A Psychedelics Forum: How the Industry is Evolving into Tomorrow

ReMind Psychedelics Business Forum was held Nov. 15 in Las Vegas.

The psychedelics industry’s newest forum took place Nov. 15, the day before the start of the annual MJBizCon in Las Vegas.

ReMind Psychedelics Business Forum was created to address the fast-moving changes and business development in the psychedelics industry that included wide-ranging discussions with many references to the recent passing of the Colorado 122. That initiative to decriminalize a list of classic psychedelics in Colorado is considered a benchmark moment in the evolution of the industry.

The forum, put together with the help of the editor of reMind, Brad Dunn, and held at the Westgate Las Vegas Hotel in front of an audience of about 300, featured Ethan Nadelmann as the keynote speaker. Nadelmann founded the Drug Policy Alliance in 2000 and has been a staunch cannabis activist and drug policy reformer who is now turning his attention to psychedelics.

“We understand that some people think that prohibition represents the ultimate form of regulation, it’s no, prohibition represents the abdication of regulation,” Nadelmann said. “It means that whatever is not being effectively controlled by government, or responsible parties, is just out there, for better and for worse, and sometimes for very much worse. Because ultimately, there’s a core principle underlying a sensible, pragmatic drug policy, an ethical drug policy, and it’s this: Nobody, but nobody deserves to be punished for what we put in our bodies.”

The nine presentations that followed included discussions about:

  • The effects of ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin.
  • One person’s journey with psychedelics for treatment of PTSD.
  • Capitalism and consciousness as the psychedelics industry matures.

Ariel Clark, an attorney and co-founder of the Psychedelic Bar Association, talked about the evolution of the psychedelics marketplace. “We have to work together and listen to different stakeholder interests,” Clark said. “Because this is what the process of implementation will look like, which is complex, listening from different viewpoints, figuring out what is the path forward.”

In a second presentation about evolution of the marketplace, Bethany Gomez, managing director of the consumer-insight firm Brightfield Group, shared how many people are already using psychedelics in the U.S., mostly self-medicating for wellness.

“We see in our most recent study that 3.3% of American adults had used psilocybin in the last six months, 3% for MDMA, 2.5% for DMT,” she said. “This is very comparable in nature to products that people use very frequently, like cigars, or plant-based cheeses. Nearly 40% of psilocybin consumers are now using at least five times per week, which is a really significant amount.”

The program also included a panel to discuss the similarities of the cannabis and psychedelics industry, which was moderated by Ricardo Baca, founder and CEO of Grasslands public relations company and the former cannabis industry reporter for The Denver Post. “The emerging psychedelics movement and industry is not cannabis 2.0,” he said. “It’s not to say that cannabis is good, psychedelics is bad, or vice versa.”

Panelist and lawyer Sean McAllister, who helped write Colorado’s psychedelics initiative, said that he thinks cannabis failed. “That was failure at the federal level to get respect and recognition,” he said. “We’re 26 years after initial legalization, and we’re still federally illegal, still having problems with banking. What will psychedelics do that will be different, especially in these state-regulated systems?”

A presentation on psychedelic drug discovery and the differences between natural and synthetic compounds was next, and featured Jackie von Salm, the co-founder and chief science officer of Psilera Bioscience.

In the next presentation, “Investing in Psychedelics,” Michael Huttner, co-founder and CEO of Next Titan Capital, said that the psychedelics company team is “absolutely key” for any investor.

“The mistake that we find sometimes is that if you have a team where the CEO is both the chief scientist or the chief researcher, as well as the person that’s doing the pitches and raising the money, it’s not a good combination,” Huttner advised.

The forum ended with a look at the future of psychedelics from an entrepreneurial perspective. One particularly poignant comment came from Todd Shapiro, co-founder, CEO and director of Red Light Holland, a recreational psilocybin truffle-making company with operations in the Netherlands.

“In the psychedelic community, we’re seeing this divisiveness. And I think that’s sickening. It really perturbs me. Why are people judging microdosing versus ketamine versus cannabis?” he said. “The future, I think, is up to corporations who will raise a lot of money and get a lot of the educational research done.

“And that’s great. But work together to help humanity. Don’t only focus on the profits. Focus on giving back and helping mental health.”

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.


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