Synthesis Institute Confirms Bankruptcy After Students Are Locked Out of Curriculum

In a belated email to 300 people, the Dutch company says it has closed.

Night sky outside Ashland, Oregon. (Kyle Sullivan)

Synthesis Institute, a Dutch company training Oregon facilitators for psychedelic mushroom sessions, sent an email to students late yesterday, confirming their worst fears: The company had gone bankrupt.

As reported by WW yesterday, students had been locked out of the company’s online curriculum for days, with no communication, prompting at least one student to file a complaint with Oregon regulators.

“By now you are aware that Synthesis Digital has announced we are closing our operations,” Synthesis’s two co-founders and CEO said in an email. “We are deeply sorry for the stress, anger and confusion that this has caused, and regret the impact that this has had on the entire community.”

The email went out to about 300 recipients. One student, Claire Johnson, says she paid $8,997 for the yearlong Synthesis training with an “early bird” discount. If all of them got that discounted rate, Synthesis students would have paid about $2.7 million for incomplete training.

Johnson says she paid her fee with a debit card and is trying everything to get a refund. She filed a complaint with the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission on March 3.

“I’m fighting every way I can,” Johnson, 28, says.

HECC, which regulates psilocybin training programs, is in contact with Synthesis but has not received a formal closure notice, HECC spokeswoman Endi Hartigan said in an email. Under Oregon law, schools that close must offer students a “teach out” option at a comparable program at no additional cost. If students decline the teach-out, they are entitled to a pro rata refund.

“If a school does not provide a teach out option at a comparable program at no additional cost to students, the school must provide a full refund to currently enrolled students,” Hartigan said.

When and if Synthesis provides HECC with a notice of closure, the agency would provide students with information at this site.

In their email to students, Synthesis co-founders Martijn Schirp and Myles Katz and CEO Rachel Aidan said that Synthesis collapsed because of “unplanned financial circumstances that included Synthesis Retreats in the Netherlands.”

Another company they didn’t name offered to buy Synthesis on Feb. 9, they said. The Dutch retreat operations filed for bankruptcy Feb. 27, and the buyer backed out March 1. Synthesis says it told employees and contractors that it was closing the next day.

As WW reported yesterday, a Canadian company called Retreat Guru is trying to keep the training program going, the founders and CEO said in their email. Retreat Guru is a booking site for yoga, meditation and psychedelic retreats that handled payment by students for Synthesis courses.

“Retreat Guru has been in operation for 20 years, is the largest home for booking psychedelic retreats online, and is trusted by over 2,000 retreat centers and facilitators for booking and payment processing services,” the Synthesis executives said. “We are assisting Retreat Guru in every way possible, and we truly believe that the program you are enrolled in is safe under the secure leadership of Retreat Guru’s co-founders, brothers Cameron and Deryk Wenaus, who are deeply committed to the psychedelic movement.”

Synthesis didn’t return multiple emails seeking comment.

Synthesis was among the biggest players in a psychedelics gold rush that began after voters passed Measure 109 in 2020, allowing regulated use of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in mushrooms. The company raised at least $10 million from investors and paid $3.6 million for the 124-acre Buckhorn Springs Resort near Ashland in June 2021. The company planned to hold psilocybin retreats there.

Those plans were likely upended in November, when Jackson County commissioners voted to block psychedelics centers in rural parts of the county, limiting them to commercial zones.

“We know transformative potential for psychedelic supported experiences and wish that we were going to be part of the change we know you will make in the world,” Schirp, Katz and Aidan said in their email. “Safe, legal access to psilocybin and quality training have been at the heart of our mission, and while our contributions to the movement end here, we are grateful that the Synthesis Psychedelic Practitioner Training—which we are incredibly proud of—will continue.”

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