As under-the-table market grows, patients urge Ottawa to regulate magic mushrooms

OTTAWA — Some advocates are calling on the federal government to regulate magic mushrooms and widen their availability for medical use.

The psychoactive compound produced by the mushrooms — called psilocybin — is not legal in Canada but there are early clinical trials underway to test its effectiveness in treating mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Thomas Hartle was among the first Canadians to get a federal exemption to use psilocybin to treat symptoms of his stage-four colon cancer, but he says the legal supply of the drug has been "shut off" even as an illegal market booms.

An exemption is one of few ways to get the drug legally — otherwise, patients need their doctor to request it for a specific use or they need to be enrolled in a clinical trial.

But it is easily found online or at a growing number of shops openly selling magic mushrooms in cities including Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa.

Hartle and other advocates have filed a legal challenge that calls on the federal government to regulate psilocybin so patients seeking it out for medical use can do so legally.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2023.

The Canadian Press