Oregonians will soon have a front-row seat to what researchers and enthusiasts have dubbed the “psychedelic renaissance.”
As early as next year, Oregon will become the first state in the country where people legally consume psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms.”
Unlike the ballot measure that legalized the widespread use of cannabis, however, Ballot Measure 109, which voters passed in 2020, legalizes the use of psilocybin only in state-regulated service centers, where adults of legal drinking age can trip on mushrooms under the supervision of licensed guides.
Cue the entrepreneurs.
Next January, the state will begin accepting applications from businesses seeking licenses to run their own psychedelic retreats.
Details of how, precisely, these service centers will operate are unknown. Only last week, the Oregon Health Authority released draft rules that the Psilocybin Advisory Board has been crafting—and sometimes debating—since early 2021. Those rules primarily cover the growing and packaging of psilocybin and the training curriculum for staff who will run retreats.
But the board hasn’t released any rules for the actual ingestion of mushrooms within the licensed sites.
This much is certain: The trip will cost you.
Lawyers closely monitoring Measure 109′s implementation say it is unclear how large of an impact the psilocybin industry will have on the Oregon economy, or how costly a supervised psychedelic experience might be. But if prices for similar services in the Netherlands—one of the few countries on the globe that permits psilocybin use in some form—are any indication, it could cost hundreds or, potentially, thousands of dollars for such an experience.
There’s also money to be made in training the supervisors. Some for-profit companies in the Netherlands charge over $20,000 for facilitator training programs. At least one of those Dutch companies, the Synthesis Institute, has formed several LLCs and purchased property in Oregon in anticipation of the burgeoning industry.
Synthesis is not alone. Multiple international groups are staking their claim in Oregon, some motivated by what industry insiders describe as a “gold rush mentality” that blossomed around 2018 as researchers and investors alike have turned with renewed interest toward the psychedelic world.
“There is this recognition that psychedelics are the next big thing. There’s just more and more potential to make money off of drugs,” says 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.”
How big? Market research conducted by Dutch microdosing-focused truffle company Red Light Holland projects psilocybin will be a $1 billion industry in Oregon alone.
The law allows the use of psilocybin for “personal development,” which means that a doctor’s prescription is not needed, nor do therapists who administer the drug need a medical degree.
Instead, the Psilocybin Advisory Board’s new draft rules outline the 160-hour curriculum required of licensees. The curriculum will most likely be provided by private companies, not through the state.
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,” says Matt Emmer, vice president of health care practice at publicly traded 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.”
All of that could come with a hefty price tag.
Measure 109 does not place any restrictions on prices, meaning psilocybin businesses could choose to cater to a wealthy clientele by operating licensed clinics more akin to wellness retreats or luxury resorts.
“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,” says Dave Kopilak, a Portland lawyer who authored Measure 109. “Once that happens, everybody is going to be competitive and there will likely be casualties. People will wave the white flag at some point and not make it, just like any business.”
A tourism-based, experience-focused model could present the biggest risk but highest potential for reward, Kopilak says.
“From a pure business and profit perspective,” he adds, “I could see a few high-end destination resorts being very successful—especially as a result of out-of-state tourists. But that’s also the most expensive and riskiest proposition, and there could be a few spectacular failures.”
That starts to explain why corporations have an appetite to establish themselves in the state 11 months before the application period begins.
“Oregon really represents this new legal and regulatory environment,” Emmer says. “We’re closely watching the developments there in terms of what the guidelines and requirements and licensing stipulations are.”
It’s worth noting that international groups may face a pitfall: Measure 109 states that all psilocybin businesses must be majority Oregonian owned. That is, at least 51% of the owners need to have residency here.
The fight over control of and profit from altering consciousness will define the next several years. Perhaps the best way to understand what the mushroom market will look like is to ask the entrepreneurs who want to spread their spores in Oregon.
