Culture, entrepreneurial spirit makes Okanagan viable for psychedelic research | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Culture, entrepreneurial spirit makes Okanagan viable for psychedelic research

People with certain diagnosed conditions can now order medicinal magic mushrooms online. The mushrooms are sold in microdose quantities, put into capsules.
Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
May 02, 2021 - 9:00 AM

A former Kelowna resident believes the Okanagan has the perfect blend of culture, scientific research and entrepreneurial spirit to make it a viable place for the psychedelic industry but doesn't believe it will hit the legal recreational market anytime soon.

Kelsey Ramsden is the co-founder of Kelowna’s Mind Cure Health Centre which will offer treatments using psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, along with ketamine, an anesthetic often used as a party drug.

In Canada, psychedelics are prohibited unless approved by Health Canada for research purposes. Health Canada has approved some applications from cancer patients to use magic mushrooms for end-of-life distress. It has also granted exemptions to certain health-care providers, so they may use mushrooms containing psilocybin for professional training purposes.

“I think generally when the market need is great enough, the capitalist system gets interested. When the capitalist system sees a scientific system that really has decades of rigor, but has been overlooked for a variety of reasons, primarily political and regulatory, I think we can identify an opportunity to do good and do well,” Ramsden said.

In Princeton, two 10,000-foot buildings in the town's industrial park are being constructed to cultivate and research magic mushrooms.

READ MORE: Construction ongoing for Princeton magic mushroom facilities

“There’s also this piece around culture shifts. So data moves science and story moves culture and when people start telling the stories of their experiences as patients in psychedelic assisted therapy as those people are people like me, a 44-year-old mother of three, a psychedelic assisted patient, (and then they think) ‘oh, it’s not that fringy,” Ramsden said.

Kelowna specifically has always been a spring for entrepreneurial spirit, she said, noting her grandfather started the first taxi company in the city. There’s a culture in Kelowna where people are open to psychedelics but are skeptical.

When you have the entrepreneurial spirit, open skeptics, culture advancements and the scientific research, “you kind of have one of these environments where it couldn’t help but happen,” she said.

After decades of stigma, Ramsden believes cannabis legalization helped pave the road for psychedelics, but doesn’t believe it will reach the same level of recreational legalization anytime soon.

READ MORE: Kamloops Psychedelic Society joining the push to expand drug legalization

“They’re materially more powerful. It’s like you can ride a trike without a licence but we’re not going to put you behind a Ferrari are we? So psychedelics are the Ferrari,” she said. “Psychedelics as a part of therapy are not to be messed with and because it’s so clinical, it will take a different path and we will not see it available at the weed store.”

READ MORE: Mental health clinic offering psychedelic drugs slated for Kelowna

Potentially 10 years from now, if responsible methods are developed for micro-dosing, it may enter recreational use, but “I don’t think you’ll be getting a hero dose of (psychedelics) in the same way that you’re able to buy cannabis,” she said.

She’s also not interested in recreational use and neither is Mind Cure.

As far as an industry interest goes, “the lion’s share of people who are financially backed and supported by the capital markets are not advancing in recreational use today. I don’t really see that as a viable future for some time,” she said.

In the Okanagan, she believes the labs that have well-developed teams capable of delivering a consistent product will be successful in the long run, as opposed to mom and pop shops.

The Okanagan Psychedelics Society, a non-profit created in 2018 focusing on sharing information on psychedelics for recreational and therapeutic purposes, said they sold out of advocacy events in 2019 prior to COVID-19.

“In the underground scene, especially with decriminalization and legalization of cannabis in the U.S., there’s been a greater push for recreational and medicinal use of psilocybin,” said Quinn Bailey, board member with the society.

“We want people to be informed about psychedelics, about the potential and about the risks and have an open dialogue,” he said.

He also believes the path to legalization will be different because the drugs are different than cannabis.

As of March 2021, TheraPsil, a Vancouver Island non-profit that is training psychotherapists and nurses for therapeutic sessions with psilocybin, has assisted 27 Canadians from several different provinces, according to its website. Bailey said the non-profit is heading the charge for the Health Canada exemptions to study psychedelics.

“The renaissance is more research-led, which will make it more of a therapeutic function out of the gate, which I think it should be. I think psychedelics are not something to be taken lightly… they are powerful allies in strong therapeutic work,” he said.

Currently, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a U.S. non-profit and research organization, is in phase three of clinical trials studying the effects of MDMA on people with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which has also partly taken part in place in Canada. The next step will be for MDMA to receive Food and Drug Administration approval to provide it for medicinal purposes and Bailey said Health Canada will not be far behind.

There’s also psychedelic societies that have spread across the Interior and across Canada, doing education work to end confusion and stigma around the drugs, he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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