On April 21, Portland-based Rose City Laboratories, LLC (RCL) announced that it had been licensed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to test psilocybin products for the state’s therapeutic centers. It’s the first lab to receive the required OHA license, but psilocybin treatment still can’t move forward.
In January, OHA opened its licensing applications for labs vying to test state-regulated psilocybin products, along with the manufacturers that will produce those products, the service centers where they’ll be consumed and the “trip facilitators” who will supervise the treatment sessions.
At publication time, OHA had not yet licensed any service centers. Meanwhile, only three manufacturers and four facilitators have so far received licenses. OHA is still expecting the first service centers to open their doors in 2023, but it’s not yet clear how widespread access will be at that time.
RCL will test psilocybin products for the two benchmarks of a regulated drug supply: potency and purity.
RCL began operating in 2012 and has been primarily known for testing cannabis. It began working toward psilocybin testing services in 2020, in anticipation of Measure 109—which legalized therapeutic psilocybin use at licensed service centers—being approved later that year. In January 2023, received Oregon’s first psilocybin lab accreditation, making it legally eligible for the OHA license it has now received.
Licensed manufacturers can formulate psilocybin as extracts, edibles or just the mushrooms themselves. Finished products are sent to RCL, which tests them for the two benchmarks of a regulated drug supply: potency and purity.
Potency tests are required for every batch. RCL will measure concentration of psilocybin (and psilocyn) to make sure the products fall within a 20-percent standard deviation from their target potency. This allows them to be labeled appropriately, so people know how much they’re using.
Purity tests comprise three broad categories: speciation, solvents and sampling.
Speciation testing analyzes the DNA in the product to confirm it’s Psilocybe cubensis, the only species of mushroom authorized by OHA. Solvent testing ensures that if methanol or acetic acid were used in the manufacturing process for extracts, neither exceeds a given threshold in the finished product. Sampling refers to case-by-case testing to screen for pesticides, heavy metals and other contaminants such as E. coli.
“Cannabis is frequently grown outdoors, [so] there’s a much higher chance there might have been some contamination,” RCL Senior Chemist Bjorn Fritzsche told Filter. “Since mushrooms have to be grown in controlled environments and substrates indoors, I think the chance of heavy metal or pesticide usage is pretty slim.”
“Part of this [decision] was creating affordability.”
For this reason, OHA only requires labs to test for purity upon request, unlike the potency tests which must be completed for every single batch that goes to market.
“Part of this [decision] was creating affordability by only requiring testing necessary for the properties of psilocybin-producing mushrooms,” Angela Allbee, manager at OHA’s Psilocybin Services Section, told Filter. Since OHA guidelines already prohibit manufacturers from using pesticides, for example, OHA would only order a pesticide test if it received a complaint or saw something amiss during a site inspection.
Once RCL completes the required testing, the products go back to the manufacturer, which will then sell them to the service centers—once there are any to sell to. For now, the exorbitant licensing costs that have prevented most would-be facilitators from completing an already fraught process are being felt by RCL, too.
“I’m almost $20,000 deep, without equipment costs … how many tests do I have to do to recoup that and still pay everyone’s wages?” RCL CEO Daniel Huson told Filter. “I’m going to be shocked if we do total $5,000 in sales the first year.”
Photograph via City of Hillsboro, Oregon