and local taxes from cannabis sales within a few years. …
Read FULL Story in the Wall Street Journal
Lottery for next wave of Ontario cannabis stores being held today
Those chosen have until Aug. 28 to pay licensing fees, and provide a letter of credit for $50K to regulator
Calgary Folk Fest offers first ever legal cannabis consumption area
Calgary’s Folk Music Festival is celebrating its 40th birthday in 2019 with something that its never had before, a legal cannabis area.
In what is a first for a public event in Calgary, cannabis users will be able to smoke in a designated area at the back of the festival grounds.
“Given our audience, I think it made sense,” said Kerry Clarke, the festival’s artistic director.
“It made sense to accommodate some people who like to smoke, but to also accommodate the people who don’t like to be around it.”
Consumption will be allowed in the small fenced-in area, which is covered with signs indicating tobacco smoke and any other drug than cannabis is not allowed.
Folk fest worked with Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) and Calgary bylaw to make sure the area complies with provincial and city rules. Extra security guards had to be hired to watch the consumption area.
“It’s a place for people to go and safely consume, but there are a lot of restrictions to it,” Clarke said, pointing out it’s nowhere near the festival’s beer garden.
Clarke says festival organizers plan to make a decision on the cannabis site at future festivals based on feedback from concert-goers.
Folk fest welcomes about 53,000 people over the course of the weekend, with about 12,000 people per day. It runs Thursday through Sunday.
Could magic mushrooms be the next drug legalized in Canada?
Now that Canadians have access to legalized cannabis, a Vancouver-based activist is focused on administering another substance that’s said to have both medicinal and recreational benefits: magic mushrooms.
Dana Larsen is behind the Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary, an online shop that sells microdoses of psilocybin, the psychoactive component in magic mushrooms. Larsen explains that the shop sells 25 ml, 50 ml and 100 ml doses – about five to 10 per cent of what you’d take if you wanted to experience hallucinations.
“The idea behind microdosing is to get the medical benefits of mushrooms without the intensity or psychoactivity you’d get in a bigger dose,” he tells Yahoo Canada. “You use it a few times a week for a couple of months. It’s anti-addictive – you can’t take it everyday or it’ll stop working.”
While magic mushrooms are illegal in Canada, psilocybin is being studied for its potential to treat mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, amongst others.
In the U.S., Denver and Oakland have decriminalized magic mushrooms. In Canada, there’s currently no therapeutic products containing psilocybin that have been approved.
Despite this, Larsen intends to open a storefront in Vancouver, similar to the one he opened for cannabis several decades ago. People interested in ordering from his online store must submit a notice of diagnosis for one of the ailments psilocybin is believed to help with, along with photo ID. The dispensary only sells to customers within Canada.
Larsen says Vancouver police are aware of his activities but he doesn’t expect much engagement with them since they’re busy focused on more pressing matters, like the fentanyl crisis.
“I don’t think the VPD has much interest in spending the time and resources to come after me when I’m only selling microdoses to people with a confirmed medical need,” he says, adding that Health Canada and other levels of enforcement could potentially pose challenges in the future.
“Hopefully no one out there thinks microdosing is really an issue to bother cracking down on me on this” he says. “But there is definitely a risk involved.”
The future of psilocybin in Canada
Jordan Donich, a Toronto-based criminal lawyer, says in order for magic mushrooms to go the same route as cannabis, it will need to get political support.
“That’s how cannabis became legal,” he tells Yahoo Canada. “That’s what has to come from the grassroots of it, if it’s going to be legal.”
He says if there is political support to legalize magic mushrooms, the process will have to shadow the same process that cannabis went through to be fully legalized for recreational and medicinal consumption.
“It will probably have to follow the same blueprint that cannabis went through,” he says. “Not only for consumption but all the other ways it can impact the laws, like driving.”
Donich says that if a substance is proven to have medicinal benefits, it’s quite likely that it could be legally consumed for that purpose. The question is, are we going to have the same kind of public acceptance and accessibility as we do with cannabis?
“Then we have to ask ourselves from a policy perspective, is it a slippery slope,” he asks. “From a broader, policy objectives: What does it mean for crime or productivity?”
