The Soaring 20s With Psilocybin Retreats

Welcome to the Soaring 20s, as High Quality owner, Brock Binder referred to the coming of legalized psilocybin therapy treatments during a LeafLife podcast.   

Oregon’s Measure 109, which legalized psilocybin-assisted therapy, and Measure 110, which established that personal use of controlled substances will be decriminalized, such as the magic mushroom’s active ingredient psilocybin, are keys to Oregon shifting the approach from criminalization to one of health and safety. Together these measures opened the door to a potential billion-dollar industry: psilocybin retreats.  

Psilocybin: Treatment for Mental Health, Wellness  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated psilocybin therapy as “breakthrough therapy” for treatment-resistant depression and major depressive disorder (MDD). “There are places in our country where you can go to a center to get psilocybin treatment, and they are going to guide you through it, tell you how it’s going to help your brain in a scientific way. Not just ‘here, eat some shrooms and giggle,’” said Binder about the ongoing research available at centers like Johns Hopkins Hospital during the podcast interview.  

“Like many, I was initially skeptical when I first heard of Measure 109,” read comments by Governor Brown to KTVZ. “But if we can help people suffering from PTSD, depression, trauma, and addiction –– including veterans, cancer patients, and others –– supervised psilocybin therapy is a treatment worthy of further consideration.”  

Measure 109 does not limit use for the treatment of medical issues so a prescription is not necessary and administrators do not need a medical degree. It allows for use as personal development for adults ages 21 and over who do not have coexisting conditions, such as schizophrenia, under the supervision of certified guides in licensed service centers using regulated products. The regulations cover three areas: How the mushrooms will be produced and tested; what kind of training will be required of people – the facilitators assisting clients taking the drug; and where people can be – the service centers – while experiencing it.   

Since the measure passed in November 2020, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) established the Oregon Psilocybin Services (OPS) section. The Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board and subcommittees support the OPS in drafting the systems of regulation. The OPS Section will begin accepting applications for licensure on Jan. 2, 2023.   

“We have the opportunity to guide a model that quite likely the rest of the nation will follow,” stated Binder during an Oregon State University’s College of Forestry Fungus Among Us recorded lecture.   

Oregon’s Psilocybin Advisory Board 

More than a year ago, the Psilocybin Advisory Board was created with 17 members, including Corvallis residents Dr. Kimberley Golletz, a licensed psychologist, and Dr. Jessie Uehling, a mycologist at OSU. Recommendations voted on by the Psilocybin Advisory Board come from five subcommittees: equity, licensing, products, research and training. 

“My expertise in fungal diversity and biology research will aid in developing best practices to monitor, evaluate and quantify the psilocybin and mushroom production industries over time,” commented Uehling in a KTVZ article. “My insights into which fungi have psilocybin and similar compounds, and how the mushrooms produce these compounds, will be helpful when making policies around isolating and quantifying psilocybin.”   

Advisory Board Chair Steps Down  

Earlier this year, the board decided to be more transparent. On Feb. 23, they voted unanimously that each member would disclose their personal and financial conflicts of interest. Then, on March 10, Tom Eckert, the chair of the advisory board who led the campaign to legalize hallucinogenic mushroom therapy as co-chief petitioner with his late wife, resigned from his role.  

According to VICE, Eckert’s conflict stems from a personal relationship with Rachel Aidan, the chief executive officer of Synthesis Institute, a Dutch psychedelic retreat company that has bought a property in Oregon. Synthesis will ultimately have to adhere to OHA rules and Eckert had a significant role in creating the recommendations for those rules. In the last year, Eckert had also brought in Synthesis employees to speak to board members and provide advice on facilitating psilocybin experiences, according to public recordings of those meetings.   

Eckert, a seasoned therapist with experience in program development, founded InnerTrek LLC, a training company for psilocybin service center facilitators. Eckert, who also was on the Psilocybin Subcommittee for Training, will begin training his first cohort of students this summer.   

The Psilocybin Advisory Board’s new draft rules, which Eckart helped develop, outline the 120-hour curriculum required of licensees – the facilitators who will supervise while clients who enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness, aka trip. The curriculum will be provided by private companies, not through the state. At the end of May, the OPS sent an email update stating, “psilocybin facilitator training programs may be subject to licensure by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) in Oregon,” but that “HECC licensure is not a prerequisite to getting curriculum approval from OPS.”   

There’s money to be made in training the supervisors. Some for-profit companies in the Netherlands, such as Synthesis Institute, charge more than $20,000 for facilitator training programs. Eckert’s InnerTrek will be charging $7,900.   

State-Approved Psilocybin Sites  

The new regulations state that you cannot go to a place like a dispensary and take the plant medicine home with you. Instead, people will go to a state-approved psilocybin services site, with a licensed facilitator, be given regulated doses of psilocybe cubensis, and have a psilocybin experience on the premises of that site.   

