The Money in Magic Mushrooms

Billions could be made from the blooming psilocybin industry. Many states and investors all over the country have their eyes on how Oregon is trailblazing this new territory. 

In 2020, Measure 109 passed allowing psilocybin – the magic in magic mushrooms – to be used therapeutically or for personal development without needing a doctor or a prescription. Its sister, Measure 110, decriminalized the drug at the state level. Now, the Psilocybin Advisory Board has been busy crafting suggestions for the Oregon Psilocybin Services within the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to create regulations prior to January 2, 2023, when the first applications for licenses will be accepted.  

The Next Big Thing  

“There is this recognition that psychedelics are the next big thing. There’s just more and more potential to make money off of drugs,” wrote Willamette Week (WW), quoting Jon Dennis, a lawyer who co-hosts the Eyes on Oregon podcast for the website Psychedelics Today. “People are all interested in getting a slice of this pie. Nobody knows how big it’s actually going to be, but I think everybody agrees, it’s going to be really big.”  

Just how big? WW reported that “market research conducted by Dutch microdosing-focused truffle company Red Light Holland projects psilocybin will be a $1 billion industry in Oregon alone.” Data Bridge Market Research estimates the market for psychedelics will reach the $7 billion level by 2027.  

One reason for nationwide interest on how these regulations take shape is that they aren’t like the cannabis rules where the consumer purchases the product and partakes elsewhere.  

“The emphasis that’s different is that 90% of the experience at an approved site [is] being led by a licensed facilitator who aids with the integration of the insights gained during the trip,” said Corvallisite Brock Binder, owner of High Quality Marijuana Dispensary and self-proclaimed megaphone for plant medicine and the wellness aspects of cannabis and psilocybin.  

And that difference means the OHA will be charging license fees for facilitators, for service centers to partake in the magic, and for the manufacturing of the product. Big money is on the line for the “set and setting” – the mindset, intention and place you are when on a mushroom trip, as well as in the manufacturing of the one approved mushroom: psilocybin cubensis.  

Luxury Setting 

The potential for different settings ranges from a therapist’s office, to ketamine clinics expanding their services, to retreat centers, and to high-end destination resorts. You do not have to be an Oregonian to partake in the experience, so investors believe psilocybin tourism will fund luxury retreats to Oregon. 

Resorts offering long weekend or week-long psilocybin experiences already exist in Canada, Holland, Netherlands, Jamaica, and Costa Rica. Taking a “trip” at these places will cost an average of $1,000 per day and most have minimum stays. For example, Mushroom Mountain, which has locations in Jamaica and Costa Rica, costs around $4,500 to $5,500. At MycoMeditations Retreat, on a private beach in Jamaica, it could cost up to $11,400.  

Field Trip Health, a Canadian company that runs about a dozen ketamine-assisted therapy centers in Canada and the United States, is looking to start a psilocybin retreat in Oregon. According to WW, quoting Matt Emmer, the company’s vice president of health care practice, the Canadian company envisions a “best-in-class, carefully designed, curated clinical environment so that people can both safely access these modalities, but also in a setting that is comfortable, is inspiring, is warm, inviting.” WW also wrote that the rates could be as high as $2,000 to $3,500 per day minus food, lodging, or travel services like those offered at other places.  

The one to watch, though, is Netherlands-based Synthesis Institute. One of the co-founders, Myles Katz, who moved here in 2020 to meet the 51% Oregonian-owned legal requirement, set up some local LLCs and, in June of 2021, spent $3.6 million on a 124-acre historic resort property in Ashland. The property has lodges, cabins, large common spaces, forests, meadows and creeks, plus is only 30 miles from the nearest airport. 

“I am very much expecting people to travel to the state of Oregon — not just for Synthesis, to all centers,” Katz told the WW. “I think there’s a huge appetite that’s not really quantified because there’s no legal way to quantify it.” The costs for retreats here haven’t been set yet, but the retreats in the Netherlands cost around $6,500 for four days.   

A Bit of Drama 

In the past few months, there has been a bit of a brouhaha when long-time leader in the psilocybin legalization movement, Tom Eckert, stepped down as chair of the Psilocybin Advisory Board before it came time to officially announce any potential conflicts of interest.   

Eckert, according to Stat News, is in a romantic relationship with the chief executive officer of Synthesis. Aside from bringing the company in to consult with the advisory board, both Synthesis and Eckert are offering their own training programs for facilitators.   