If magic mushrooms are the next substance to be legalized, voters are going to have to put a candidate in power for it to happen, Donich says.
“Because if that’s what the voters want, that’s the way it should be and that’s where it starts,” he says.
Larsen says some activists will be in court later this year to challenge psilocybin prohibition under Section 56 of the controlled drug act, which allows people to be exempt from any of the drug laws, and is typically used for research purposes.
“It will take years but I expect that this legal challenge will lead to a change in the law, especially for microdoses, when there’s no psychoactivity,” he says. “I find it hard to see a lot of opposition to that.”
Story in Yahoo News
What’s happening: On Tuesday, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana use. The legislation also includes a provision that will allow nearly 800,000 people to have existing offenses for buying or selling marijuana scrubbed from their records.
Several other states that have legalized pot have created similar methods for pot-related convictions to be either reduced in severity or cleared completely. There are roughly 600,000 marijuana arrests a year in the United States.
Why there’s debate: Proponents of these measures argue that people shouldn’t continue to be punishedfor having committed acts that are no longer illegal in their states. Some also make the case for expunging records on social justice grounds, given the significant racial imbalance among those who are convicted of drug crimes.
Others believe expungement makes economic sense, because it alleviates the expense of incarceration and makes it easier for former offenders to join the workforce and contribute to the tax base. Those who were punished when pot was illegal, some say, are left out of the booming marijuana industry, since most states that have legalized marijuana bar anyone with a criminal record from participating in the legal weed business.
Opponents of the idea argue that the convictions should stand because the offenses were crimes at the time they were committed. There is also, of course, significant resistance to marijuana legalization in general.
What’s next: Legal marijuana use seems likely to spread to even more states in the near future. Illinois was the first state to pass full legalization through the legislative process, rather than passing the measure through voter referendum. Lawmakers in states that are considering bills to legalize or decriminalize marijuana use, such as New York and New Jersey, have made expungement of pot offenses a core part of the debate.
Marijuana convictions can have a severe impact on people’s lives
“No one should underestimate how much even the most minor of misdemeanor convictions — including marijuana or trespassing or any kind of conviction — can affect someone’s ability to get a job, to get housing and to function fully in society.” — American University law professor Jenny Roberts to NPR
It’s unfair for people to still be punished by old laws when others are able to profit off new ones
“Before a single Wall Street-loving yacht owner makes another dollar off a demonized plant with long-known medicinal properties, every single person who was thrown into the criminal justice system for enjoying it should get their lives back as much as possible.” — Simon Moya-Smith, NBC News
Marijuana shouldn’t be legal
“Marijuana’s risks are different from opioids’, but they are no less real. Let’s remember that hard truth as we listen to promises that allowing the use of this drug will do no harm.” — Alex Berenson, New York Times
Pot arrests hold people back from making economic progress
“Once arrested, men and women are ensnared in a Kafkaesque system that critically compromises their ability to succeed and participate in society. An arrest record can prevent them from obtaining employment, housing, student loans, and litany of other collateral consequences.” — Khalil Cumberbatch, New York Daily News
Clearing records would help fix the racially imbalanced impact of the war on drugs
“Marijuana use in the U.S. is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet, on average, blacks are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.” — Kevin Aldridge, Cincinnati Enquirer
Racial inequities in criminal justice won’t be fixed by changing marijuana laws
“The research bolstering the argument that the disparities reflect discriminatory law enforcement is squishy at best, as is the claim that legalization in other states has made a substantial difference in reducing the disparities.” — editorial, Asbury Park Press
Past marijuana convictions are causing people of color to be left out of the growing legal cannabis industry
“Marijuana legalization and the businesses that profit from it are accelerating faster than efforts to expunge criminal records, and help those affected by them participate in the so-called ‘Green Boom.’ And the legal cannabis industry is in danger of becoming one more chapter in a long American tradition of disenfranchising people of color.” — Jenni Avins, QZ
Clearing a conviction should happen automatically or be easy
“The problem is the mechanism for getting one’s marijuana record expunged varies from state to state, and in most places it ranges from burdensome to nearly impossible.” — C.J. Ciaramella, Reason
Clearing pot convictions would not make a meaningful difference in incarceration levels
“It’s fair to say that marijuana prohibition — and even the war on drugs more broadly — is not the major driver of mass incarceration.” — German Lopez, Vox
Alison knows better:
#educationisthekey #themoreyouknow …
Is it safe to take magic mushrooms?
