PT342 – The Right to Psilocybin in Canada: TheraPsil’s Charter Challenge

July 29, 2022
Featuring: Spencer Hawkswell

In this episode, we introduce a new voice at Psychedelics Today: Director of Corporate Communications, Victoria Dekker, in her first PT podcast; breaking some big news with Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil

Subscribe Share

In this episode, we introduce a new voice at Psychedelics Today: Director of Corporate Communications, Victoria Dekker, in her first PT podcast; breaking some big news with Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil

Nearly two years ago, TheraPsil helped four Canadians suffering from end-of-life distress access legal psilocybin under a Section 56 exemption. But due to these exemptions expiring and the new Co-Ministers of Health (Jean-Yves Duclos and Carolyn Bennett) having other priorities, these patients and other hopeful patients have lost access to their medicine. So just this week, TheraPsil has backed a charter challenge effectively suing the Canadian government, stating that closing these exemptions violates Canadians’ Section 7 charter rights to “life, liberty and security of person,” and launched a fundraiser to help with this upcoming battle. You can read more and donate at

Hawkswell discusses the creation of TheraPsil and how they help patients through this process; the current (and complicated) ways patients access psilocybin; how Canada’s Special Access Program works; how mirroring cannabis legislation is the best place to start with psilocybin; and TheraPsil’s just-launched Project Solace, where people who have received SAP (or Section 56) access can report back on their experience with both the medicine and the process. 

And he tells the story of Thomas Hartle, the first patient to be granted legal access to psilocybin through TheraPsil’s efforts, and how he has once again begun the battle to gain access to the medicine that changed his life. Hawkswell believes that through this charter challenge (of which Hartle is the main plaintiff), politicians are going to show their true colors. Will they waste millions in taxpayer dollars fighting against the citizens they’re supposed to represent, or will they do the right thing?

Notable Quotes

“I’ve been trying to get a doctor for the last probably six months here in Vancouver. So now we’ve got end-of-life patients looking for a new doctor who’s trained with psilocybin and/or willing to support those exemptions. It becomes an absolute nightmare. And the unfortunate truth is that for many patients, they will die before they find a doctor who’s able to support them.”

“It is a right in Canada to have that access, whether patients are going to grow it [on] their own or whether we’re going to make regulations so that companies can produce it. …The only people in the way of that medicine getting into the hands of the patients who need it are our policymakers and the bureaucrats in Health Canada. So they can do the right thing, or they can be told to do the right thing by the courts.”

“The CAMH; that is an amazing grant [and] I’m so happy It’s been approved by the government, but it’s to see whether or not we can remove the psychedelic effects of psilocybin. It’s to see whether or not there’s something in psilocybin that is just this miracle kind of fix-the-depression [compound]. And to me, as a psychonaut, someone who’s spoken with (at this point) hundreds of patients who have been through therapy legally with psilocybin; the journey is the good part. It is the journey. It is the mind-altering psychedelic experience which makes you do the work that you need to do in order to heal. It is the fear; it is the bad trip; it is the dragon you encounter; it’s the deep, dark basement that you don’t want to go into; it’s the tears that you have to experience. It is the journey, and it just feels so right in my soul that that should be the case.”

“Thomas is someone who was given psilocybin in 2020. The exemption is only good for a year, and the Minister took that away from him. And it’s why he is going to be the lead plaintiff on the charter challenge. This is a person in Canada – a Canadian hero – who legalized psilocybin for himself and other Canadians, who is now being told: ‘You do not have the right to your medicine. You do not get it again.’ …It’s amazing to see that side of him come out again – the fighter wanting to change the laws in Canada, because he’s back on the case. He’s still fighting his cancer, and he’s now fighting the Minister of Health, and he’s going to legalize psilocybin for everybody in Canada and change so many lives. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Links Dr. Bruce Tobin 4 palliative Canadians approved for end of life psilocybin therapy through section 56(1)- first legal medical exemptions for psilocybin in Canada since 1970s Subsection 56(1) class exemption for patients, practitioners and pharmacists prescribing and providing controlled substances in Canada

Psychedelics Today: Canada’s SAP Expansion Signals a Step Forward for Psychedelics Health Canada denies health care practitioners access to psilocybin for training purposes Biden Administration Plans For Legal Psychedelic Therapies With Two Years Toronto’s CAMH gets 1st federal grant to study magic mushrooms as treatment for depression Canadian government grants $3 million for psilocybin research Project Solace

Havn Life Sciences “Never Doubt That a Small Group…” quote The Honourable Patty Hajdu, MP The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, MP The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, MP Health Canada’s special access programs: Request a drug

Spencer Hawkswell 2

In this Episode

Spencer Hawkswell

Spencer Hawkswell was first introduced to healing psychological trauma with altered states of consciousness and therapeutic psychedelics from reading the work of Terrence McKenna, Rick Strassman, and Carl Jung, and believes that these methods need to be treated seriously by governments and institutions. Spencer believes that responsible drug policy requires effective organization and leadership and is dedicated to bringing together the experts and advocates to facilitate change that results in increased access to compassionate care, harm reduction, and treatment options for those in need. Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is a reasonable treatment option for palliative patients in end-of-life distress and is where we need to begin.

TheraPsil socials: Facebook / Twitter / YouTube