Canadians are becoming more and more interested in the potential medical uses of magic mushrooms and their main active element, the hallucinogenic substance psilocybin. According to recent studies, using magic mushrooms in the correct conditions can lead to positive personality changes, help in the treatment of addictions, and lessen (or perhaps totally eliminate) the symptoms of depression.
What is keeping more Canadians from taking advantage of the potential advantages of magic mushrooms considering we are aware that millions of them are suffering from addiction and depression, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s the relationship between magic mushrooms and Canadian law, for many people.
Magic mushrooms’ legal position in Canada is undergoing a time of rapid change, but if you’re having difficulties keeping up, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
Everything you need to know about magic mushrooms and Canadian law is included in this page. We’ll start with the history of magic mushroom laws in Canada, review of the current legal position of magic mushrooms under Canadian law. Finally, we’ll look ahead and attempt to predict how Canada will manage magic mushrooms in the coming years and decades.
We must state clearly that we are not lawyers and that the information in this post does not constitute legal advice. Consult a lawyer if you require legal advice.
A History of Magic Mushroom Laws in Canada
Very few Canadians had ever heard of magic mushrooms before 1957, when amateur mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson’s article “Great Adventures III: Seeking the Magic Mushroom” was published in Life Magazine.
Wasson wrote about his journey to Oaxaca, Mexico, and his time spent with the Mazatec, a group of native Mexicans, in the article. He declared himself to be “the first white man to consume the divine mushrooms in recorded history.”
In search of the same hallucinogenic and spiritual experiences that Wasson had described, the article served as a guide that would direct many Canadians, Americans, and Europeans to Mexico in the 1960s.
It turns out that mushrooms with hallucinogenic powers occur naturally on every continent of the world, and after these travelers went home, they started to see pasture mushrooms in the local environment that were identical to ones they had met in Mexico.
In Canada, magic mushrooms were first utilized in the middle of the 1960s. In 1965, RCMP officers in Vancouver made the first illegal magic mushroom seizure when they grabbed psilocybin-containing liberty cap mushrooms from a group of University of British Columbia students.
Throughout the hippie period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, magic mushrooms’ popularity increased. In British Columbia’s pastures, meadows, and fields, liberty cap mushrooms bloomed in abundance, drawing thousands of pickers from all across the country.
When the mushrooms were in season in the fall, pickers would arrive, setting up tent cities around the most productive regions and frequently committing small crimes like trespassing or property damage to gain access to liberty caps growing on private property. Although access to magic mushrooms was still technically legal in Canada, the techniques used to obtain them were frequently unethical or disruptive to the neighborhood.
Disruptive mushroom pickers might have caused issues for the local police, but they might not have had as much of an impact on Canadian law as one single United Nations document: the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971.
This was an international agreement where 71 states agreed to take part in a global initiative to confine the use of psychotropic chemicals to medical and scientific contexts and to limit their access to the general public.
Psilocybin was classified as a Schedule I drug by the 1971 Convention, the strictest classification imaginable. Magic mushrooms no longer fit the definition of schedule I drugs, which were once classified as having a high potential for abuse and no established therapeutic value. In the end, the convention on psychotropic substances had an impact on how Canada and other nations established their legislation to regulate the use of psychotropics. In many instances, adhering to the norm meant outright outlawing psychotropic drugs like magic mushrooms, frequently without having full knowledge of their effects, whether they were harmful or beneficial.
By being added to the Food and Drug Act in 1974, magic mushrooms were, sort of, outlawed in Canada. In actuality, it was the Canadian government that amended the Food and Drug Act to include the substance psilocybin instead of real mushrooms (this becomes important later). Between 1974 and 1979, the Food and Drug Act resulted in the conviction of about 350 people for having magic mushrooms.
The British Columbia Court of Appeals then decided in 1979 that having magic mushrooms in their natural state (freshly picked and undried) did not constitute having psilocybin. Between 1979 and 1982, magic mushrooms were fully legal in Canada for three years, which was a happy time for pickers.
Their joy, however, was short-lived since in 1982, the Canadian Supreme Court reversed the B.C. The Court of Appeals ruled that having magic mushrooms in their raw form did, in fact, constitute having psilocybin. Once more, and for many years to come, magic mushrooms were prohibited in Canada.