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial College, London, explains that psilocybin is similar to LSD, but weaker, and mimics serotonin activity in the brain. It reduces brain activity in information transfer centres such as the thalamus, which sits just above the brainstem. The thalamus tells the brain what movement and sensations it is detecting. Whatever the mechanism, shrooms can make you euphoric, at one with the world and searingly insightful. Colours and geometric patterns may be vivid. Carhart-Harris says magic mushrooms are not really recreational drugs: “It’s more a drug of self-exploration,” he says. The environment, though, is essential to having a positive experience – people need space, a “sober sitter” to take care of them – and they may need reassurance that they are not going mad. Carhart-Harris prefers the term “challenging experience” over “bad trip”: mushrooms can cause anxiety, panic and depersonalisation – but studies show people still value the experience as meaningful.
Studies do not show increased mental health problems from habitual use – unlike the effects of cocaine or cannabis. A BMJ article by psychiatrist James J H Rucker argues that psychedelic drugs may actually help depression and that there is no association with psychosis. A paper in science journal PLoS One found no evidence of flashbacks (such as hallucinations or panic attacks) from sole mushroom use. Mushrooms aren’t habit forming and are far less toxic to our internal organs than heroin or cocaine. However, you should not take them as they are against the law, and this article is not promoting their use in any way. I am also keen to point out that there is a big risk of accidentally taking the wrong kind of mushroom – psilocybin mushrooms are safe, but others, such as Amanita muscaria, are toxic and can destroy your kidneys or can even be fatal.
Carhart-Harris researches into the benefits of psychedelic drugs on depression, and says that most experiences on mushrooms are positive – people generally know they have taken something and that they are not going out of their minds. The effect is different, he says, to when people unknowingly take these drugs. And while mushrooms are illegal for everyone, young people in particular should stay away. “They are not for teenagers,” he warns. “They make you psychologically vulnerable and you need the capacity to make sense of the experience.”
First pot, then magic mushrooms? Decriminalization is spreading
As cannabis legalization spreads across the globe, another mind-altering drug is trying to follow in its tracks: magic mushrooms.
Denver voted in May to decriminalize the fungus that contains psilocybin, a psychedelic compound popularized by ’60s counterculture. Oakland, Calif., followed Denver’s lead a few weeks later and Oregon is trying to get a similar measure on the ballot for 2020.
Advocates say mushrooms have untapped medical potential that could be as big as cannabis, particularly for treating depression and addiction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted “breakthrough therapy” status in October to Compass Pathways Ltd. to test the drug for treatment-resistant depression, expediting the development process. The London-based company says it’s now proceeding with a large-scale clinical trial in Europe and North America.
In recent years, researchers at New York University found psilocybin caused a “rapid and sustained” reduction in anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer. And psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins University discovered mushrooms can help people quit smoking. Another study found the psychedelic can also help with alcohol dependence.
“The medical and therapeutic applications are becoming incontrovertible in a world where depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions,” said Ronan Levy, a former executive at Aurora Cannabis Inc. and co-founder of Toronto-based Field Trip Ventures, a startup focused on therapeutic psychedelics including mushrooms.
Unlike cannabis, however, research into psilocybin’s medical applications is limited by the fact that the drug remains illegal virtually everywhere. Denver, for example, has made personal use and possession of mushrooms “the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority” but selling and distributing the drug is still illegal.
This has been challenging for psychotherapists like Bruce Tobin, a registered clinical counsellor in Victoria who specializes in treatment of anxiety, depression and emotional trauma.
Tobin has asked the Canadian government for what’s known as a Section 56(1) exemption, which gives researchers and physicians access to substances that are prohibited under the country’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. He believes there are about 3,000 people in Canada suffering from end-of-life distress who aren’t responding to other depression treatments.
“This is a group for whom it’s literally true that they have nothing left to lose, and our argument is that for these particular people, psilocybin counts as a reasonable medical treatment for them right now,” even before advanced clinical trials have been completed, he said.
