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Stigma against psychedelics could fade with decriminalization in B.C., experts say

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Decriminalization of some hard drugs in British Columbia could help reduce stigma around psychedelic substances that have medicinal value, but have been caught up in the war on drugs, experts say.

“The war on drugs is one of the main drivers of the overdose epidemic and it also may be one of the reasons why we’re not using the best treatment for mental health — psychedelics,” said Zach Walsh, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and a scientist with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

“In the ’70s, international prohibitions against any number of drugs — including psychedelics, but also harder drugs — began. Since then, they’ve all been grouped together.”

But Walsh said psychedelics, opioids and stimulants should be treated differently.

“So when the war on drugs falls apart, you see decriminalization, you see more acceptance of psychedelics. They could have benefits for mental health. They’re both symptoms of a larger shift in public attitudes.”

For about three years starting in January 2023, adults in B.C. who have 2.5 grams or less of illicit drugs for personal use — including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine — will not be arrested, charged or have their drugs seized.

“Instead, police will offer information on available health and social supports and will help with referrals when requested,” the province said in a May news release.

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has said the move would break down the stigma that stops people from accessing life-saving support and services.

As attitudes around hard drugs have shifted, experts have noted a resurged interest in psychedelics. The green light has been given to test psychedelics and their derivatives in hundreds of people around the world in clinical trials.

Damien Kettlewell is the CEO of Clairvoyant Therapeutics, a B.C.-based company conducting clinical trials on dozens of people to see how psilocybin, an active ingredient in magic mushrooms, can help treat alcohol use disorder.

Kettlewell said decriminalization of certain illicit substances can help reduce stigma against therapy that involves ingesting consciousness-altering substances — including psilocybin, ketamine, LSD or MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy) — in a clinical setting as part of more traditional psychotherapy.

“I would encourage skeptics to look at the history of the war on drugs. LSD was used quite effectively by psychotherapists in California in the ’50s for alcoholism. The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous attributed Alcoholics Anonymous to an LSD trip that he had experienced in the ’30s. There was a lot of research done in the ’50s and ’60s in regards to psilocybin and all this research was just stopped,” said Kettlewell.

“Then there was a generation of misinformation put out to demonize these substances when they’ve been used by certain Indigenous communities for thousands of years for positive outcomes.”

Alexander Somjen, the CEO of Origin Therapeutics, agrees.

“Decriminalization increases awareness around (addiction and mental health issues) and, therefore, increases the need to find alternative forms of treatment to address the problem,” said Somjen, who invests in psychedelic companies.

“A lot of issues with addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety stem from these deeply entrenched thought patterns and neural pathways. Psilocybin has the potential to help people see the world differently and form a new, more positive narrative in their brain as sort of a control-delete function for the brain.”

Walsh said the reduced stigma around drugs is a positive step.

“Like any war, it takes a long time to dismantle it, and we’re seeing it piece by piece.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Saturday Aug. 20, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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Iran protests: Canada sanctioning 'morality police' – CTV News

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Canada will be imposing new sanctions on Iran as a result of a continuing violent crackdown on protesters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

The sanctions will be levelled on “dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” the prime minister said.

“We’ve seen Iran disregarding human rights time and time again, and now we see with the death of Mahsa Amini and the crackdown on protests,” Trudeau said, referencing the death of a 22-year-old who was detained for allegedly violating the country’s forced veiling laws. Her death has sparked outrage and has prompted a wave of international demonstrations, seeing some women cut their hair or burn their hijabs in revolt.

“To the women in Iran who are protesting and to those who are supporting you, we stand with you. We join our voices, the voices of all Canadians, to the millions of people around the world demanding that the Iranian government listen to their people, end their repression of freedoms and rights, and let women and all Iranians live their lives and express themselves peacefully,” Trudeau said.

While no official notice of the new sanctions has been published by Global Affairs Canada, the prime minister noted they come in addition to outstanding measures Canada has taken against Iran.

In an email to CTV News, Adrien Blanchard, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that Trudeau “announced Canada’s intention” to issue these sanctions, pledging more details “in due course.” 

Joly, as well as MPs from all parties, have spoken out about the escalating tensions and use of force against civilians in Iran, with the House of Commons unanimously passing a motion last week offering “solidarity to the women of Iran who are fighting for their rights and freedoms.”

With files from CTV News’ Michael Lee 

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Maine power workers cross border without incident to help in Nova Scotia

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OTTAWA — Nova Scotia Power says there were no issues delaying American power crews from crossing the border to help repair the electrical grid from the devastation of hurricane Fiona.

On Sunday, the utility company and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston had both said an issue related to the controversial ArriveCan app was delaying power crews from crossing into Canada.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said this morning that the order making the app mandatory and requiring that foreign citizens be vaccinated to come to Canada will expire on Friday.

Power crews helping to restore electricity are considered essential workers and are exempt from the border measures.

In a new statement Monday afternoon, Nova Scotia Power spokeswoman Jacqueline Foster says there was some confusion about the app but it is now confirmed there were no problems.

Versant Power says 15 line workers and two mechanics left Bangor, Maine, for Canada early Monday morning without issue, and Central Maine Power reports more than a dozen two-person crews and 10 support workers crossed the border without incident at around 7 a.m. Monday.

“We now know there were not any issues with ArriveCan,” said Foster. “Our contractor crews have made their way over the border and we are grateful to have them as part of our restoration efforts here in Nova Scotia.”

The Canada Border Services Agency reported that it cleared 19 power trucks at the Third Bridge border crossing in St. Stephen, N.B., just after 7 a.m. Monday. The CBSA said the average processing time was between 30 and 60 seconds per vehicle.

The ArriveCan app has been fodder for heated political debates for months and Conservatives have repeatedly demanded that the government shut it down.

During question period on Monday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre cited the allegations that ArriveCan delayed power crews to demand that the app be scrapped ahead of schedule.

He asked, “Will the prime minister suspend the ArriveCan app today, not Saturday, so that no more holdups happen at the border for those who are trying to help those in desperate need?”

Trudeau said he can “confirm that there were no delays at any border because of ArriveCan or otherwise.”

The utility company had said Sunday that crews were physically stuck at the border, but confirmed a few hours after question period on Monday that this had never been the case.

Foster suggested the error was a result of “confusion” after a concern arose Friday — before the storm actually hit — that crews from Maine might not be able to cross the border because of ArriveCan.

No New Brunswick border crossings reported issues over the weekend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

 

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Former top civil servant, medical association president appointed as senators

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OTTAWA — Ian Shugart, a longtime bureaucrat and the country’s top civil servant during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been tapped for a seat in the Senate.

Dr. Gigi Osler, a Winnipeg surgeon, University of Manitoba professor and president of the Federation of Medical Women in Canada, is also set to become a senator.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the picks today after the two were recommended to him by the independent advisory board for appointments to the upper chamber.

Shugart, who will represent Ontario, stepped down as the clerk of the Privy Council in early 2021 to undergo cancer treatments and formally retired in May after a long public service career.

Trudeau also appointed him to the King’s Privy Council today, adding his name to a list that includes past and present cabinet ministers and people “honoured for their contributions to Canada,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Osler, who will represent Manitoba, became the first female surgeon and the first racialized woman to hold the presidency at the Canadian Medical Association in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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