Alberta Paves the Way For Legal Psychedelics

Through a new initiative, it will soon be possible for practitioners in Alberta to administer MDMA, ketamine, LSD, DMT, and mescaline.

By J Gordon Curtis Last Updated: November 02, 2022
Last Updated: November 02, 2022

The province of Alberta is moving Canadian drug policy forward regarding psychedelics. A recent announcement has brought to light the bi-partisan nature of using bold new methods for mental health therapies. 

Many are quick to point out the unlikely source of this movement — given Alberta’s conservative history — but are they such an anomaly? PTSD and treatment-resistant depression are issues that affect all of us, regardless of where we sit along the aisle. 

This is especially true as the public becomes increasingly aware of the mental toll that military service takes. Maybe this means the issue opens up to all political belief systems.

Let’s look at this recent move, what it means for Canadian citizens, and how it moves the needle forward in drug policy.

Alberta Puts A Focus on the Patient

Alberta made history at the start of October by becoming the first province in Canada to legalize and regulate the use of psychedelics. The new legislation will allow clinicians to administer several classic psychedelic options to their patients following the attainment of a license. 

This includes MDMA, ketamine, LSD, DMT, mescaline, and 5-MeO-DMT for a range of psychological and psychiatric conditions. 

As Mike Ellis, the associate minister of mental health in Alberta, was quick to point out, first responders and veterans have been strong supporters of this move for years.

Speaking with Forbes magazine, Ronan Levy, the CEO of a company that provides ketamine therapy, had this to say:

This is a tectonic shift in the cultural relevance and awareness of psychedelics and is almost certainly a major catalyst for both legal and regulatory change in the industry. Almost certainly, other jurisdictions will follow suit.

While society has been on a continual march forward when it comes to legalizing psychedelics, this was a surprising announcement. For starters, Alberta may be the most conservative province in the country. 

Yet it acted unilaterally to create a system for legal psychedelics. To Levy’s point, it does seem as though this could be a major turning point.

Is there Bi-Partisan Support for Psychedelics?

While the issue of psychedelics is often thought of as being fundamentally a liberal concern, the landscape on this has shifted. As more people see the power these drugs can have, their benefit to all members of society becomes apparent.

The potential that psychedelics have to assist with and treat PTSD [1] has swayed the minds of many toward the therapeutic potential of these drugs. While this is true for first responders and veterans, this also applies to all who struggle with these concerns.

This has created an environment of bi-partisan support around the research of psychedelics. Now the arguments are gradually evolving from “if” we should legalize to “how” we should do so. 

That “tectonic shift,” as Levy puts it, reshapes society’s entire relationship with these plants and chemicals.

Establishing Safeguards & Oversight

The new laws will not come without some regulation elements to ensure safety. For starters, trained clinicians will have to be present for the entire duration of the experience — from the moment the patient takes the drug until they are no longer under its effect.

Before getting to this point, clinics must successfully apply for a license, and it’s still unclear what that requires. This leaves citizens with a therapy-only model for psychedelics which — at least, according to many — is still off the mark from ideal.

The Problem with Legalizing for Medical Use Only

The main concern with this model is that it creates a system that opens up psychedelics for only those wealthy enough to afford them. 

To illustrate this, let’s imagine the logistics behind the price tag of a single psilocybin session:

  1. Before the guided psychedelic treatment, most practitioners recommend at least one or two therapy sessions. 
  2. On the day of the experience, patients will have to pay the price associated with a regulated amount of psilocybin. Given the restrictions that will likely be behind the growing and selling of these mushrooms, it’s reasonable to expect it to be costly.
  3. Adding to the cost on the day of is the price of two therapists that have to stick around for the full 7-9 hours of a typical psilocybin trip.
  4. Afterward, patients can expect to pay for another 2-3 integration therapy sessions.

Looking at this list, it’s hard to consider anything about it to be “bad” — provided you have the money to pay for it. It would be a profound experience to have that 15+ hours of therapy along with a guided experience with psychedelics.

These are not often the living circumstances for many who struggle with these problems the most. For many with PTSD and severe depression, holding down a stable job can feel difficult, making the pricing for all this feel out of reach for most. 

Even if you aren’t in a place of poverty, the sheer weight of these situations can make any movement difficult. The huge hurdles placed in the way of care can turn people away even if they might be able to afford it. 

The Case For Legalization

In addition to the potential treatment of PTSD [2], treatment-resistant depression [3], and other mental concerns, the prospect of psychedelics addressing addiction has also bolstered public opinion. 

Though the research has a long way to go, the promising nature of its current position has led many to go all-in on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

As we’ve already visited above, the prohibitive pricing of this can already make it inaccessible to some of the people that could most benefit from these effects. In addition to that, there’s no reason that people should have to go and see a doctor so that they can partake in some of the safest substances known to man.

All the classic psychedelics are far less harmful than alcohol and even have less potential for abuse than marijuana. That’s because serotonergic drugs build up a tolerance at an exceptional speed, making them nearly impossible to become addicted to. 

If you were to take 3.5 grams of mushrooms today and want a similar effect tomorrow, you would likely need at least 7 grams. The build-up of tolerance acts as a built-in barrier to abuse, making mushrooms and LSD particularly safe substances.

So why keep them behind the door of a therapist? 

When the government entrusts citizens with the responsibility of drinking alcohol, why can they not also afford the same expectation on LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics?

The Unique Role of Alberta in Moving Canada Forward

Any movement forward is worth celebrating. While it’s true that this doesn’t go quite as far as we may like, it’s a start. What’s more, it’s a step forward in Canada’s most conservative province — signaling to everyone else that they’re already behind in psychedelic drug policy.

Hopefully, the excitement of this can carry over and morph into an even greater change in the time that is to come. Regardless of whether or not this is where we’d like for drug policy to be, it’s better than it was yesterday, and that’s not a small thing. 


  1. Krediet, E., Bostoen, T., Breeksema, J., van Schagen, A., Passie, T., & Vermetten, E. (2020). Reviewing the potential of psychedelics for the treatment of PTSD. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 23(6), 385-400.
  2. Krediet, E., Bostoen, T., Breeksema, J., van Schagen, A., Passie, T., & Vermetten, E. (2020). Reviewing the potential of psychedelics for the treatment of PTSD. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 23(6), 385-400.
  3. Artin, H., Zisook, S., & Ramanathan, D. (2021). How do serotonergic psychedelics treat depression: The potential role of neuroplasticity. World Journal of Psychiatry, 11(6), 201.