Tobin doesn’t expect to be successful but is prepared to go to court to fight the decision, much the same way marijuana advocates did in the landmark cases that led to medical pot legalization in 2001.
Although he sees the cannabis rulings as setting “extremely strong legal precedence” for psilocybin, he doesn’t want to see mushrooms follow the same path to legalization as pot. The high from mushrooms lasts longer and can be much more intense than cannabis and sometimes accompanied by hallucinations, nausea and the risk of a “bad trip.”
“I’m a little uneasy that there are many entrepreneurs in Canada that see psilocybin as the next big thing, and I want to discourage that,” Tobin said. He sees the drug as one part of an ongoing psychotherapy process that should only be done under the supervision of a specialist, and believes some people should never take psychedelics at all.
“I don’t want this to sound too literal, but between cannabis and psychedelics, it’s sort of the difference between conventional and nuclear weapons,” he said. “I don’t see psilocybin as something that will become legal in Canada or necessarily ever should be.”
Cannabis edibles available for sale legally in mid-December
Regulations will come into effect on Oct. 17, and the products will be available two months later, Radio-Canada has learned.
Details on the final regulations and timeline will be released Friday by Health Canada.
It’s expected a limited selection of products will appear gradually in physical or online stores. Federal licence holders must provide 60 days notice to Health Canada of their plan to sell the products, and distributors and retailers authorized by provinces or territories will need time to purchase and obtain the new products and make them available for sale.
When dried cannabis became legal for recreational use last October, Ottawa continued its consultations on rules for edibles and other products. The consultations ended in February. Ottawa indicated at the time that regulations on cannabis edibles and concentrates would come into effect on Oct. 17, 2019.
The new regulations will give authorized distributors and retailers access to three new classes of cannabis products:
- Edibles (candy, baked goods).
- Cannabis extracts.
- Cannabis “topicals” (ointments, oils, makeup).
Greg Boone, CEO of the P.E.I.-based cannabis firm Dosecann, said he’s excited the regulations have been finalized. For the past three years, he said, his company has been preparing for this announcement.
“That will get us into the full production of these edibles or value-added products,” he said. “And the goal is to build inventory to be able to satisfy the market that we believe exists across the country for these types of products.
“Things such as vape pens, potentially topicals, and edibles such as chocolates and potentially gummies. Those types of products will eventually be rolled out.”
What’s allowed, what’s not
Cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages and cannabis products containing tobacco, nicotine or caffeine will be prohibited.
Health Canada will maintain strict rules on labelling to prevent companies from making the products more attractive to young people.
The packaging and labelling must have a clear cannabis symbol, a health warning listing the product’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidol (CBD) content, limited use of logos and colours and child-resistant packaging.
Critics have voiced the fear that edibles resembling candy might be too attractive to children. The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommended a ban on any cannabis product that could appeal to children — such as those resembling popular food items or that are packaged to look like candy.
No cannabis in restaurants
Once the new regulations are in place, cannabis companies will be able to offer concentrates such as resin or cannabis oil for vaping. Vaping products with scents that could appeal to children would not be permitted.
Restaurants will not be allowed to serve food containing cannabis.
The market for this next-generation category of cannabis products is forecast to be worth about $2.7 billion annually, according to a Deloitte report released earlier this month.
The Deloitte report said about 50 per cent of edibles users surveyed said they planned to consume cookies, brownies or chocolate at least once every three months.
With anticipated demand so high, the government’s plan to roll out regulations in October gives the industry time to build inventory.
Since cannabis was first legalized last year, supply shortages have persisted in many provinces. The introduction of edibles could drag out those shortages for years.
Anticipating robust demand, companies like Dosecann have been stockpiling cannabis for use in research and in edible products.
“We’re holding back or acquiring product basically to turn into oil, which we will put into our value-added products, where we see greater potential for profitability,” Boone said.
He said he expects his company of 45 employees will more than double in size by the end of the year.
Oakland residents won’t be busted for using ‘magic mushrooms’ and other psychedelic drugs
You may not see them popping up in dispensaries yet, but Oakland just allowed the use of “magic mushrooms” and other natural psychedelics.
