TGB reader Linda Burdick sent this story from Victoria, British Columbia.
After being diagnosed with incurable cancer, Canadian Laurie Brooks found herself living in a world of anxiety, grief and anger, reports Anna J. James in The Capitol. A trauma therapist friend introduced Brooks to “magic mushrooms” or psilocybin.
”Within ten minutes, Brooks felt relief from the weight of her incurable cancer. The stress and depression had lifted. But psilocybin is illegal in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act—and has been since 1974.”
(It's up to you but I would read that “ten minutes” part with a grain of salt. Having used magic mushrooms myself for a similar reason, I know it takes longer than that for one's stomach to digest the mushrooms and to feel the effects.)
After her successful use of psilocybin, Brooks worked with a Canadian non-profit organization, TheraPsil, becoming an advocate for the use of the drug in palliative care.
The group helped Brooks, now in remission, petition the Canadian government for an exemption from the law prohibiting the use of psilocybin except in research.
”On August 4, 100 days after submitting the petition, Brooks became one of four Canadians to receive approval from Minister of Health Patty Hajdu to treat end-of-life anxiety with psilocybin.”
That is hardly legalization and it benefits just those four people for now, but it is part of a small-ish trend toward government approval of psilocybin particularly in treatment for end-of-life anxieties.
In July, my U.S. state, Oregon, confirmed that a measure to allow use of psilocybin in a state-regulated environment had qualified to be on the ballot in November.
According to KGW.com, Initiative Petition 34, if passed by voters, will not go into effect for two years, and allows psilocybin to be used in the following manner:
• Licenses requirements to provide psilocybin therapy, cultivate psilocybin or own a psilocybin service center
• Each therapy recipient goes through a three-step therapy process that includes a screening for risk factors, a supervised therapy administration session and an evaluation afterward to discuss what was learned
• Psilocybin can only be taken under supervision at a licensed service center
• People cannot leave the center while under the influence of psilocybin
• People cannot grow or take psilocybin in their homes
Washington D.C. residents will also be voting on psychedelics in November. Initiative 81, would go much further than Oregon's proposal by decriminalizing psychedelic plants and fungi.
If the measure is passed in D.C., that city will join Denver, Colorado, Santa Cruz, California, and Oakland, California, in recently decriminalizing psychedelic plants and fungi. You can read more about at Washington Post.
Keep in mind that decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Decriminalization removes criminal sanctions but may still impose fines or other penalties. Legalization removes legal prohibitions against using a substance.
There is a growing body of evidence that psilocybin works well at reducing fear and anxiety involved with end of life issues. As explained in the KGW.com story,
”A five-year study conducted by New York University’s medical school, in which 29 cancer patients received a single dose of psilocybin or a placebo and nine psychotherapy sessions, found that psilocybin 'decreased cancer-related existential distress, increased spiritual wellbeing and quality of life, and was associated with improved attitudes towards death.'
“The study also found that more than half a year after treatment 'approximately 60–80% of participants continued with clinically significant reductions in depression or anxiety.'”
What is important, I think, is that use of plants with psychedelic qualities are becoming acceptable and legal – however slow governments tend to work on such things.
From time to time I use cannabis to help me sleep longer than the three or four hours I get at night without help. It is legal in Oregon, available to any adult at local dispensaries. The “budmasters” behind the counter I have met all tell me that the majority of their customers are old people who use it for sleep or for various kinds of pain.
If psilocybin can help alleviate anxiety and fears of death as it did for me, I see no reason not to make it available. What do you think?