Canadian Lawyer

November 2022

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 33 of 51

32 FEATURE PSYCHEDELICS Lawyers call for looser regulations and broader access to psychedelic drugs to treat mental health disorders, writes Lucy Saddleton PSYCHEDELICS ARE slowly gaining social acceptance as a valuable therapeutic drug to treat mental health illnesses, but the heavily regulated industry still faces many roadblocks in Canada. Once vilified, some psychedelics are now classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a potential "breakthrough therapy" for major depressive disorder. Psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin, LSD and ketamine, are now used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression who are resistant to conventional treatments. Lawyers at companies that develop psychedelic therapies call for more relaxed regulations to make their therapies more widely available to medical professionals. While the drugs are currently illegal in Canada, medical professionals can apply for permission to provide patients with special access to psychedelics for thera- peutic purposes. In a recent development, Alberta health officials announced that the province would become the first jurisdiction to regulate the use of psychedelic drugs for people in therapy. Under the new regulations that take effect in Jan. 2023, medical directors in Alberta will be required to apply for a licence to use psychedelics for the treatment of mental health disorders in their patients and will require the oversight of a psychiatrist. According to Ronan Levy, co-founder of psychedelic medicine developer Field Trip Health and a former practising lawyer, the legal community should use its influence to be proactive in advancing the psychedelics industry in Canada to increase availability to patients. "Lawyers are extremely well equipped to find ways to push boundaries and advance the conversation in a thoughtful and elegant way to serve the community," says Levy. "I'm a big believer that psychedelics are going to significant side effects when there are better options currently available," he says. David Wood, general counsel and chief legal officer at Psygen Industries Inc., agrees that physicians' administrative barriers make it challenging to access these drugs for needy patients. "I would love to see a psilo- cybin medical access system that's federally operated in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which means it would be in compliance with our UN obligations," he says. Psychedelics industry gains momentum "I would love to see a psilocybin medical access system that's federally operated in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act" David Wood, Psygen become one of the most dominant cultural and medical forces of our lifetime." While many governing colleges view ketamine-assisted therapy as a second- or third-line treatment option, Levy argues it should be regarded as first-line. "It creates better outcomes than current treatment options that generally don't work, so it seems like a foolhardy approach to continue to use legacy approaches that we know by and large aren't effective and create Wood believes that licensed dealers such as Psygen that cultivate psilocybin mush- rooms or synthetically manufacture the drug should be permitted to sell their products directly to physicians under certain guide- lines. In particular, he would like to see MDMA and psilocybin made accessible to physicians as soon as possible. Clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Cybin has employees across North America, which raises further legal challenges. The

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