As the world turns an eye to therapeutic alternatives and the reform surrounding them, there's a topic that keeps capturing headlines - psychedelics. While still grouped as an illicit drug by today's standards, psychedelics are slowly, and discretely making their way to research facilities near and far. The mindset is this: If Cannabis can do it, so can psilocybin. But if the diligent systems and bureaucratic intricacies that once surrounded cannabis legalisation (and in some cases depending on geography still do) should serve as an indication: a fledgeling future for medicinal psychedelics will weigh heavily on precise data, process, and compliance.
Overcoming a Century-Old Stigma
Changing the public perception of something embedded with stigmas is no easy feat. Since the Opium Act of 1908, governments around the world have worked to protect citizens from what they categorised as illegal substances. Such was the case with Cannabis when it joined the restricted list in 1923.
Through legislative processes grounded in research and data, we've seen global strides taken in the face of changing public and government opinion. Efforts by countries, especially Canada, that have led the way in setting a progressive precedent for other nations to follow, and a blueprint for future industries to reference when faced with similar hurdles along the way. Nationwide Cannabis legalisation in 2018 in Canada, opened the doors to better study and understand the benefits of the plant, the seemingly endless types of cannabinoids and how to extract them, isolate them, and utilise them for different applications. In the lead-up to and amid Legalisation 2.0 extraction played a leading role not only in delivering a quality product for Licensed Producers but set a precedent in areas of controlled research. And while it may not have been high on the initial list of reasons, after years of in-depth study on Cannabis has indirectly given the approval of and confidence for emerging industries like medicinal psychedelics to follow.
It's Not about the Trip; It's about the Journey
The success story that Cannabis is basking in today didn't come without obstacles. Remember the restricted list of 1923? Cannabis sat on it for decades, as the government largely overlooked decriminalisation and regulation - and how to merge the two. Positive as the shift was when they approved the production and distribution of medical Cannabis in 2013, it brought to light the grey areas behind the term 'legal'.
The research of micro-dosing of psilocybin, the primary psychoactive ingredient in mushrooms, and slated to be the next major breakthrough in healthcare, is facing similar obstacles surrounding the contradictory legalities that its predecessor once endured. At present, psilocybin is still considered a drug, illegal on many lists and making research efforts to study the potential benefits, and the restrictions controlling the 'how' an uphill battle.
Initial efforts have once again raised awareness to the same vital points flagged when Cannabis came into question on the road to legitimacy - compliance, safety, and good manufacturing practices. It has also brought to the forefront those entities and bodies who will once again play a supporting role in enhancing programs behind the research and development of the world's next therapeutic alternative.
Institutions that have been granted a head start in exploring the ins and outs of the plant are highlighting areas that need more in-depth consideration. Safe manufacturing practices and the right systems required to gather data on the complexities of specific molecules and compounds are cited as the more complicated areas, among others. The University of Toronto recently launched the Psychedelic Studies Research Program (PSRP), dependent on Health Canada's approval of both the clinical trials and manufacturing process. PSRP has cited that without quality standards in place and the regulation that outlines the standards, it is impossible to manage the output of substances that are needed for controlled research. To reach that vital point of discovery will mean putting trust in science and a system with measures in place to support the regulation of those findings.
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