Training Facilitators  

Who gets to be the facilitator guiding these experiences if the drug doesn’t have to be administered or prescribed by a medical professional?   

That can be a sensitive topic if the person taking the magic mushrooms is doing so for mental health and PTSD issues or for personal growth. Binder says it is best to have someone who has been through psilocybin experiences and is fully capable of guiding the patient through the important integration period. Patients would do better with someone who understands the process and emotional processing. 

The guidelines that have been put together by the advisory board for facilitator standards require a facilitator have a minimum of a high school diploma, be aged 21+, reside in Oregon for at least two years, complete an approved facilitator training program, and pass the OHA Psilocybin Facilitator exam. According to Mindbloom, a New York company that offers ketamine experiences, a psychedelic guide could earn around $60,000.  

While there are training programs around the globe for psychedelic guide training, they may not be much help to pass the Oregon state exam. Eckert’s company, InnerTrek, is charging $7,900 for its first cohort, which started this summer and ends in early December.   

Board member Steph Barss works on the staff for Fluence, a company which offers “continuing education and certificate programs in psychedelic integration and psychedelic-assisted therapy” for mental health professionals. Specific psilocybin programs are not yet listed, but other related-topic 12-week courses fall in the $7,500 range. Another board member, Angela Carter, also is involved with a psychedelic training program called Alma Institute.  

Synthesis Institute, besides having the luxury service centers, also has a training program in the Netherlands. This 18-month course costs $23,000.   

Making the Magic Mushrooms  

With the facilitator training and licensing regulations being hammered out by the state, the psilocybin advisory board is on to the details for manufacturing. These rules will cover how the mushrooms will be produced and tested. 

Allaying concerns that big pharma will come in and take out the ancient wisdom of mushrooms by singling out the key ingredient and turning it into a magic pill, Oregon is banning chemically synthesized psilocybin. The drafted rules have also determined that only one type of mushroom will be used – the psilocybin cubensis; this species has been heavily researched and has the ability to be grown on demand.  

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is dense with varieties of mushrooms and mushroom hunters. There are more than 200 types of mushrooms with psilocybin, and some of the advisory board members were concerned about limiting the rules to just one. However, since this is a new set of regulations, they agreed that it is simpler to start with the most popular and expand the types allowed later if needed.  

Psilocybin cubensis is native to tropical climates and does well being grown indoors. Oregonian mushroom hunters may be more familiar with the wild version, Liberty Cap or psilocybe semilanceata, which seem to prefer the unpredictable weather changes of our weather.  

Rob Hendrickson, MD, professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Medicine and medical director of the Oregon Poison Center, says the third-most poisonous mushroom the center receives calls about is the amanita muscaria or fly agaric, which also contains hallucinogens. While the effects are serious, with results that could send you to the intensive care unit, Hendrickson gave this amusing anecdote saying, “you can almost tell the generation of the patient by the patient’s pop culture references to the red-and-white-topped mushroom – the Alice in Wonderland mushroom, the Smurfs’ mushroom or the Mario Kart mushroom.”  

Binder, who has a partnership in the family-owned Laughing Dog Farms, says that by starting with one type of mushroom you take away branding differences that the cannabis industry has with its different strains. He says his farm is considering applying for a manufacturing license in 2023 and that the positive intentions used to grow marijuana would benefit the mushrooms grown there. 

Stocks to Watch 

Psychedelic stocks are becoming the next big wave investors are getting excited about.  

 As Stat News reported, “Pharmaceutical companies and several nonprofits are studying psychedelics — including psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms — as a way to treat psychiatric conditions, with the goal of getting these treatments approved and overseen by the Food and Drug Administration.” While Oregon’s regulations may put a crimp in pharma’s plans, there are many other states considering legalization, too. As a “test case” Oregon may help or hinder pharma’s foothold in the potential billions to be made for this psychiatric medicine. 

 A recent US News money article summed it up this way, “Much like cannabis, psychedelics are becoming more mainstream and investors are sizing up what could be a major long-term growth opportunity. Market research firm Research and Markets recently estimated that the psychedelic drugs market will reach $10.75 billion by 2027. Unfortunately, cannabis stock investors know the nascent business has faced many regulatory hurdles and experienced multiple boom-and-bust cycles, so psychedelics investors must have a high-risk tolerance.”  

By Stacey Newman Weldon 

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