Large new psilocybin production facilities have begun to appear in BC, providing the latest evidence that this nascent business sector is expanding in the province.
The niche of growing and providing the psychedelic compound that comes from magic mushrooms began to gain life after Health Canada launched a program in January that allows doctors to apply for government approval for patients to access psilocybin.
Without that approval, using psilocybin is illegal.
Health Canada’s so-called “special access program” approved its first authorizations in March, sparking interest from doctors who believe the mushroom compound may help treat depression, addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. affections.
Dr. Valorie Masuda was the first Canadian physician to obtain this approval when Health Canada approved her applications for six patients.
Since then, several other patients’ doctors have also been approved to provide psilocybin, said Holly Bennett, director of communications for the Victoria-based nonprofit coalition TheraPsil. BIV.
His organization helps Canadians access psilocybin for medical purposes.
Before Health Canada launched its special access program, the only way Canadians could legally access psilocybin was to appeal directly to Canada’s health minister for what was called an exemption from Section 56 of the Substances Act. and Controlled Drugs of the country.
Fewer than 100 of those exemptions were granted to people who would later purchase psilocybin on the black market, Bennett said.
When the health minister granted the waivers, he added, it was because the patients making the requests were dying and in distress.
She believes the new special access program increases the number of diseases or conditions for which psilocybin could be approved.
“The special access program is very clear for serious and life-threatening diseases, but the government has yet to define exactly what it means by that,” he said.
Another element of the new program is that it requires the psilocybin to come from authorized dealers.
Companies are recently getting approval from Health Canada to grow psychedelic mushrooms, produce psilocybin, and sell the compound to drugmakers or doctors to give to patients.
Optimi Health (CSE:OPTI), for example, received approval for its distributor license in February and said in a May 25 statement that it had harvested its first batch of psilocybin and functional mushrooms.
Many other BC companies also operate in the industry and try to produce psilocybin as profitably as possible.
Optimi plans on May 27 to cut the proverbial ribbons on two buildings that each have about 10,000 square feet of space and are in Princeton. One of those buildings is already half occupied with Optimi staff growing psychedelic mushrooms, Optimi CEO Bill Ciprick said. BIV. The other building is almost finished.
Optimi employs about 25 people, a few of whom are based in the Vancouver headquarters and the rest in Princeton.
The company generated around $22 million by going public in February 2021, Ciprick said. He is spending up to $15 million to build the facility on land he is leasing for a small fee from two of his four co-founders: Bryan and Jacob Safarik. Its other two co-founders are Dane Stevens and JJ Wilson.
Optimi lost nearly $4.7 million in the six months ending March 31 and remains in what Ciprick called its “pre-revenue” period.
Nutraceutical products have just been launched for sale, which do not contain psilocybin and are sold through Vitasave and other retailers.
“We’re generating revenue, and when we report our second-quarter earnings, we’ll start to show revenue, and hopefully some psilocybin sales as well,” he said.
He added that psilocybin supply deals with “drug formulators” are likely to be announced soon.
His operation now involves workers growing and drying mushrooms before grinding them into a fine powder that can be put into medicine capsules.
“With mushrooms, you do vertical growth,” he said. “Imagine these really thin shelves that look like they’re from the space age.”
Their mushroom growing rooms have 20-foot ceilings, with the mushrooms grown on shelves spaced 1.5 feet above each other, and rising up to 14 feet high.
Each of the shelves has black containers that Ciprick says resemble dish containers used in restaurants.
“The fungi just attach, grow and burst out of the substrate,” he said. “So you have a sort of window of time once they’re set to harvest them before they get to the point where you lose some of the potency of the psilocybin-containing mushrooms.”