Four Canadian cancer patients have been granted permission to use psilocybin as a treatment for end-of-life distress, a groundbreaking role for the hallucinogen in health care.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu approved the use through the Office of Controlled Substances. The application was submitted more than 100 days ago.

Spencer Hawkswell, executive director of Therapsil, said the non-profit organization decided to go through the minister after a more general application to Health Canada submitted in 2017 was rejected two years later.

“Obviously, bureaucracy is not a human being,” Hawkswell told The Telegram. “People have compassion. Bureaucracies don’t always have compassion.”

Therapsil is a coalition of health-care professionals that has been pushing for therapeutic use of the psilocybin in small doses for patients in palliative care. The drug is naturally found in several species of fungi commonly referred to as magic mushrooms.

“In an ideal situation, these decisions are not made by the Office of Controlled Substances. They are made by doctors and patients,” Hawkswell said.

One of the four patients said she’s delighted with the minister’s decision.

“The acknowledgment of the pain and anxiety that I have been suffering with means a lot to me, and I am feeling quite emotional today as a result,” Laurie Brooks of British Columbia said in a statement released by Therapsil.