By Marshall Hammond
It was a day Medford resident Andreas Met had been awaiting for years. On March 22, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) issued a license to grow psilocybin cubensis, a strain of what are colloquially called magic mushrooms, first to Satori Farms of Portland and then to Met’s company, Satya Therapeutics, the following day. These were the first such licenses issued in the US, marking the beginning of what may be a new era of regulated psychedelic therapy.
In November 2020, Oregonians passed Ballot Measure 109, also known as the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, which granted OHA the authority to regulate and license psilocybin products and services. OHA spent the next two years building the regulatory framework for a mushroom therapy industry. They formed the Oregon Psychedelic Advisory Board to help draft new regulations, and a new section of OHA, Oregon Psilocybin Services (OPS) was created to issue licenses and ensure regulatory compliance.
Under the OHA regulatory framework, any person 21 or older may seek access to psilocybin services at a licensed service center. Clients must consume the mushroom product at the service center under the supervision of a licensed facilitator. The mushroom products they are consuming must come from a licensed manufacturer and be tested at a licensed laboratory.
OPS began taking applications for all four types of licenses on January 2, 2023 before issuing the first two manufacturing licenses in March.
So far, OHA has only granted two manufacturing licenses, three facilitator licenses and one laboratory license. They have yet to issue any service center licenses, a necessary link in the chain to provide mushroom therapy to the public. Met, founder and CEO of Satya Therapeutics, believes those licenses are not far off. He has a 4,000-foot manufacturing space outside of Medford and hopes to be distributing to service centers in a matter of months.
Met entered the cannabis industry in 2012, after spending most of his career as a marketer for major corporations such as Wal-Mart. In 2015, he founded The Halo Collective, which at one point controlled the largest legal cannabis growing operation in the US.
When Met learned that mushrooms would also soon be legal in Oregon and saw research on psilocybin coming out of reputable institutions such as John Hopkins Medicine, he decided he wanted to be part of the new industry. He procured a location and spent the last year growing oyster mushrooms in preparation for the day the state would issue him a license to grow psilocybin cubensis.
As a cannabis entrepreneur, Met had some difficulties dealing with regulatory bodies such as the Oregon Liquor License Commission, which regulates cannabis. He said that the OHA has been surprisingly helpful and easy to work with on psilocybin licensing.
The cost of a license is quite high however. Manufacturers, laboratories and service centers will have to pay an annual licensing fee of $10,000, while facilitators will have to pay $2,000 a year to stay in operation, in addition to training costs as high as $12,000.
The cost of a mushroom therapy session, once all of the licenses have been dispersed and the service centers are up and running, is projected to be anywhere from $600 to $3,000.
Met expects that many who will seek out Oregon’s psilocybin treatment will come from out-of-state to do so. They will generally be middle class people who have little to no previous experience with psychedelic drugs and who are looking for an alternative treatment for their depression or anxiety.
Met and other potential providers are worried that the costs of the therapy will be too high for some of the people who need it most. The non-profit organization, The Psilocybin Access Fund, hopes to subsidize treatment for selected individuals who are unable to afford it.
Met has promised that Satya Therapeutics will donate the first 3,000 grams of mushroom products they produce to the Psilocybin Access Fund to distribute to these individuals. He also plans to work with veterans groups.
High costs are not the only hurdles the industry has faced. Oregonians opposed to psilocybin services have successfully voted to ban them from 25 of Oregon’s 36 Counties. And last month, Synthesis Digital, one of the largest companies providing training to psilocybin facilitators, abruptly terminated all employees and contractors in its Oregon training program after it’s Netherlands based sister company Synthesis Institute B.V. declared bankruptcy. That has left 220 trainees unsure of whether they would get their money refunded or whether they would be able to continue their training.
“It’s not going to be as big as cannabis,” says Met. “You know people aren’t going to do mushrooms everyday unless they microdose, and that’s not recommended. But it’s going to help some people and, to me, if it saves one person’s life then I know I did something tangible. They’re going to tell me, ‘I was suicidal, and it saved me.’ There’s going to be people saying that.”
For more information, visit the OPS website, bit.ly/OregonPS, or call 971.673.0322.