Over the past week, WW spoke to the proprietors of four businesses—three of them from other countries, and one with deep roots in Oregon. They described their visions of this state’s psychedelic future.
Netherlands-based Synthesis Institute, which had raised $10 million from investors as of September, has been involved in Oregon’s psilocybin world since before Measure 109 passed.
In fact, one of its co-founders, Myles Katz, moved here from the Netherlands in 2020 specifically because of Oregon’s nascent psychedelic industry. Starting in 2018, he began leading psilocybin retreats near Amsterdam. During that time, he says, his team hosted about 50 groups totaling approximately 700 clients.
Now, Katz plans to translate much of that model to Southern Oregon.
“Our approach is multiday, immersive, nature based,” Katz tells WW. “There’s a really great opportunity to bring what we learned in the Netherlands here.”
In September 2020, Katz, whose last name used to be Lutheran, formed Synthesis Digital LLC in Oregon, state records show. Eight months later, in May 2021, he registered two more Oregon businesses: Mythic Properties LLC and Oregon Retreat Centers LLC.
Katz has already decided on a location. In June 2021, using Oregon Retreat Centers LLC, he purchased a 124-acre property in Ashland for $3.6 million, Jackson County property records show. That’s a property more than four times the size of Laurelhurst Park.
The sprawling estate, located in the Rogue Valley, includes a restored lodge with eight private rooms and a commercial kitchen, 13 cottages, three residences, and a 12-sided yurt-style meditation room, according to an online real estate listing.
Katz says the plan for the site is to host multiday immersive retreats, with about 20 guests total. At his Netherlands location, he offered three- and five-day retreats.
The three-day retreats are more common, Katz says, with a “ceremony” where participants ingest psilocybin typically occurring on day two. During this ceremony, participants wear blackout eye masks and lie down on mattresses while classical music plays. There is sometimes an altar in the center of the room, with crystals, flowers or personal objects from the guests.
As Katz points out, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research have asked the participants to wear eye shades while listening to an hourslong, curated, classical music playlist—a sensory combination that can help guide the psychedelic journey and enable the study participants to reflect inward.
Katz says the center has not decided on pricing yet. But he 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.
“I am very much expecting people to travel to the state of Oregon—not just for Synthesis, to all centers,” he says. “I think there’s a huge appetite that’s not really quantified because there’s no legal way to quantify it.”
In addition to the psilocybin retreat centers, Synthesis also offers training in the Netherlands to facilitators who seek to run their own clinics. Those 18-month training programs can cost over $20,000, according to the company website. Katz plans to also host training programs in Oregon, as early as this year.
In many ways, what Synthesis did in the Netherlands offers a blueprint for what the psilocybin industry could look like in Oregon. That expertise helped inform the Measure 109 campaign, as well as the Psilocybin Advisory Board, says Nathan Howard, an Oregon cannabis farmer who assisted with the Measure 109 campaign and now helps run a nonprofit for Tom Eckert, one of the architects of the measure.
“They have been advisers in the sense that they have come in and shared protocols to the advisory board,” Howard says of Synthesis. “They were on the ground floor, like a bunch of other people during the campaign.”
In fact, the institute shared its extensive knowledge during a 90-minute presentation before the advisory board’s training subcommittee in September.
“I am really so inspired by what’s happening in Oregon, and if there’s…any way we can help, we are really at your service,” Dr. Rosalind Watts, the then-clinical director at Synthesis Institute, said during the meeting.
Eckert, who chairs the advisory board, says, “They’ve been very generous to share and kind of open source their stuff so we understand how they do what they do.”
Field Trip Health
The Dutch aren’t the only international investors eyeing psilocybin prospects in Oregon. Our neighbors to the north are, too.
Field Trip Health, a publicly traded Canadian company with a $46 million valuation, plans to open at least one psilocybin therapy center in Oregon.
The vision? “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,” says Matt Emmer, the company’s vice president of health care practice.
