A Patented Psilocybin Nasal Spray Is Coming. Will Legalization Be Fair?

December 11, 2019

On December 4, Oregon-based startup company Silo Wellness announced that it has developed a “patent-pending nasal spray for microdosing psilocybin.” The aerosol spray would deliver into each nostril a precise dose of vaporized psilocybin that the company calls “sub-psychedelic.”

Silo Wellness, a company headquartered in Oregon, is developing the drug in Jamaica, where psilocybin mushrooms are legal. The company claims the nasal spray is safer, more predictable and more palatable than simply eating mushrooms. It plans to market the drug if or when states like Oregon legalize psilocybin.

“With proof of concept in hand, we are taking pre-orders and entertaining licensing proposals for research abroad and manufacturing for the product in advance of jurisdictions coming online legally, similar to Oregon’s proposed medical-marijuana-like psilocybin initiative,” said COO Scott Slay in a press release. “We are so grateful for the opportunity to have an actual and real first-to-market consumer product in magic mushrooms. Most of us were too early to cannabusiness or too late.”

Currently, no city or state in the US allows legal sales of psilocybin products. But as Filter has reported, Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California each decriminalized personal use, possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms this year. The new laws explicitly prohibit buying or selling. About 100 other cities across the country are, with varying success, trying to replicate these reforms.

There’s also a statewide effort in California. While decriminalization is the term being used by the ballot campaign, organizers are actually proposing a framework to legalize and regulate mushroom sales in a manner similar to cannabis.

In Oregon, advocates are now gathering signatures for a “Psilocybin Service Initiative.” Under this proposed reform, the state would legalize manufacture, delivery and administration of psilocybin mushrooms at licensed therapeutic clinics. Medical professionals would be able to facilitate psilocybin sessions for patients who might benefit. The organizers removed decriminalization language from their proposal in September.

So it is likely that in the mid-term, some US states will legalize psilocybin and enrich early-to-market companies like Silo Wellness. But as firms seek profits, activists should be vigilant to ensure that the benefits of legalization are shared equitably.

This is no more instructive example of this imperative than the problematic rollout of cannabis legalization.

While states like Illinois have rushed to open the doors of dispensaries, they have simultaneously neglected hundreds of thousands of residents with life-constraining cannabis convictions who are now eligible for expungement. It remains time-consuming, complicated and expensive to expunge a conviction—if you even know you’re eligible.

And then there is the highly segregated executive leadership of the cannabis industry, with people from the communities of color most impacted by prohibition and policing widely excluded.

While the number of people with psilocybin convictions is likely just a fraction of those with cannabis convictions, states should still prioritize expungement and other forms of post-conviction relief. The hypocrisy of allowing employers, banks or police to legally discriminate against people with a drug arrest or conviction, while start-ups generate millions selling the same drug, should not be repeated.

In Oregon, another ballot initiative, called the 2020 Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, is also gathering signatures. This one would decriminalize low-level possession of most controlled substances, including psilocybin.

Criminal offenses would be reduced to civil offenses, subject to a $100 fine or mandatory “health assessments.” But Oregonians, then, would still face a situation where they cannot legally access drugs like psilocybin outside of a licensed facility or without purchasing from brands like Silo Wellness. Silo would presumably sell their product in Oregon only to licensed psilocybin providers.

The company claims that it wants its drug to be widely accessible. “After [his first psilocybin experience] very late in life, then-41-year-old [CEO Mike Arnold], couldn’t stop thinking about how to bring this to the masses as quickly and inexpensively as possible,” the press release states.

“Mushrooms and DMT saved me,” Slay added. “My life was renewed. I now have peace and purpose, and I can’t wait to share this opportunity with the world.”

But advocates will need to scrutinize how “inexpensive” the product will be. The company is seeking a patent for its psilocybin vaporizing technology, as well as for other psychedelic substances like ayahuasca, DMT, peyote and mescaline. This raises some natural questions.

Silo Wellness did not respond to Filter‘s request for comment by publication time.


Photo by John Peel via Unsplash.

Alexander Lekhtman

Alexander is an editorial fellow at Filter.

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