The first two psilocybin manufacturers have been licensed to operate in Oregon, where they will grow and sell mushrooms. State rules limit what kinds of mushrooms and how they can be grown, and will require lab testing for heavy metals, pesticides and bacteria.
On March 22, Oregon Health Authority approved Satori Farms PDX LLC, a woman-owned business in Portland that became the first psilocybin provider of any kind to be licensed in the state. On April 8, Willamette Week reported that Satya, Inc., a company in Medford, had also been awarded a licence. With a manufacturing licence, you can be approved by the state to grow mushrooms, extract psilocybin and/or produce edible products containing the drug.
Oregon voters approved Measure 109 in November 2020, legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for limited, therapeutic use. Customers will have to visit licensed “service centers,” slated to open later this year, to purchase and use the drug. No medical diagnosis is required, but the psilocybin must be used under the supervision of trained “facilitators” working at the centers. (The first cohort of student facilitators graduated an approved training program in March, and will now be eligible to apply for licenses themselves.)
Andreas Met, CEO and cofounder of Satya Inc., told Filter that he predicts his facility will have its first samples available in May, and enter commercial production in June.
Hundreds of species of psilocybin mushrooms grow naturally, but state rules restrict growers to just one: Psilocybe cubensis.
Applicants for manufacturer licenses must show that their facility is secure. They also have to state which genetic strain they’ll be growing. Hundreds of species of psilocybin mushrooms grow naturally, but state rules restrict growers to just one: Psilocybe cubensis. Within that single species, though, hundreds of strains can be bred.
Growing mushrooms essentially requires you take a spore, then add water and sugar. The sugar feeds the fungi, which grow into mycelium and then “fruit” into the mushrooms.
Met said that the process of growing a mushroom from a spore can take six to eight weeks. Harvesting the quantity Satya anticipates growing will take three to seven days, and finally the mushrooms are put in a dehydrator for 12 hours.
While there are many possible techniques and mediums for growing mushrooms, state rules forbid growing in manure or wood chips. “Everything you grow in will always have to be pasteurized or sterilized,” Met said. “It makes sense not to grow in wood chips … there’s sometimes poisoning involved in things that come from wood.”
“Our process will involve [organic] rye grain as an initial spawn,” he continued, “and then [organic] shredded cocoa husks as our additional substrate.” The spawn is where you first start growing your mycelium, then you transfer it to another material—the substrate—where it grows into mushrooms.
Cow manure is not necessarily bad for growing mushrooms, and Met pointed out that many of the mushrooms we buy at the supermarket are grown in manure. But there’s potential for safety risks.
“What happens if a facility has bad standard operating procedures,” he said, “and they use a bad batch of manure and it has E. coli in it, and then suddenly someone gets E. coli from the finished product? That would be terrible … the state wants this to be a safe program and the regulations are put in place designed to make this as safe as possible.”
Labels can’t contain any untrue or misleading statements—including medical claims not backed up by science.
Facility equipment must be “food grade,” and all surfaces must be clean and sanitary to prevent any possible contamination of the mushrooms. You can’t produce psilocybin mushrooms and other products—even culinary mushrooms—in the same facility. Manufacturers also can’t use pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or chemicals to grow.
“You have to have an integrated pest management strategy, and most of that relies on prevention,” Met continued. “The kind of pests you have are typically other yeasts, fungi or molds that are negative to the growth of your product. You have to be clean how you operate. If you grow enough mushrooms you’ll have fungus gnats show up. I handle those with sticky traps.”
Of course, Oregon Health Authority also mandates that no other drugs can be added to the psilocybin. Mushrooms must be dried and packaged before they are sold. And labels can’t contain any untrue or misleading statements—including medical claims not backed up by science. Any claim that psilocybin will “cure” a mental health condition would likely violate this rule.
Manufacturers must also not create any product that could be deemed appealing to children in its appearance or packaging. Each “serving” of psilocybin is limited to 25 milligrams (a relatively strong dose). And products must be consumed orally—there’ll be no IV or vaped psilocybin, for example.
All of this red tape, regulation and testing will carry significant costs—making legal psilocybin unaffordable for many.
Each batch of shrooms will be labeled, numbered and tracked in a database under this tightly regulated system. And psilocybin products must first be tested by licensed labs, before being sold to service centers responsible for taking care of consumers during their trip. Oregon has yet to license any labs, service centers or facilitators, though applications are pending for all license types.
The granting of the first manufacturer licences brings Oregon’s first-in-the-nation program another step closer to reality—a relief for its proponents after a number of substantial bumps in the implementation road. But all of this red tape, regulation and testing will carry significant costs—costs which will be passed on to consumers, making legal psilocybin unaffordable for many. And that’s been an ongoing controversy in the development of these rules.
Photograph via United States Drug Enforcement Administration