Medicinal mushrooms have major potential health benefits and are big business for makers of supplements, beauty products, confections and more. These medicinal fungi are finding their way into many of today’s cannabis product line-ups, such as CBD Tea’s CBD Mushroom Defense and the CBDFx line of CBD and mushroom tinctures that boast a supercharged synergy between CBD and mushrooms. The integration of medicinal mushrooms and cannabis has been seamless overall, without many of regulatory snafus that would plague a product made with “magic mushrooms”, aka fungi with the naturally-occurring hallucinogenic compound psilocybin. But that doesn’t mean such products aren’t finding their way into consumers’ hands at a steadily increasing rate.
Though “magic mushrooms” are currently legal in Brazil, Bulgaria, Jamaica, the Netherlands and Samoa and their possession and cultivation has been decriminalized in many other countries, psilocybin is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States. This means that, by the DEA’s assessment, psilocybin has a high potential for misuse and no currently accepted medical use. This renders psilocybin illegal in all fifty states, though Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California have both signed legislation to decriminalize psilocybin. This means that these cities locales will no longer use city funds to impose criminal penalties on those age 21 or over who use or possess psilocybin. Selling it is still illegal. In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin in therapeutic settings, with more than a million Oregonians voting “yes” on Measure 109. Under this measure, only license-holders are able to cultivate psilocybin or provide therapy or own a psilocybin service center. Oregon also passed a measure decriminalizing possession of small amounts of psilocybin. Initiative 81 passed in Washington, DC, which makes prosecuting the cultivation, possession, and distribution of hallucinogens like psilocybin a low priority for law enforcement.
Given its classification as a Schedule I drug and the steady pace of decriminalization around the U.S., how are these products making their way to market, and what are the implications for businesses and consumers? L.A.-based Psilouette Wellbeing’s Entheogen Mushroom Gummies are the brainchild of Psilouette founder Derek Chase, who created Psilouette’s line of gummies to make the healing powers of mushrooms more accessible to the public. Currently, Psilouette’s website advertises a “Macrodose” gummy with 2,400mg of “soluble fruiting body beta glucans” a “Stamet’s Stack Mircrodose” with 75mg of “soluble fruiting body beta glucans” per 2.5g (the ingredient list specifies only Lion’s Mane extract). They also offer a “Customized Compounding Service”, through which customers can have custom gummies created for their specific needs. While the word “entheogen” (a psychoactive substance that induces alterations in mood, cognition, behavior, or consciousness for the purpose of spiritual development) does appear on Psilouette’s home page, none are specifically mentioned in any of the ingredient lists, nor does the word “psilocybin” appear anywhere on the website.
Derek Chase believes that psychedelics are among the best tools to help “resurrect” a state of well-being and balanced mental health. “Our focus is really on delivering mental health with the assistance of psychedelics, not psychedelics alone.” Psilouette plans to add therapeutic content and resources to their website and offer them through an eventual brick and mortar location in Oregon. These offerings might include everything from float tanks and virtual reality experiences to more conventional talk therapy. When this content will be offered is still an open question. “The product side is much farther along because it’s simpler and we have manufacturing capability through our cannabis brand,” Chase says, referring to cannabis company Flora + Bast, which has provided a launch pad for Psilouette. The two companies share facilities and Psilouette uses outreach to Flora + Bast customers to identify those who might be looking for a more targeted and potent remedy for issues like anxiety and stress.
Through this outreach and, more commonly, word-of-mouth, customers find Psilouette despite the lack of explicit wording on their website. This necessary exclusion is due to Shopify’s rules around what transactions and language are allowed on its platform. Customers are given the opportunity to make a donation and receive a “gift” of product. The suggested donation amount is commensurate with the cost of the actual product, but if a customer cannot afford that, Psilouette often provides the “gift” at low or no cost. After “purchase”, customers are asked how they found out about the product, what they intend to use it for, and recommend a dosage. The product is shipped if the customer “qualifies”. “There is a lot of giving away because most people haven’t tried mushrooms or any psychedelic,” Chase says. “Our interest is really in ushering in this cultural move towards psychedelic medicine.”
Psilouette’s customer interface raises the issue of how it is ensuring that its consumers are 21 years or older. Psilouette is currently developing “child-resistant” packaging for what Chase describes as “currently a bespoke offering”. According to Chase, their consumer age falls within the 45 to 60 year-old range and the “donation” amount of the product serves to select out those looking for a cheap, illicit high. In terms of regulating safety and standardizing potency, Psilouette is currently applying for a DEA license to use HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography) for more accurate testing of psilocybin levels in their products. “As of now, we’ve standardized our cultivation and manufacturing to ensure that the experience is similar over time, but we do not currently have the ability to test every round of product.” All of Psiloeutte’s mushrooms are organically cultivated by a staff mycologist in a small facility in Los Angeles, which produces about one hundred pounds of dry weight per month.
In California, an initiative to legalize psilocybin may appear on the ballot as an initiated state statute as early as November 2022, which would legalize all forms of psilocybin-containing fungi as well as decriminalize cultivation, manufacture, processing, distribution, transportation, possession, storage, consumption, and retail sales for adults 21 and older. Until that time, Chase says Psilouette is keeping an eye on Oregon and hoping to apply for a license to open a storefront there when the legal pathway is officially clear.
Psilouette isn’t the only brand looking to get psilocybin into the mainstream by any creative means necessary. Premium Entheogens is a parent company housing the entheogen brands Illicit, Silent Shaman, Axiom and Sonder. Axiom and Sonder focus on psilocybin products, with Axiom offering microdose capsules and pouches of dried psilocybin mushrooms of different varieties. Sonder also offers various strains of dried psilocybin mushrooms. The customer interface is similar for both, with “psilocybin” clearly listed but only the total dry weight in grams given rather than actual psilocybin content. Payment is conducted through an email money transfer and orders are shipped via expedited mail.
There are cheaper, less glossy options out there for those disinclined to seek out the spiritual framing of entheogens in favor of a trippy high, but the mechanics of acquiring them are also circuitous. The company One UP Mushroom, for example, employs a common workaround, offering a Milk Chocolate Psilocybin Mushroom Bar with 3.5g of psilocybin. This comes as a free gift with the purchase of a “small sticker” for $60.00 on one magic mushroom products website. With spreading decriminalization and the first steps towards legalization being taken in the U.S., more psilocybin products across the spectrum of quality, ethical marketing and responsible use will become available to consumers. This presents an increasing challenge for legislators and business owners alike as regulations attempt to keep up with psilocybin’s exploding popularity.