The price tag could fall at the higher end.
A single seven-hour “truffle dosing session” could cost upwards of $2,000. That’s the price for the “basic” session offered by Field Trip Health in Amsterdam.
Add-on services, including screenings with a physician and therapist, one to two “preparatory” sessions, and a post-trip “exploratory” session, can tack on an additional $1,500.
And it doesn’t take into account expenses for food, lodging and travel from other parts of the country or the world. (Ballot Measure 109 restricts psilocybin use to Oregon only, but anyone can visit the state if they wish to imbibe.)
This isn’t Field Trip Health’s first psychedelic rodeo. It currently operates about a dozen ketamine-assisted therapy centers in North America, including in New York City and Chicago. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration categorizes ketamine as a Schedule III controlled substance. It is legal to use the psychedelic in a clinically prescribed setting in all 50 states.)
Meanwhile, a handful of U.S. states, including Washington and California, are considering legislation that would legalize psilocybin in some form.
That makes Oregon somewhat of a case study for companies with a lot of capital: If they can find success in the psilocybin industry here, the next step would be to replicate that model elsewhere as psilocybin use becomes legalized in other states.
Emmer says expanding throughout the U.S. is “100%, absolutely” a possibility for his company, which already operates a psilocybin therapy center in Amsterdam.
“Our vision from the start is that, as other psychedelic molecules become available for clinical use, we’d be able to add those on to the menu of treatments available into our clinic,” he says. “If we had a clinic in a state that passed a similar measure as Oregon, then we would work to incorporate psilocybin along with our existing ketamine-assisted therapy treatments.”
Field Trip Health has not decided on a location in Oregon yet, according to Emmer. But the ideal spot would be a “desirable, accessible, convenient location” that’s highly populated or in a city, he says. That way, the location can be accessible for people traveling from afar.
In Emmer’s description, Field Trip’s Oregon outpost would likely gather clients to consume psilocybin in a group setting. He says he’s seen highly transformative experiences with groups of strangers, in fact, especially when those strangers have a commonality, such as veterans who suffer from PTSD.
What’s important, however, is attracting clients who are interested in the therapeutic aspect of psilocybin use, and “actively engaged in their healing journey.”
“These are experiential medicines, so it’s not just that you passively receive psilocybin or a psychedelic, but that they almost serve as a catalyst for deeper inner work,” Emmer says. “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.”
Few people in Oregon are better positioned to run a training program for psilocybin facilitators than the man who asked voters to approve the ballot measure to make such therapy legal in the state.
That’s Tom Eckert, the co-chief petitioner of Measure 109 who now chairs the Psilocybin Advisory Board, which makes recommendations to the Oregon Health Authority. Ultimately, the OHA is the final decision maker for adopting the state’s psilocybin rules.
In March 2021, Eckert formed InnerTrek LLC. And, as early as this summer, he plans to begin training one of the country’s first cohorts of licensed psilocybin facilitators—the people who will supervise you while you trip.
“I’ve always thought that training is kind of the heart of this whole statewide program,” Eckert tells WW. “It’s super important to have competent, ethical, well-trained facilitators to populate this new framework that we created in Oregon. And so InnerTrek is a response to that looming demand.”
The maximum class size will be 108 students, Eckert says. He adds that he is aware that similar training programs abroad can cost tens of thousands of dollars. While he hasn’t set a price yet, he says he doesn’t want his program to be “cost prohibitive” and he’d like to offer a sliding scale so the training is accessible.
Eckert’s business venture means he is simultaneously leading the government advisory board that is crafting the rules surrounding psilocybin legalization and starting a company that will profit from that new marketplace.
Eckert says he is mindful of this dynamic and that Oregon’s ethics rules lay the groundwork to address potential conflicts.
“The way the board is set up is very transparent. All the discussions happen in public. So there’s no kind of information that’s behind the scenes. It’s happening in real time, in the public eye,” he says. “It’s really about creating a community around developing the infrastructure to make Oregon succeed as a whole.”
