To: The Honourable Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos and
The Honourable Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Dr. Carolyn Bennett
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0A6
From: Thomas Hartle, Janis Hughes, James Doswell,
Bruce Tobin, Jesse Merks, Jane Harrison, Shannon McKenney
RE: REQUEST TO END LEGAL INITIATIVE FOR MEDICAL PSILOCYBIN ACCESS
Dear Honourable Ministers,
We, the undersigned, are Canadian patients seeking medical access to psilocybin because of various serious or life-threatening mental and physical illnesses, including terminal cancer and opioid addiction. Each of us has chosen to use psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment to improve our quality of life and well-being – a choice supported by each of our physicians.
Upon special request and lengthy advocacy, five of us have been granted a Section 56 Exemption from our Controlled Drugs and Substances Act over the course of one year. This exemption gave us legal access to use psilocybin and has resulted in a highly successful treatment in each case. However, after its original one-year term, continued access to this proven medicine has been denied. Now, along with the three of us who have been denied the exemption altogether, we struggle to navigate a new, highly restrictive regulatory pathway to access these medicines as we cope with our day-by-day suffering.
The new regulatory pathway, the Special Access Program (SAP) has issues far greater than can be communicated in this short letter. However, the most pressing concern is the limiting and restrictive criteria which have created near-impossible access for hundreds of other patients besides us. This SAP path is unsound because of unconscionable delays as the final decision for patient access is in the hands of a government employee rather than the patient’s physician.
Psilocybin is shown by research and practical use to be very safe, with nearly 80% effectiveness in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety and depression; its continued criminalization shows little, if any, compassion for Canadians in need. The restrictions placed on psilocybin access are also lacking in basic humanity, as the government has created a system in which medical-assisted death is more easily available and less complicated to access than a mushroom which could make living a better alternative.
We have now been advocating for and waiting years for a legal solution to our suffering from our government, and have grown despondent that relief is forthcoming for us and the many others in need.
After thoughtful consideration of our suffering, our options, and our rights as Canadians, we have decided to challenge in court, the constitutionality of the Canadian drug laws which prohibit our reasonable access to psilocybin. Given the court rulings that resulted from the several constitutional challenges relating to access to medical cannabis, we are confident of success in court. We are also confident that the current dysfunctional routes of access will be shown to be in violation of the principles of Patient Centred Care, a healthcare standard that is universally embraced by Canadian healthcare authorities.
Our choice to seek expanded access to medical psilocybin through the courts is made reluctantly. We would rather come to an agreement that mitigates our suffering without incurring the expected time, stress, tens of thousands of dollars, and media coverage critical of the Liberal government. We would prefer to spare you from the withering optics of a government that will allow its citizens to die but will not allow them timely access to a medical treatment that they have decided upon in consultation with their doctors.
For all these reasons, we ask you to please consider working with us to find a solution to this cruel court case and to implement a regulatory regime similar to that which brought access to medical cannabis to Canadian patients. We have previously sent you a draft of the proposed regulations (see attached APMPR ) we would support, but have not received any feedback from you or Health Canada. This court challenge is our last resort attempt to be heard.
We write to you as members of TheraPsil, a non-profit coalition, and on behalf of the over 2000 patients, doctors, nurses, therapists and Canadians that comprise our membership.
Please, Ministers Jean-Yves Duclos and Carolyn Bennett, do the right thing. The current science clearly supports psilocybin as a reasonable and compassionate treatment for end-of-life distress and related disorders. Most Canadians currently support medical access to psilocybin and it is time that our government shows explicit compassion for the thousands of Canadians who will benefit from psilocybin. Your choice to implement a regulatory framework along the lines we suggest will result in the end of our legal initiative.