Note from the editor: This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
A Vancouver-based psychedelics company has become the first in Canada to complete a legal harvest of magic mushrooms since the last wave of psychedelic research ended there in the 1970s.
Numinus Bioscience, a healthcare company with a focus on research and product development, announced the harvest of its first flush of psilocybe mushrooms yesterday at its licensed facility in Nanaimo, B.C., where it operates a research and testing laboratory. The firm is developing formulations and solutions intended for use in the burgeoning psychedelic therapy space, and received a license from Health Canada to grow and extract magic mushrooms as recently as June of this year.
The license, issued under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, allows Numinus to test, import, store, and distribute MDMA, psilocybin, psilocin (two compounds present in psychedelic mushrooms), DMT and mescaline. In May, the company went public on the TSX Venture Exchange, making it one of the first psychedelic firms to do so in North America.
An important first
This new first, according to CEO Payton Nyquvest, is a crucial step in the growing movement in Canada by both public and private companies and the federal health agency to support research into novel psychedelic substances that may benefit people who are suffering from end-of-life anxiety, mental illness, substance use, and more.
“As a whole, I think we’ve seen over the past few weeks and months this continuing support from Health Canada and regulators around access to psilocybin- and psilocin-assisted therapies,” he says, referencing the agency’s recent decision to grant an exemption for use to four terminally ill Canadians. “It’s a big step forward in terms of being able to execute on our goal of providing access, and providing these therapies for the people that really need it.”
Nyquvest admits that while he’s grateful the process of obtaining a license happened quickly, it came with its share of challenges.
“It’s a lot of hoop jumping,” he says. “It’s been a short time frame from application for this new license to harvest, but there was a lot of work done previously to lay the groundwork and foundation to be where we are today.” The firm’s lab in Nanaimo had been operating as a licensed cannabis testing facility for several years prior to receiving a research license for psychedelic substances.
Why develop a natural extraction?
Michael Tan, the company’s chief operating officer, says the fruiting bodies harvested in this first flush will be used in the development of non-synthetic mushroom extracts.
“Our aspiration is to develop a biological-based psilocybin product to be used in clinical trials, and ultimately approved as an alternative to currently available formats,” says Tan, noting that most current research uses synthetic psilocybin.
While research certainly does show that psilocybin and other psychedelic substances can be useful for people suffering from particular conditions and ailments (specifically around mental health), both Nyquvest and Tan say their ultimate goal is to make psilocybin-assisted therapy available to the masses.
“Our hope is that everyone who needs it is going to benefit. The research that we do will add a tremendous amount of value, not just to Numinus but I think to the entire space,” Tan says.
“The fact is, we’re working with controlled substances in a really, really nascent industry, and in a very uncertain regulatory environment. It’s absolutely critical for us and for the success of the entire space that every player pursues our interests in a responsible and ethical way.”
Esteemed ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna sits on Numinus’ general advisory council, and says the firm’s decision to pursue the development of a natural product is one that’s long overdue in the space.
“Mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for literally thousands of years, and hence, they are just that much closer to these ancient traditions,” says McKenna. “Natural mushroom extracts are also likely to be far more affordable compared to synthetic psilocybin, and that is an important consideration when it comes to ensuring accessibility to this medicine which can be so beneficial to many people.”
Editor, Inside the Jar
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Whatever. We. Fucking. Want.
It’s expensive. It’s impractical. It makes everything photographed on it look like it took place in the 1970s. So why bother with film?
A few years ago I planned a solo road trip to Haida Gwaii. I drove up in my admittedly unequipped Toyota Echo (thankfully the weather cooperated on my 16-hour drive) and spent the days around my spring birthday staying with a friend in the village of Skidegate.
I took four cameras: two digital SLRs, an instant camera, and a Canon AE-1, circa 1976. It had been my dad’s, and was the first camera I’d ever used. I’d shot hundreds of rolls of black-and-white film with it in high school but for several years it had joined the other vintage cameras I’d collected on a shelf in my bedroom. I figured a trip which I intended to photograph heavily required a little bit of variety, so I dusted it off and shelled out $50 for five rolls of Fujicolor Pro 400H 35mm film for the first time since I’d studied photography in college.
“The more important thing is, we wanted to give people access to the psilocybin experience—and to confirm, or not—that all these things that had happened to us were really happening to us; that it really did seem to open up the doorways to some very strange places. We were looking for affirmation or confirmation of our own experiences.”