“And let’s also be clear that it’s an advisory board,” he adds. “The OHA creates the program.”
Eckert was not the sole chief petitioner for Measure 109. He and his wife, Sheri, spearheaded it together. But the month after the measure passed, December 2020, Sheri Eckert died. The couple had dedicated years of their lives to bringing psilocybin into the mainstream. Together, they founded the Oregon Psilocybin Society.
Last February, Eckert formed the Sheri Eckert Foundation. In addition to honoring his wife’s legacy, he says the nonprofit will operate as a scholarship fund for students who want to enroll in a facilitator training program.
“We are creating a regulated system that’s about access,” Eckert says. “It’s about a holistic healing paradigm. It’s humanistic rather than medically dominated.”
So far, the foundation has raised about $170,000, including a sizable donation from David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Eckert says.
“I think this is a spoke in a bigger wheel of change,” he adds. “But it’s an important one, because it’s about ourselves. It’s about consciousness itself. If we’re going to survive as a species, something has to change internally. Psychedelics are not a panacea, but they’re a step in the direction of going a little deeper, and I think we need to.”
Red Light Holland
Another Netherlands-based psilocybin company plans to throw its hat in the ring. Red Light Holland, a publicly traded corporation, formed Red Light Oregon Inc. last April, state records show.
But unlike some of its Dutch colleagues, the Red Light group doesn’t want to host multiday, resort-style programs. Instead, its area of focus is something that’s caused strife on the advisory board in recent weeks: microdosing.
That’s the practice of taking a fractional dose of a psychedelic—in this case, psilocybin—semi-regularly for weeks or perhaps months.
The main reason microdosing is a priority is accessibility, says Sarah Hashkes, chief technology innovation officer at Red Light Holland.
“If they want this to be as accessible as possible, then microdosing is important, because it’s going to be at a cheaper price point,” Hashkes says.
Red Light Holland has also conducted extensive market research, releasing results in the fall that showed 16% of Oregonians would want to microdose on a weekly basis. While that research is funded by the industry, Hashkes argues that immersive psilocybin therapy is too large a commitment for many people who are interested in psychedelics.
“People don’t need to take days of vacation [to microdose],” she says. “When you’re doing this big dose, you need to significantly prepare for it. And there’s a whole day of the dose. The next day, you’re still floating and can’t just jump back into work. And for a lot of people that’s not something that they can do.”
In the Netherlands, a person can walk into a store and purchase truffles derived from psilocybin mushrooms, similar to cannabis dispensaries in Oregon. That won’t be allowed under Measure 109. But Hashkes says the company envisions locations where clients could take a low dose of the substance, then practice yoga or meditation during the “supervised” portion of the experience.
“It’s quite different than the pharmaceutical model of just giving people some chemical,” she says. “Here, it’s really the support structures around the use of the substance, to help people connect to themselves, to connect to a community and slowly build healthy patterns.”
But whether microdosing will be allowed in Oregon is still up for debate. As WW first reported in January, the advisory board is split on the idea. Eckert, the advisory board chair, says microdosing is not in line with the measure’s intentions, because it promotes a “dispensary-type model” as opposed to a therapeutic one.
But Dave Kopilak, the lawyer who authored Measure 109, says the measure’s text intentionally omits rules around dosage, effectively leaving the door open on microdosing.
“The spirit of the measure is the words of the measure,” he says. “The measure doesn’t say anything about dosage, nor does it say anything about how long an administration session must be. This is an OHA decision. It’s a policy decision that they will make.”
Should microdosing be prohibited, what would that mean for companies like Red Light for which smaller psilocybin doses are a primary focus?
“We’d need to look into it,” Hashkes says. “If we can’t do microdosing services, is it worth our while to both manufacture and have a facility? We don’t know that yet, but we’re definitely going to be doing something.”