Backers are hoping it saves the city money
The drugs have been shown to have health benefits
Denver voters approve decriminalization of ‘magic mushrooms’
Already awash in legal marijuana, Denver endorses psilocybin as a mind-altering option
Voters in Denver approved the nation’s first referendum on decriminalizing hallucinogenic mushrooms Tuesday. Though it took election officials until Wednesday afternoon to tabulate the vote, 50.6 percent of the 176,000 voters picked “yes,” and 49.4 percent voted no.
The voters endorsed a change in Denver law that will require police to make arresting people for personal possession or use of psilocybin mushrooms “the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver.” The final vote total still must be certified by Denver election officials.
“We’re sending a clear signal to the rest of the country,” Kevin Matthews, the leader of the “Decriminalize Denver” movement, which placed Initiative 301 on the ballot, said. “that America is ready to talk about psilocybin. We have work to do, we’re ready for it and we couldn’t be happier.”
In early returns, it appeared the measure might not pass. City residents had three weeks to cast votes, and a large number of votes submitted on Tuesday enabled the yes votes to reverse a 4,700-vote deficit in the final count.
Although recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado, the mushroom referendum affected only Denver. Hallucinogenic mushrooms remain illegal in Denver and the rest of Colorado, and selling them will still be a felony. They also remain a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Matthews said they would not have been available in the city’s cannabis dispensaries and should still be used carefully.
The initiative also establishes a review panel to analyze the public safety, administrative, fiscal and health impacts of the decriminalization of mushrooms.
Denver’s law enforcement community was not thrilled by the prospect of more readily available hallucinogens. The Denver Police Department declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D), who was leading in his bid for a third term in a race that was still undecided Wednesday, said he opposed the initiative, and Denver District Attorney Beth McCann (D) also voiced opposition.
“We’re still figuring out marijuana, and even though things are going well so far, we’re still measuring the impacts on the people of Denver,” McCann said. She said she feared that, if the measure passed, Denver would attract more drug users and mushroom-influenced drivers would create havoc.
After the measure passed, McCann’s spokeswoman, Carolyn Tyler, said the prosecutor supported the review committee created by the referendum and “we’ll study how it’s going to affect the city.” Tyler noted that “the language in the initiative is open-ended and it will take us some time to implement next steps,” including figuring out how a section about not funding prosecution of mushroom cases would be interpreted. Tyler said the measure would not change much in the district attorney’s office because “we are not putting people in jail for low-level possession.”
But a number of studies have shown that psilocybin can have positive, lasting effects on depression, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and anxiety. Matthews said his own experience with mushrooms had helped him overcome major depression.
The federal Food and Drug Administration has granted “breakthrough therapy” status to study psilocybin for treating depression. The FDA describes breakthrough therapy as designed to expedite development of a drug after preliminary evidence shows “the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy.”
Matthews said psilocybin has been shown to help reduce dependence on opioids. “Given our national crisis with opioids, that’s a big one,” he said. He also noted that a large, and rising, percentage of the American populace is taking medication for mental health. “It’s pretty clear” from the FDA granting psilocybin “breakthrough status,” Matthews said, “that the federal government knows we need some other solutions as well.”
The Denver Psilocybin Initiative raised about $45,000 in support of the campaign, advertising mostly on social media and posters around Denver, and it gathered more than 9,000 signatures to get Initiative 301 on the ballot. There was no organized opposition.
Early totals on Tuesday night had the mushroom referendum trailing by as much as 55 percent to 45 percent, but by 1 a.m., the margin had narrowed to about three percentage points. The final total was released about 4:30 p.m. Mountain time.
“What an amazing 22 hours,” Matthews said. “We’re really looking forward to creating a positive relationship with city officials in Denver and working with and educating Denver residents, and being part of the continuing conversation.”
“No one should be arrested or incarcerated simply for using or possessing psilocybin or any other drug,” said Art Way, Colorado State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. ““If anything, this initiative doesn’t go nearly far enough. Given the scientific and public support for decriminalizing all drugs, as Portugal has done successfully, we need broader reforms that can scale back the mass criminalization of people who use drugs.”