Magic Mushrooms in Canada: What Does the Law Say Today?
Although recent legislative revisions suggest that this may soon change, magic mushrooms remain illegal in Canada. Nevertheless, without a comprehensive examination of how psilocybin and mushrooms are currently governed in Canada, our assessment of magic mushrooms and Canadian law would be lacking.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Magic Mushrooms are governed by the Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances and Substances Act does not specifically address magic mushrooms (CDSA). Psilocybin, the active element in mushrooms, however, is listed as a Schedule III prohibited substance, with other recognized psychotropics such as:
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin, and other ADHD medications)
- Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
- Mescaline (Hallucinogenic, occurs naturally in Peyote cactus)
- Dimethyltryptamine (DMT, a hallucinogenic compound produced by the human brain and associated with dreaming)
Possession of natural magic mushrooms is still considered psilocybin possession. The CDSA even specifies that any mention of a prohibited substance also refers to any substance that contains the substance.
Therefore, psilocybin itself and any forms of magic mushrooms that contain it are subject to all rules that apply to narcotics on Schedule III.
Possession of Magic Mushrooms is Controlled in Canada.
The CDSA forbids anyone in Canada from possessing psilocybin or magic mushrooms unless otherwise allowed by Canadian law. Under the regulations, medical practitioners such as doctors, lawyers, and veterinarians may be authorized to prescribe psilocybin therapies to their patients.
Any additional purchases of narcotics in Schedule I, II, III, or IV, as well as any prescriptions for such substances in the previous 30 days, must be disclosed by patients requesting a prescription for magic mushrooms from a practitioner.
In Canada, the sale of magic mushrooms is regulated.
Magic mushrooms cannot be owned with the intention of selling them to other people, according to the CDSA.
Magic mushroom import and export are controlled in Canada
The CDSA forbids the import or export of magic mushrooms unless specifically permitted by Canadian laws.
In Canada, Magic Mushroom Growing is Controlled
The CDSA forbids the cultivation of magic mushrooms in Canada.
How Are Laws Regarding Magic Mushrooms Enforced in Canada?
Drug crimes are often not being enforced as strictly in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the number of drug-related arrests each year has sharply decreased by 30% over the last five years.
- In 2015, 99,827 Canadians were arrested for drug-related crimes.
- In 2016, police arrested 95,417 people in Canada for drug-related crimes, with cannabis possession accounting for 46% of the total.
- In 2017, the overall number of arrests reduced to 90,625 with only 42% for cannabis possession.
- In 2018, the overall number of arrests dropped again, this time to 84.927, owing in part to the legalization of cannabis in October of that year. Nonetheless, 43% of all arrests were for cannabis-related offenses.
And where were the magical mushrooms in all of this? Well, the Vancouver City Council recently decided to reject a proposal to penalize sellers of magic mushrooms. We may also take a look at the emergence of new psychedelic businesses like Numinus, which is the first Canadian business to cultivate magic mushrooms legally.
There are numerous more positive advancements in these areas, and arrests for possession rarely result in serious consequences for persons with clean criminal records.
As a result of these considerations, courts tend to be lenient with first-time offenders with a clean record, particularly in situations of simple possession, where the penalty for a first offense is sometimes only a fine of $250-500.
Magic mushrooms are widely available to buy online.
In Canada, magic mushrooms are openly sold online despite their dubious legal standing. With or without a medical prescription, digital dispensaries sell a variety of shroom products to Canadians over the age of 19. Despite being aware of these dispensaries, the police have decided to concentrate their limited resources on illegal activities involving more dangerous narcotics.
The Vancouver City Council defeated a motion to prohibit the sale of psilocybin.
The absence of political will to punish Canadians for using magic mushrooms was never more evident than on September 11th, 2019, during a meeting of the Vancouver city council.
Councilor Melissa De Genova introduced a resolution titled “Deterring and Preventing the Distribution and Sale of Psilocybin Mushrooms and/or Other Illicit or Controlled Drugs Unlawfully Sold in the City of Vancouver.”
To break the fourth wall for a moment, I can honestly declare that I have never witnessed a government body introduce a motion on whether or not it should enforce the de facto laws of the land. Why should politicians need to file a motion requiring police to do their job? Isn’t it already the police’s responsibility to do their job?