Binder explained in the podcast that Measure 109, while there is currently no dosage requirement, was designed for macrodosing – more significant dosages that last for hours and are administered over a length of a few days. The experiences will cover three basic areas: pre-examination, checking if the client meets regulations and understands the process; ingesting the product and feeling the effects; and then integrating with the facilitator supporting you through your newfound wisdom.   

What the clinics can offer is an “experience.” “[It’s] not just talking about psilocybin, but talking about the whole experience that surrounds the actual delivery of the molecule,” read comments in the WW article by Matt Emmer, vice president of Health Care Practice at the Canadian company Field Trip Health, which operates a psilocybin center in Amsterdam. “The setting, the environment, even the music, all of the other elements that are part of the overall treatment experience become very much amplified around the use of psychedelics.” 

“You’ll have your bare-bones, no-frills, get-the-job-done service centers, and you’ll have your high-end destination resorts, and you’ll have everything you could imagine in between,” said Dave Kopilak, a Portland lawyer who authored Measure 109, in the WW article. In addition, since it does not restrict prices, psilocybin businesses could choose to cater to a wealthy clientele by operating licensed clinics more akin to wellness retreats or luxury resorts.   

Entrepreneurs are eyeing the billion-dollar potential of retreat centers. With no restrictions on residency, there is significant potential for Oregon to become a travel destination for mushroom-enhanced trips.   

Luxury Retreat Centers Ramping Up 

Netherlands-based Synthesis Institute’s co-founder, Myles Katz, moved here in 2020 to establish residency specifically for Oregon’s rising psychedelic industry. Measure 109 states that all psilocybin businesses must be majority Oregonian owned, at least 51% of the owners need to have residency here.  

Starting in 2018, Katz led psilocybin retreats near Amsterdam. During that time, his team hosted about 50 groups totaling approximately 700 clients. WW also reported that since last September, Synthesis Institute had raised more than $10 million for its Oregon endeavors.   

Katz plans on replicating a similar nature-based model in Ashland. Under the company name of Oregon Retreat Centers, he purchased 124 acres, including a restored lodge with eight private rooms and a commercial kitchen, 13 cottages, three residences, and a 12-sided yurt-style meditation room.   

The upcoming center has not decided on pricing yet. However, Katz expects it to be “on the more expensive end of the spectrum.” His Netherlands retreat, for example, costs about $1,000 a day for the three-day stay. That includes picking up guests from the airport, food and lodging expenses.   

More International Retreat Companies Considering Centers in Oregon  

Field Trip Health, a Canadian company, envisions opening a location in or near a city for easy access for travelers. The Oregon locations will probably have clients consume psilocybin in a group setting. They have seen highly transformative experiences happen with groups of strangers, especially when those strangers have a commonality, such as veterans with PTSD.   

Another Netherlands-based psilocybin company, Red Light Holland, a publicly traded corporation, formed Red Light Oregon last April. They are different in that they want to offer microdosing if the rules settle in allowing this option. They feel that fractional doses provide more accessibility and more accessible price points.   

Silo Wellness, which offers psilocybin retreats in Jamaica, has also moved into Oregon – to Springfield. Mike Arnold, a retired Oregon attorney as well as founder and chairman of Silo Wellness, stated on their website, “We are very excited about the opportunity that Oregon, being the first state to legalize psychedelic mushrooms, presents Silo. Given our experience cultivating and harvesting psychedelic mushrooms in Jamaica and our unique metered-dosing delivery mechanism via our patent-pending psilocybin nasal spray, we feel Silo is poised to be an industry leader, not only in Oregon and Jamaica, but in other jurisdictions that will inevitably follow our state’s lead.”   

Regulations Still in the Making  

In a podcast interview with Laura Dawn, Eckart stated, “There are opportunities to get involved. I would like to give a word of caution. This is not cannabis. This is not going to be a gigantic market where there are huge opportunities to have big business around.   

“If you think about it, how much psilocybin do you really need to meet the therapeutic demand? Where one session takes just a little bit of a product and that’s enough for some folks for a good long time. So, it’s kind of more of a passion project to get involved in wanting to cultivate mushrooms and whatnot, but it’s to be seen how it plays out.   

“It is an opening market, but I just don’t want people to get confused that it’s a kind of a Gold Rush kind of situation because I don’t think it is.”   

Stay Up-to-Date on Regulations 

If you’re interested in learning more about the ongoing regulations or want to participate legally in the “Soaring 20s,” OHA’s website offers information. It will even send emails with updates; check it out here: Oregon Psilocybin Services page. 

By Stacey Newman Weldon 

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