Health Canada allows more religious groups to import psychedelic ayahuasca
Health Canada has granted more special exemptions to religious groups in Ontario and Quebec to import a controversial hallucinogenic brew.
The agency has so far allowed five groups to use ayahuasca, a brew with psychoactive ingredients, without the fear of legal repercussions.
The first two ayahuasca exemptions were granted to groups in Montreal in 2017 — the Eclectic Centre for the Universal Flowing Light, also known as Céu do Montréal, and the Beneficient Spiritist Center União do Vegetal.
Three more exemptions were granted to the Ceu da Divina Luz do Montreal in May 2018, the Église Santo Daime Céu do Vale de Vida in Val-David, Que. in December 2018 and the Ceu de Toronto in November 2018.
The exemptions are valid for two years and are renewable.
Ayahuasca is otherwise illegal in Canada because it contains prohibited hallucinogens dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmaline.
“These exemptions provide these applicant’s designated members, senior members and registrants with the authority to possess, provide, transport, import, administer and destroy Daime Tea (ayahuasca), as applicable, when carrying out activities related to their religious practice, subject to the terms and conditions of the exemption,” Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette told CTVNews.ca.
Canada’s federal health agency has the ability to exempt people and substances from aspects of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for medical, scientific or public interest purposes.
Details of the exemptions, such as policies and procedures related to the use of Daime tea, are private and confidential to the applicants, Durette said.
Ayahuasca has been used by indigenous people in south America for centuries as a sacrament in shamanic ceremonies.
The ceremony is usually accompanied by purging, which includes vomiting and diarrhea, which is believed to release built-up emotions and negative energy.
Some mental health professionals believe the drink could have benefits in treating depression or addiction under strict controls.
Ayahuasca ceremonies have become popular with tourists in Peru, where it is legal.
Over the past decade at least 11 tourists have been killed in incidents linked to traditional medicine in South America, according to news reports.
In a study published in August 2018 in the journal Frontiers, 13 volunteers took dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, the naturally occurring psychedelic that is the primary ingredient in ayahuasca.
Most volunteers confirmed seeing or being surrounded by a brilliant light, mirroring reports of so-called near-death experiences in which people claim they felt a sense of inner peace and an out-of-body sensation of passing into another realm.
Most study volunteers said they were engulfed in a sensation of warmth and felt a vibration in their bodies. Others reported encountering foreign entities with a sense of emotion and gratitude.
Retailers struggle to keep CBD on shelves in Canada
‘I don’t think the licensed producers really realized how popular CBD was,’ says one business owner
Retailers across Canada are struggling with a shortage of all cannabis, but there’s one product they’re especially desperate to keep on shelves: cannabidiol or CBD, a non-intoxicating extract vaunted for its purported health benefits.
The extract, most commonly sold as oil, has been promoted as a natural cure for pain, anxiety and insomnia, despite limited medical research. Many customers are coming in asking for it, especially first-time and older users, store owners say.
“I don’t think the licensed producers really realized how popular CBD was, so there’s none available, really,” said Krystian Wetulani, founder of City Cannabis Co. in Vancouver.
“When something becomes available on the cannabis wholesale ordering sheet, everybody tries to get all that’s available. It’s like a race. That’s one of the biggest opportunities we’re facing in the legalized market.”
Companies are ramping up hemp growth to produce the trendy extract, but observers expect the shortage to persist until late this year. Meanwhile, scientists are working to separate the hype from reality when it comes to medical claims about the drug.
While licensed producers were preparing for legalization last year, they assumed most of the demand was going to be for cannabis high in THC, the intoxicating ingredient, said Khurram Malik, CEO of Biome Grow.
The buzz around CBD grew with the passage last year of a U.S. law known as the farm bill, which allows for the growing of hemp for the purposes of extracting cannabidiol, he said. Similar regulations came into effect in Canada in October.
But it was the U.S. law that drove up media coverage and social-media influencer chatter, Malik said. Kim Kardashian West recently posted on Instagram about her “CBD baby shower,” where she invited guests to make cannabidiol-infused salt scrubs and body oil.
“Because of the farm bill passing, the sexiness or the in-vogue profile of CBD went through the roof,” said Malik. “The demand side just blew up and caught everyone by surprise, on both sides of the border.”
