Psychedelics are back in vogue; mushrooms are all the rage. Starting in our February issue, we began taking an extended look into entheogens, the benefits they offer, the movement they’ve inspired, and what it all means for smoke shops and cannabis accessory outlets.
This month, we’ll be taking a look at the various options available to counter-cultural retailers outside of Colorado and Oregon who want to tap into to the momentum these states have created without tapping on the shoulder of law enforcement.
If you’ve yet to read Volume 1, it is recommended that you catch up on that first before starting this installment. You can do that by clicking the link below:
Psychedelics are back in vogue. Take a minute to let that sink in and then pinch yourself to verify you’re not dreaming—or on drugs. Over the next few issues, we’ll be taking an extended look into entheogens, the benefits they offer, the movement they’ve inspired, and what it all means for smoke shops and cannabis accessory outlets.
Last month, we dipped our toes by exploring society’s evolving relationship with entheogens, Big Pharma’s growing interest in the medicalization of these compounds, and their resulting commodification to the tune of billions of dollars. This month, we begin with a discussion of how sacred compounds such as psilocybin and ayahuasca should be approached and handled in a mass market before we take a look at the emerging legal regimes of Colorado and Oregon.
Despite the unsurprising misdirection and attempted sterilization of what many consider to be sacred compounds, Big Pharma’s newfound interest in psychedelics is arguably a net positive. Mainstream interest provides legitimacy, which paves the way to cultural acceptance and eventually legalization. However, whether psychedelics should be relegated to narrowly prescribed drugs for the benefit megacorporations with morally dubious track records is another conversation altogether.
“The majority of the focus in the psychedelic space right now is really on the medicalization of these substances,” Paul acknowledges. “And while that’s important, I would say it’s somewhat myopic in that the real potential of these substances is to transform the paradigms that we live within . . . the vast majority of people who are utilizing these, they’re not doing so necessarily to heal their depression or their alcoholism. That is a good portion of them. But a lot of people are just looking to have better relationships. They’re looking at personal development, they’re looking to become more aware, to have a better connection to nature.”
But while Paul doesn’t envision psychedelics being limited to a clinical setting, he’s at least a little reluctant to push for an open retail market. Cannabis may serve as a useful guide in how to effectively achieve the normalization of these substances, but entheogens are still an entirely different beast. Humanity can barely be trusted with social media; handling mind-altering, consciousness-expanding, hallucinogenic drugs in a manner that is both reverent and responsible may be a tall order for the average Jill or Joe. Could society really be ready?
“Weeeellll,” Paul begins hesitantly. There’s an audible cringe in his voice that’s punctuated by a self-aware chuckle. “My approach to it, my fundamental belief is that society is ready for microdosing . . . I don’t believe that everyone is necessarily equipped to do a heroic dose of psilocybin mushrooms. I really do believe that it’s imperative from a public health perspective that we index into microdosing as the way to go for most people.
“I think the second point to this is that psychedelics have really never been fully legally available,” he continues. “What I mean by that is, even when they were used, let’s say in ancient Greece, in the Eleusinian mysteries, it was very much a thing that happened once or twice a year. It was very secret. No one was supposed to talk about it.”
It’s a tough question that requires a soft touch and a generous helping of nuance. No psychedelics activist wants to perpetuate the residual stigmas left by decades of prohibitionist fearmongering. But equally, every activist in this space understands the respect and reverence needed to safely benefit from the experiences these compounds offer. These aren’t party favors. They’re sacraments; portals to a richer reality in which we can connect with the Divine. They can be enjoyed, but they are not to be toyed with. There’s not much space to work with between those two points. It’s why longtime cannabis activist and countercultural entrepreneur, Willy Thomas considers skirting the question altogether.
“I don’t know if I want to answer this one,” he laughs after a long pause. Willy played an active role in several cannabis legalization efforts in Washington before the state finally passed I-502 in 2012. He’s since been a driving force for multiple companies in and around the cannabis and smoke shop industries until his recent shift into psychedelics. He is now a founding partner in Tripz, a well-funded Oregon upstart vying for a sizable footprint in the state’s nascent psilocybin market.
“I’m a very anti-system kind of guy, you know?” he continues. “So for me, the answer is obviously that we need to remove DEA scheduling completely . . . but then again, there’s a lot of value in the help this stuff can offer. Keeping this controlled might help us avoid having the market flooded and abused where people are just eating a bunch of mushrooms without thought, resulting in a negative experience.” He hesitates again and then adds, “Uh, GOD. I’m slowly becoming a conservative.”
The authors of the legalization initiatives in both Oregon and Colorado seem to share the underlying caution expressed here. Both states have eschewed the dispensary model employed for cannabis, opting instead for a “facilitation” system. The easiest method for understanding something new is to compare it to something familiar. Thus, in its simplest terms, a facilitation system is a hybrid between medical cannabis markets like the one in Oklahoma and the full-blown recreational regimes of, well, Colorado and Oregon.
The language in both approved initiatives is unambiguous; the purpose of legalizing psilocybin (along with DMT, ayahuasca and mescaline in Colorado) is to give the citizens of these two states access to new treatment options. However, no medical license is needed to consume the compounds in either state. Home cultivation is legal, as is home consumption. However, there is no dispensary system, as we’ve come to know them. Instead, there are licensed facilitation sites where patients and/or consumers can safely ingest the product and are then required to remain at the location under supervision for the duration of the experience.
“So, yeah, basically, in Oregon, you’re going to be able to eat magic mushrooms, but then you’re going to have to be babysat,” Willy states bluntly. “They’ve set up guidelines so facility operators will know how many facilitators to have versus customers, as well as how long the customer needs to stay based on dosage,” he later adds. “So for example, if you come in and microdose, that requires a one hour facilitated visit, and I believe you can have up to 25 people microdosing per facilitator. It’s all in the paperwork that just came out. I haven’t slept in a day just because I’ve been reading through all of this.”
Under Oregon’s legal psilocybin regime, there are multiple licenses that can be applied for, including but not limited to grower, manufacturer, facility and facilitator. However, unlike a lot of cannabis regimes, applicants can hold multiple licenses at once and they can span across the vertical, which is exactly the direction in which Willy and his partners are planning take Tripz.
“We’re ready to be a fully vertically integrated mushroom business,” he states confidently. “We’re gearing up to open our own grow operation, which will also house our edible operation . . . We’re also going to have five facilities, each with in-house facilitators. The first three are set to open in the next two years. The plan is to not only host our own events, but also rent the space out to other licensed facilitators.”
While there will be plenty of opportunities in the state-wide facilitation market, Willy already has a plan to take his business to a national level, and it’s one that doesn’t even depend on more states legalizing.
Mycology is mycology, whether you’re growing magic mushrooms or Lion’s Mane—and there are myriad species of fungus that are now making waves in health-conscious, nootropic and alternative medicine circles. Several are also recommended as enhancements and/or counterbalancing agents for a pleasant magic mushroom experience. Armed with this knowledge, Willy is in the process of building an entire product line of legal mushrooms for distribution across the United States.
“We’re developing chocolate bars, drinks . . . supplement products of all kinds.”