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Canadian Public Health Association

Forum on a Public Health Approach to Psychedelics

report cover page
Forum Summary Report

In recent years, the use and potentials of psychedelics have risen with remarkable speed and prominence in Canada. Their potential as a therapeutic treatment for mental illness and trauma has led to burgeoning clinical, research and commercial investment. Media and popular culture regularly highlight current therapeutic, spiritual and lifestyle uses of psychedelics among various populations. And businesses selling psychedelics are operating nationwide with little interference from local authorities. 

Such developments parallel certain aspects of Canada’s experience with the medicinal-regulation-to-legalization pathway of cannabis and recent experience with other regulated and non-regulated substances. It is important that experts and stakeholders draw on these lessons in considering current and future uses of psychedelics from a public policy and public health perspective. It is also essential that public health approach these issues with awareness of longstanding traditional and spiritual uses of these substances.

These topics have already been the focus of considerable academic research from a range of health and social science perspectives. As well, traditional, spiritual and professional practitioners in the psychedelics space have developed provisional statements of ethical practice. These existing approaches must inform public health’s engagement with the use of psychedelics as it exists today and as it might emerge in years ahead.

Over the course of two half-day sessions, Forum participants explored various aspects of the potential legalization and regulation of psychedelics in Canada, including:

  • Aspects of a distinctive public health approach (as distinct from a clinical/medical approach);
  • Commercial impacts and regulatory approaches;
  • Equitable engagement by and with structurally-disadvantaged populations; and
  • Intersections with existing traditional, spiritual and recreational/lifestyle uses.

Forum sessions were structured with 30 minutes of presentations and a 30-minute Q&A session. Through presentations and Q&A sessions, Forum participants explored some of the issues to be considered by public health professionals in advance of potential statutory and regulatory reform. Forum proceedings will inform an in-progress Canadian Public Health Association discussion paper on a public health approach to psychedelics.