On May 24th, 2023, TheraPsil composed a letter to the Honourable Jennifer Whiteside, urgently seeking provincial funding for a groundbreaking psilocybin access clinical trial. This plea followed a previous proposal for a treatment project, which regrettably received a denial from the former Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

Regrettably, the response we received from the Health Ministry was curt and unsatisfactory. The funding proposal was summarily dismissed without a thorough examination of the project’s potential impact. Instead, the Ministry expressed its intent to “monitor” the situation, as indicated in Appendix A.

Undeterred, on Friday, July 28th, we responded with heightened urgency. Our follow-up communication presented a more pointed appeal, urging funding support for either the clinical trial or the treatment program. Specifically, we bring attention to:

  1. Lack of Leadership – The BC Ministers of Health have chosen to merely “monitor” the progress of psychedelic treatments, leaving individuals in dire medical need to languish. As other regions like Australia and various US states forge ahead with these transformative treatments, we find ourselves falling behind.
  2. Equity in Access – Why is psilocybin not considered as an option for patients while BC permits the possession of substances such as cocaine and heroin? This raises concerns about the message our government sends when it permits highly harmful substances but denies individuals the option of psilocybin, which offers massive potential health benefits without public safety risks.
  3. Affordability & Right to Try: While the Special Access Program grants access to psilocybin and other psychedelics, treatment costs around $6,000 and isn’t covered. Strikingly, medical assistance in dying (MAiD) is covered. This contrast prompts us to reflect on the value we place on a person’s life – where they have the right to die but not the right to explore potentially life-enhancing treatments.

Additionally, we’ve proactively reached out on a national level to engage stakeholders interested in participating in provincial funding initiatives of this magnitude.

Our letter to stakeholders can be found at this link

Our response to the Minister can be found below.

Spencer Hawkswell

Click Here to Download the Letter to British Columbia Requesting Provincial Funding for Psilocybin 


To the Province of British Columbia 

TO: Hon. Jennifer Whiteside, 

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
BC Legislature, Victoria, BC


Via Email: MMHA.Minister@gov.bc.ca
CC: spencer@therapsil.ca, premier@gov.bc.ca


Date: Friday, July 28th, 2023


Dear Minister Whiteside,

I hope you are well and having a safe summer. Thank you again for your ongoing public service and dedication to addressing the significant mental health and addiction challenges facing our province – and country.

We applaud the leadership of both federal and provincial governments for increased investment in treatment and research earlier this year. However, I can only express disappointment regarding the five-sentence response we received from your Ministry last month to a proposal for expanded access to safe and compassionate psilocybin treatment and research trials. The proposal is aimed at providing much-needed relief for suffering British Columbians who are losing hope and running out of options.

Since our initial correspondence and your department’s unfortunate response, there have been significant developments in other regions. For example, Australia has delisted psilocybin as a controlled substance, allowing psychiatrists to prescribe psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. All in light of emerging research and clinical trials. Australia’s leap is just the latest evolution of safe psilocybin-assisted treatment, which started in 2020 when Canada became the first country to grant legal exemptions and recognize the potential benefit of psilocybin treatment. Since then, more than 100 have received exemptions and thousands of healthcare professionals have lined up for training in this exciting new field. Moreover, encouraging developments have occurred within Canada. Last year, Alberta became the first Canadian jurisdiction to regulate the use of psychedelic drugs for people in therapy. The University of Calgary has established a research chair to oversee exploration into the use of psychedelics to improve mental health, with a particular focus on PTSD.

In another significant step, Quebec became the first province to fund doctors for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy after treating patients with legal access in December 2022. Even private insurers, such as Pacific Blue Cross, have started providing coverage for these treatments. The progress doesn’t stop there. Less than a year ago, the Guardian newspaper reported on the largest clinical trial yet into psilocybin and depression, where nearly a third of patients at 22 sites in the UK, Europe and North America went into rapid remission after a 25mg dose and therapy sessions. The former chair of the UK’s COVID vaccine task force described the use of psychedelics to treat depression as an area of real excitement. Additionally, New York University published research last year documenting significant reductions in alcohol dependence when subjects combined psilocybin and psychotherapy.

These positive results, and many others, build on a landmark 2016 trial by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine which found increases in quality of life and decreases in death anxiety continued six months after psilocybin-assisted therapy for 41 of 51 participants.

A substantial and serious trend is emerging. Why isn’t BC leading?

BC Centre for Disease Control Scientist Zack Walsh said recently the government’s war against controlled drugs is one of the main drivers of the overdose epidemic. He thinks it may be one of the reasons we are not using one of the best treatments for mental health – psychedelics. We hope Zack is wrong.

