Canada Sees Spike in Licensed Ayahuasca Churches

The Centre of Universal Illumination Luz Divina, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba recently became the 6th religious group to receive government exemption to legally import and use ayahuasca.

The organization is part of a number of religious groups that have permission from the Canadian government to use ayahuasca. This comes at a time when researchers and advocates are calling for more research to be done on the potential benefits of the psychedelic substance as well as its decriminalization.

Thus far, Health Canada has granted only 6 exemptions for churches in Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal. The exemptions allow them to import and use ayahuasca; which is a tea that is brewed from plants found in South America. These plants contain dimethyltryptamine and harmaline, or DMT in short. DMT has been banned in both Canada and the U.S. The ayahuasca brew has been used in healing ceremonies in South and Central America for centuries. The effects include vomiting and visions that may last several hours.

Maryse Durette, spokesperson for Health Canada, said in an email that the exemptions that were granted were issued after a comprehensive assessment to make sure that the risk of diversion or other health risks was minimized.

An individual who identified themselves as the president of the Centre for Universal Illumination Luz Divina, Winnipeg but declined to revealed their identity, stated in an email that the group has 3 members and was founded in 2019. With the legal exemption from the government, the group is now open to receiving new members. Their ceremonies will begin this fall. The spokesperson noted that the ayahuasca ceremonies lasted 6 hours.

There are 2 types of ceremonies;

  1. Hinarios

These ceremonies involve dancing and singing in a formation on special days, such as Christmas. They tend to last a while.

  1. Concentrations

These are silent meditations that are combined with prayers and hymns.

Psychedelic experts and drug policy reform advocates say that these types of exemptions that allow organizations to use psychedelics will help debunk the myths that surround psychedelics and help garner more support for its decriminalization. Additionally, Health Canada has also been giving exemptions to people who suffer from terminal illnesses. These exemptions allow them to use magic mushrooms or psilocybin, to support their end-of-life care.

A Canadian study from 2013 that focused on treatment using ayahuasca had 12 individuals from an Indigenous community in British Columbia who participated in it. The researchers discovered that the ayahuasca-assisted therapy had potential benefits for people who struggled with drug addiction. Furthermore, they noted that there was no evidence of any harmful effects associated with ayahuasca administration in the controlled ceremonial setting.

This trend of churches getting permission to use ayahuasca is likely to encourage psychedelics companies like ATAI Life Sciences since it could suggest that legalization is close.

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