At least two companies in British Columbia, Canada, have said that they received exemptions from the federal government that allowed them to manufacture and distribute cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and magic mushrooms. But it is unclear what circumstances would enable these companies to market drugs, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has said that it is still too early to know.
On Thursday, Sunlight Earth Labs, a producer of psychedelics, announced Health Canada, a federal government body, is allowing the company to legally produce and distribute coca leaves and cocaine; MDMA; opiates; morphine, heroin, and psilocybin, an active ingredient in mushrooms. Meanwhile, marijuana extracting company Adastra announced it is now legally allowed to both produce and distribute psilocybin and cocaine, saying the company plans “to bring a safer supply of drugs to the global market.”
Health Canada ensured these products won’t be hitting the market any time soon. “They are only permitted for sale to other licence holders who have cocaine listed on their license, pharmacists, practitioners, hospitals, or the holder of a section 56(1( exemption for research purposes,” the agency said.
Health Canada told VICE News that Adastra is licensed to make drugs for scientific and medical purposes, not to sell products to the public.
“We will evaluate how the commercialization of this substance fits in with our business model at Adastra in an effort to position ourselves to support the demand for a safe supply of cocaine,” said chief executive officer Michael Forbes in a news release.
Both companies said they received an exemption from the Drugs Control Act, allowing manufacturers, doctors, and researchers an exemption, which allows them to possess prohibited drugs legally and make them. At the press conference, British Columbia Premier David Eby said that licenses were granted without consulting the province.
“It is not part of our provincial plan,” he said. British Columbia started at the end of January a three-year drug decriminalization pilot program allowing people to possess up to 2.5 grams of drugs like cocaine and heroin without fear of arrest.
Sunshine Earth Labs told VICE News that they would be referring questions about safe supplies to experts who would figure out how a scheme might work.
“We are currently exploring ways to leverage our expertise and global connections to facilitate the efforts of researchers and clinicians who seek to extend the scope of safer supply programs, interventions, and research studies,” the company said.
In the future, the sale of controlled substances could take place under specific circumstances, like another licensed retailer, pharmacist, physician, or individual with an exemption from Health Canada—people approved for use of mushrooms in late-life, for example.
Canada already has Safe Supply Programs, where individuals suffering from opioid dependence are allowed access to heroin and pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl.