BC-based company Optimi Health has harvested its first culture of psilocybin mushrooms at its Health Canada licensed facility in Princeton, BC, positioning itself as a major player in the booming psychedelic industry.
The $14 million business includes two 10,000 square foot facilities with a combined total of 10 grow rooms that can produce around 2,000 kilograms of dried psilocybin mushrooms per month, according to Optimi head cultivator Todd Henderson.
“[It’s] a phenomenal scale… There is no one else in the world who does this [we’re] doing here right now,” Henderson said.
“Thousands of years ago the Chinese and indigenous peoples used them to solve all sorts of problems on their own and here thousands of years later we are back at it.”
Psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as magic mushrooms, are a controlled substance in Canada, making it illegal to grow, possess, or sell them unless authorized by Health Canada.
“Amazing what the research shows”
This month, the agency granted Optimi a license to produce the mushrooms as well as a research exemption to extract the psychedelic components of psilocybin and psilocin for use in clinical trials, according to the company.
Optimi claims that their facilities are built to meet the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), a quality assurance standard required by Health Canada to produce psilocybin for clinical research.
“We are the only GMP biological facility in the world that can deliver what we do. We have contacts around the world for people who want to research psilocybin,” said Leigh Grant, Chief Operating Officer of Optimi. Health.
The idea to build the facility was born out of a desire to explore the medicinal benefits of natural products, said COO Bryan Safarik.
“It’s truly amazing what the research shows regarding the medicinal benefits [of psilocybin mushrooms] and where all of this could go,” Safarik said.
Canadian entrepreneur Chip Wilson, who founded Lululemon, is an advisor to the company and his son, JJ Wilson, is chairman of Optimi’s board of directors.
The company also grows unregulated varieties of mushrooms, including lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms, which are commonly found in health food stores.
The main product remains psychedelic mushrooms, of which Optimi hopes to position itself as a major supplier in the global medical-grade psilocybin market.
In recent years, scientists have investigated the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic mushrooms for treating everything from addiction to alleviating end-of-life anxiety in terminally ill patients.
Zach Walsh, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, has been researching psilocybin for the past decade, including a recent study on microdosing the compound where people took repeated small doses of mushrooms to treat depression and anxiety.
“There is growing evidence that psilocybin can help resolve treatment-resistant depression in a way that is as effective or perhaps more effective than traditional antidepressants,” Walsh said.
“People have mystical experiences on psilocybin… Depression can be a loss of meaning in life and a loss of meaning and so having these kinds of profound experiences can really revitalize people.”
In January, Health Canada reinstated aspects of its “Special Access Program” – which had been significantly altered under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013 – allowing doctors to request access to restricted drugs like psilocybin. to treat patients with mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.