British Columbia-based cannabis company Adastra Labs and psilocybin company Sunshine Earth Labs have been approved by Health Canada to possess, produce, sell, and distribute cocaine. Previously, the companies had received Controlled Drug and Substances dealer’s licenses for psychedelics, MDMA, opium, and cannabis. The license was amended in February to include cocaine.
The dealer’s license allows the company to:
- Possess, produce, sell, and distribute – for legal purposes only and not to consumers – up to 250 grams (8.8 ounces) of cocaine and to import and manufacture coca leaves to create synthetics.
- Possess, produce, sell, and distribute up to 1,000 grams of psilocybin and psilocin.
A dealer’s license allows sales for clinical and scientific research or for medical purposes that have been legalized. Public sales and trafficking of the substances are still illegal.
The licensing deal comes after a radical policy shift to address an opioid overdose crisis that has killed thousands, by decriminalizing small amounts of cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs.
Ottawa granted a criminal code exemption in January to British Columbia for the three-year pilot project to remove the stigma associated with drug use that keeps people from seeking help. The three-year exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) for adults 18 years and older to possess up to 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, or some combination.
British Columbia is only the second jurisdiction in North America to decriminalize hard drugs after the US state of Oregon did so in November 2020. Advocates have also been pushing for safer supplies of drugs to be made available to addicts who risk dying from toxic drug poisoning linked to illicit street drugs.
Adastra Labs, which had until now focused on crafting cannabis extracts. “Harm reduction is a critically important and mainstream topic, and we are staying at the forefront of drug regulations across the board,” said Michael Forbes, CEO of Adastra. “We proactively pursued the amendment to our Dealer’s License to include cocaine back in December 2022. 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.”
Forbes has extensive experience working in the front lines of addiction medicine as a pharmacist in his multiple methadone pharmacies. Forbes piloted a needle exchange program at the direction of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010.