The truth is that the authorities are too preoccupied dealing with the effects of hard drugs like opioids to waste their time looking for people in search of magic mushrooms, especially now that they have become so widely recognized as having beneficial effects on health.
In any case, other councilors referred to the motion as “anti-drug frenzy,” and it was defeated 6-2.
Growing Kits and Spores for Magic Mushrooms Are Legal
While it is technically illegal to cultivate magic mushrooms, spores and growing kits can be acquired in Canada, both in stores and online. Although it is not expressly forbidden, it is not allowed to buy these kits, and the kits themselves do not contain psilocybin.
The selling of mushroom growing kits may be unlawful under 7.1(1) of the CDSA since they will be used to generate a banned substance; yet, the sale of mushroom kits is a frequent and largely acceptable practice.
Magic Mushrooms Have Been Approved for Palliative Patients
Four Canadians in palliative care with terminal illnesses petitioned the Canadian Health Ministry in April 2020 for a legal exception allowing them to take magic mushrooms to alleviate the depression and anxiety associated with dying.
On August 4th, it was disclosed that their request had been approved, and they would be the first four persons in Canada to legally take magic mushrooms since a Supreme Court judgment in 1982, a 28-year gap. Since then, at least seven further legal exemptions for psilocybin usage have been granted, including at least one for a non-palliative patient.
The Ministry of Health endorses research into psychotropics.
We discussed some of the research that has found previously unknown benefits of magic mushrooms in the beginning of this article.
Because of the positive outcomes of these trials, Health Canada has granted more legal exemptions to health practitioners who want to conduct research and develop medicines incorporating psilocybin.
Health Canada approved 16 exemptions to social workers and medical professionals in December 2020. This allowed them to own and utilize psilocybin without fear of legal repercussions in order to create novel treatment methods for patients.
Growing Magic Mushrooms for Medical Purposes Could Be Legalized Soon
The Ontario Court of Appeals ruled in 2000 that Canada’s anti-cannabis legislation were unconstitutional because it did not allow for an exemption for medical usage.
The court ruled that this breached the individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the security of one’s person,” as established in Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The legal precedent established here is essentially that the government should not prevent a private citizen from receiving a prescription for a treatment that can improve their quality of life. This label may not have applied to magic mushrooms six or seven years ago, but with fresh studies and advancements, it appears to apply now.
What Comes Next With Magic Mushrooms and Canadian Law?
It looks that magical mushrooms are following in the footsteps of cannabis, which was legalized in 2001.
While magic mushrooms are still technically illegal, individuals are rarely prosecuted for mere possession, and first-time offenders are usually fined less than a traffic ticket.
The general trend of drug enforcement is declining, and government organizations such as the Vancouver City Council have voted not to increase enforcement efforts against psilocybin dispensaries, both online and in the city.
It’s also critical to consider what’s going on over the border. In the United States, magic mushrooms are still illegal at the federal level, however simple possession has already been decriminalized in localities such as:
- Ann Arbor, Michigan,
- Denver, Colorado,
- Oakland, California,
- Santa Cruz, California,
- Washington, D.C
Magic mushrooms will be authorized for use in supervised therapeutic settings in Oregon beginning in February 2021.
In the future, we should expect greater legal exemptions for the use of magic mushrooms, both for medical professionals conducting research and developing treatments and for private individuals seeking the health advantages of psilocybin.
More research is being undertaken into the health advantages of magic mushrooms than at any previous point in history. We feel that this study will simply provide more evidence of the health benefits of magic mushrooms. As this collection of evidence grows, Canadians who claim the constitutional right to medicinal psilocybin will begin to hear their voices.
If all of the above is true, the question isn’t “if” but “when?” and “how?” magic mushrooms will be legal in Canada one day.
One path to legality would be for the federal government to remove psilocybin from the Schedule III list. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared that he will not explore decriminalizing narcotics other than cannabis while in power, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has publicly stated his aim to legalize all illegal drugs if elected.
The other option is to file a successful constitutional challenge claiming that Canadians have the right to cultivate and possess magic mushrooms for medical purposes. If we assert collectively our rights to life, liberty, and personal security, our government should recognize that access to helpful drugs, including psilocybin, is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.