Synthesis Institute’s Psychedelic Training Program Unreachable by Students

An automated email says the practitioner program is suspended.

Psilocybin mushrooms. (Serrgey75/Shutterstock)

Synthesis Institute, a Dutch company training Oregon facilitators for psychedelic mushroom sessions, has locked students out of its online curriculum portal, spurring speculation that it has gone out of business.

Claire Johnson, a student at Synthesis, filed a complaint March 3 with Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission saying that the program had been frozen. Like other students in the year-long program, Johnson paid $8,997 to become a state-certified psychedelics facilitator. Her training, most of which was conducted online, started in October.

“I paid Synthesis Digital Products for a state-approved certification program to get a license in the state of Oregon,” Johnson, 28, wrote in her HECC complaint. “The program has since been unexpectedly frozen, 95%+ or their staff is suddenly laid off, and all students are now locked out of the training they paid for. Faculty believe that the company is preparing to file for bankruptcy.”

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 supervised use of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in mushrooms. The company raised at least $10 million from investors, and one of its co-founders, a facilitator named Myles Katz, moved to Oregon from the Netherlands to run the business.

An LLC affiliated with Synthesis paid $3.6 million for the 124-acre Buckhorn Springs Resort in June 2021, Jackson County property records show. Last year, Katz told WW that Synthesis planned to hold multiday, immersive psychedelics retreats there for about 20 participants each.

Similar Synthesis retreats in the Netherlands cost about $1,000 a day for the three-day stay, Katz said at the time. The price includes picking up guests from the airport, food and lodging.

“I am very much expecting people to travel to the state of Oregon—not just for Synthesis, to all centers,” Katz said at the time. “I think there’s a huge appetite that’s not really quantified because there’s no legal way to quantify it.”

Katz’s 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.

This week, emails to Synthesis’ help account were being returned with the message: “Due to the current suspension of all activities related to the Psychedelic Practitioner Training, this inbox is not being monitored. Please write directly to Martijn Schirp, chief visionary officer and CEO:”

Schirp didn’t return an email sent to that address. But one company employee claimed on social media that Synthesis had fired its staff.

“Wow, Synthesis has just imploded!” Rachel Lovie, assistant director of psychedelics practitioner training, wrote on her LinkedIn page. “Everyone has received immediate termination notices by email.”

A company called Retreat Guru said it is taking over the facilitator training program from Synthesis. Retreat Guru is booking site for yoga, meditation and psychedelic retreats.

“Retreat Guru is in the process of acquiring the Psychedelic Practitioner Training Program from Synthesis Digital, and has assumed operation of the program effective Saturday March 4,” Retreat Guru said in an email. “Retreat Guru will have a more detailed announcement in the coming days as we prioritize formalizing our relationship with the program facilitators and communicating with current students. Current programs are on hold for one week and expected to resume next week.”

Johnson, the Synthesis student, said she paid for her facilitator training through Retreat Guru. The company held a townhall meeting with Synthesis students on Saturday, where leaders said they had no choice but to take over Synthesis because otherwise Retreat Guru would have to refund money that has since been sent along to Synthesis. Retreat Guru also asked students and staff to help restart the program, Johnson said.

“They’re leaning on volunteer work by students and facilitators to bring it to life again,” Johnson said.

Retreat Guru, based in Nelson, British Columbia, didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment on its refund policy for for Synthesis students.

“This is a huge a loss of the Oregon psychedelic community, particularly for the students training to be facilitators and for people in Southern Oregon who need access to psilocybin therapy,” said Sam Chapman, executive director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, a group that supports psychedelic therapy in Oregon. “There are several additional training programs that are on track for graduating students over the next few months, as well as service centers that plan to open their doors later this year.”

Service centers are places where facilitators can conduct psychedelic sessions.

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