Janis Hughes, a stage 4 cancer patient who was forced to go underground due to the barriers to access posed by the SAP, put it this way “If I had not gone underground for treatment, I might well have exercised my right to MAiD by now.” TheraPsil brought Janis’s case and others to the Committee on MAiD, which recommended that Health Canada review the Special Access Program (SAP) and policies to determine ways to improve access to psilocybin.

One of the most significant issues we face is the cost of psilocybin access through the SAP, reaching up to $10,000, and the lack of coverage by the province. Meanwhile, individuals enrolled in BC’s Medical Services Plan will have full coverage for medications used in MAiD. What sort of message does this send to British Columbians who are considering MAiD and seeking psilocybin as an adjunct or alternative therapy? Given the scale of the overdose crisis in BC; given the scale of the mental health and addiction crisis facing our communities; given the issues around safeguarding MAiD, and given you and your predecessor have said you are trying everything you possibly can; why has this safe, plant-based treatment option been dismissed? Is BC really doing everything we can? While your Ministry “monitors developments” in the field of psychedelic medicine, more people will suffer, more-expensive pharmaceutical solutions will fail and more people will give up hope and seek MAiD before trying psilocybin.

While the Ministry watches, patients and care providers are left to illicit supplies and mushroom dispensaries, despite an emerging roster of safe, professional mushroom suppliers – some based in BC.

Your department’s dismissal of safe psilocybin therapy, research and treatment is more confusing when considering the government’s recent decision to decriminalize possession of far more dangerous controlled substances like cocaine and heroin. Why not try safe psilocybin first? In contrast to heroin and cocaine, the US National Institutes of Health considers psilocybin physiologically safe and does not lead to dependence or addiction. Recent Health Canada disclosures confirm their experts do not believe supervised psilocybin treatment presents a risk to public safety.

The rise of magic mushroom dispensaries in British Columbia raises questions about the provincial government’s leniency. While these illicit suppliers operate with impunity, the provincial government fails to prioritize legal and potentially life-saving psilocybin treatments such as the ones we propose. It is time to reassess the government’s approach and consider regulated options for the well-being and safety of our citizens.

With your government’s sincere commitment to leave no stone unturned in the battle against these concurrent public health risks, we hope you will replace the current approach of ‘monitoring’ with concrete actions that improve the quality of life for thousands of British Columbians, provide a safe alternative to more harmful controlled substances and re-establish Canada as a leader in this rapidly emerging wellness field.

Leadership is required and we know how deeply you care about these issues. That is why we propose your Ministry start actively collaborating with TheraPsil, other non-profit associations, patients, care providers, licensed BC psilocybin producers and researchers and invest in BC psilocybin treatment and research strategies that would include:

  • at least 400 eligible BC patients to receive psilocybin-assisted treatment over the next year
  • at least 200 eligible BC patients to participate in applied research trials over the next 12-18 months

The combined investment required for these two elements of a BC psilocybin strategy is estimated at $6 million over the next 12-18 months – or $10,000/patient. The budget does not account for the significant savings that can be achieved by replacing more expensive, ongoing pharmaceutical solutions with a safe, plant-based medicine that often requires just one treatment for success in many cases. And in the cases of suffering British Columbians who are seeking psilocybin as an alternative or adjunct therapy to MAiD, the price of this program is negligible compared to the value of reduced suffering.

These compassionate investments also represent a very small fraction of the $1 billion announced by the federal and provincial governments for mental health and addiction treatment initiatives earlier this year. In the coming days, we will submit more detailed proposals to inform these requests and subsequent discussions. Among other things, these will reflect our project modelling over the past two years with researchers, doctors, care providers and advocates. With this submission, we are asking again to meet with you and your officials this summer.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and your passion for change. Given the importance of the challenges we face together, we believe a more comprehensive reply is warranted, going beyond the brevity of five sentences. We hope you will agree and find the compassion to seriously consider these options and this leadership opportunity.


Spencer Hawkswell

President and CEO at TheraPsil 





APPENDIX – Government’s Email Response

From: Minister, MMHA MMHA:EX <MMHA.Minister@gov.bc.ca>
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2023 at 10:34
Subject: RE: Request for Meeting & Funding Proposal for Psilocybin Clinical Access Trial
To: Spencer Hawkswell <spencer@therapsil.ca>
Cc: Minister, HLTH HLTH:EX <HLTH.Minister@gov.bc.ca>


Dear Spencer Hawkswell:

Thank you for your email of May 24, 2023, regarding your request to meet and discuss your proposal for funding of $2.4 million to support a clinical trial for psilocybin-assisted group-based psychotherapy on addiction. I am pleased to also respond on behalf of my colleague, the Honourable Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.

Currently, The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is monitoring developments in the field of psychedelic medicine. At this time, we are unable to support funding for a clinical trial of this type. We are also not aware of any current provincial or federal government funding opportunities for psilocybin clinical trials for mental health.

Thank you,

Office of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

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