Extracting CBD from hemp, which is low-THC and high-CBD, is more affordable because the crop can be grown outdoors on a large scale under Canadian rules that are less restrictive than those for producing high-THC marijuana, Malik said.
Biome Grow has partnered with CBD Acres, which Malik said will supply his company with up to 20,000 kilograms of cannabidiol concentrate annually in order to serve Canadian and international markets.
The CBD shortage affects jurisdictions across Canada, said provincial distributors in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
“There has been a significant learning curve for licensed producers as they transition into supplying a new market,” said B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch in a statement. “Licensed producers are working towards becoming more efficient, however many of their expansion projects have not yet been fully ramped up.”
‘It has been a challenge’
The branch added it expects supply to increase in the second half of 2019 as expansions come online and more producers receive licences to enter the marketplace.
Beverley Ware, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., said while it has “CBD-leaning” products, it has not been able to consistently carry pure CBD oil due to the national shortage.
Customers looking for CBD products would prefer not to smoke them and don’t want the added THC, said Darrell Smith, spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp.
“It has been a challenge to source a steady supply of these products as they are often reserved for the medical cannabis community,” he said.
Research into health benefits limited
Despite the hype, research into the health benefits of cannabidiol has been fairly limited, said Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a psychiatrist at McGill University who has studied the drug.
Gobbi’s team published a study in the journal Pain last October that pinpointed the effective dose of CBD for safe relief of pain and anxiety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also approved a CBD drug to treat children with severe epilepsy.
But more research is still needed, particularly on CBD’s effects on anxiety and insomnia, Gobbi said.
Some patients who try it experience no effects and studies have also indicated a placebo effect in some people with anxiety, depression and pain, she added.
“Today there is a dominant culture of cannabis, a dominant culture of everything that is natural is good. This is why … cannabidiol is so popular.”
MIKE SMITH “BUBBLES” FROM THE TRAILER PARK BOYS STARTS A GO-FUND-ME FOR FAN WITH CLUSTER HEADACHES AKA ‘SUICIDE HEADACHE’ TREATMENT
Hi folks, it’s Mike Smith/Bubbles from the Netflix series ‘Trailer Park Boys’ here. I’m starting this GoFundMe campaign for a long time Trailer Park Boys fan, and now our friend, Tom Termeer.
Tom is from London, Ontario, Canada and he suffers from what a lot of doctors refer to as ‘the most painful disease known to science – Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgia, or more commonly known as the Cluster Headache, or ‘Suicide Headache’. It’s a very rare condition that affects .01% of the worlds population, but it is aptly nicknamed the suicide headache because the pain can be so intense that, in many cases, people afflicted by it simply aren’t able to withstand the pain, and take their own lives to escape it.
And if you watch the video below, you can begin to understand why. ￼ Since 2005, Tom has been suffering from the chronic version of this disease, which means he endures this excruciating pain on a daily basis, often multiple times a day, for anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours, per attack. Just take a minute to think about that. Every. Single. Day. Multiple times. Since 2005. ￼ Since getting to know Tom better over the past several months he’s been truly inspiring to me.
During the precious moments he has where he isn’t suffering through one of these horrendous episodes, he uses that time to help the people around him, including working tirelessly to help the homeless. Meeting him, talking to him, and seeing first hand not only what he endures on a daily basis, but seeing the lengths he goes to help other people, despite his own condition, has been a truly humbling experience.
There is no known cure for this disease. BUT there is a clinic in NY that I’ve arranged to send Tom and his wife to, that is going to perform a promising new stem cell procedure on him, which hopefully will give him some much needed relief and healing. He deserves this chance to have any amount of improvement for his quality of life. Every penny I raise from this page is going directly to Tom’s treatment and any follow ups that we can arrange.
I’ve also setup a page at: www.cameo.com/bubblestpb where, if you haven’t seen it yet, you can pay to have celebrities record you a personalized shoutout. I thought this might be a fun way to give something back to you hardcore Trailer Park Boys who wanna donate, so every penny I raise from selling cameos will also go to Tom’s treatment. On behalf of myself, and Tom, thanks for taking the time to read this and for anything you’re able to contribute! Every dollar counts!! Bubbles 😎