Over the past five years we've seen how the use of marijuana has gone from an illicit drug to one of the most mainstream legal markets. Psychedelic drugs have followed in their footsteps and have begun to take major steps toward legitmacy.
The stigma behind psychedlics, including psilocybin mushrooms, began with Richard Nixon's "War on Drugs." This introduced the classification of drugs, in which both marijuana and psychedlic mushrooms are listed to be as dangerous as heroine under Schedule 1 classication.
As of a 2020 survey conducted by the Prison Policy Initiative, the American criminal jsutice system holds almost 2.3 million people. Of that 2.3 million people, drug offenses acount for the incaceration of almost 500,000 people and nonviolent drug convictions remain a defining feature of the federal prison system. Police make over 1 million drug possession arrests a year and contribute to the overpolicing of lower-income communities.
Thankfully the legalization and decriminilaztion of marijuana is changing this and pscyhedlics are not far behind. In May of 2019 Compass Pathways, a United Kingdom based pharmaceutical company, became the first company to break into into U.S. markets. In March, MindMed became the first publicly traded psychedlic company in Canada. This momentum is a similar pattern to that of the legitimatization of cannabis years ago.
While psychedlics are still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the government, the medical community has accepted them as a treatment option for patients. Psilocybin mushrooms are increasingly being used to treat patients with severe depression that have developed a resistance to anti-depressants.
The FDA approved a breakthrough therapy status to Compass Pathways in 2018 to study the effects of psilocybin on parents struggling with Major Depressive Disorder. Since then the FDA has granted similar statueses to Compass and other big pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson, but also minor competitors like Numinus Wellnus and Mind Medicine.
This breakthrough could be coming at the perfect time. A survey last year found that suicide deaths increasd 4% from 2018, meaning 15 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. In 2020 this has increased even more because of the pandemic and on average, 132 Ameriacns die by suicide each day. At the time of their death, 90% of these people had a diagnosable mental health condition.
While medical use is easing into the market, the recreational use of psychedlics is still struggling. Michael Auerbach, an early investor in Compass Pathways, says "There is a less of a diversified recreational market for psychedlics as there is for cannabis as it is used in a massive swath of consumer products."
Yet, we still have companies beginning to make psychedlic mushrooms into more retail products. Canadian Better Plant Sciences is working on a mushroom-infused coffee blend. Alphamind is developing concetrated powder, teas, and chocolate. Red Light Holland even created a VR experience for consumers to "test" the effects of a drug and see if its something they want to try.
CEO of Red Light Holland, Todd Shapiro put it this way:
"We hope to see this following the path of Cannabis in Canada; where it was medical first, then recreational adult-use second. But of course, that can take a long time! And ultimately, information and education plus responsible use is key.”
Meanwhile in America, Denver, Colorado became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin, followed by Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oakland, California. Beyond the local level, the DC Board of Elections approved a measure to decriminilize a variety of psychedlics.
It is very likely that within most of our lifetimes we will see the rise of both the medical and recreation use of psychedlics like magic mushrooms.