By Dennis Walker
What does it feel like to be a pioneer in an industry that doesn’t technically exist yet?
I hosted the Future of Business and Psychedelics panel at the California Psychedelic Conference in Los Angeles on April 24th and had a chance to gain perspective from a host of established psychedelic entrepreneurs with impressive track records - insofar as one can have a traceable track record in a mostly underground economy. In fact, the California Psychedelic Conference was the first of its kind, a deep dive event featuring some of the world’s most renowned psychedelic experts from arenas including cultivation, therapy, medicine, activism and policy, and the arts. Hosted by the Black-owned grassroots brand Oakland Hyphae, which makes plant medicine products and education accessible to the public, the Conference took place at The East Angel event space.
The emergent conversation around business and psychedelics is generally dominated by affluent white men who are more interested in adding margin to their portfolios than investing in marginalized communities and centering people of color. In late May 2022, the World Economic Forum hosted its inaugural “Medical Psychedelics House of Davos” program in Davos, Switzerland, featuring 40 representatives of the psychedelic renaissance running seminars and workshops to help shape the future of mental health. This wide array of education for the global elite is a resounding testament to the explosion of interest in psychedelic investment and development coming from the traditional gatekeepers of power.
But just as the psychedelic renaissance arrives on the world stage, the California Psychedelic Conference stands as a beacon of hope that legacy cultivators, underground activists, and ancestral stewards of entheogens and shamanic practices will not be shut out of the emerging psychedelics industry and the multibillion dollar market that is developing around it.
Who Spoke On The Future Of Business And Psychedelics Panel?
The Future of Business and Psychedelics panel featured:
Cannabis industry veteran and Founder of StockPot Images
Founder of Psilly Girls, a psychedelic research and integration outfit
Founder of Cognitive Function, a medicinal mushroom supplement company
Founder of Pacific Substrates, one of North America’s leading growth media and substrate providers
Founder of Mycroboost, a custom capsule consulting operation
Founder of Oakland Hyphae and numerous other ventures in the psychedelic space
The panelists provided a wealth of insights gleaned from their collective experience of multiple decades navigating the underground world of psychedelic business, as well as their more recent experience incorporating as above-board, profitable business entities in the psychedelic space.
Reggie Harris Of Oakland Hyphae On Legacy Entrepreneurs In The Psychedelic Movement
“One of the best decisions I ever made is not signing the contract that the corporate vultures put in front of me. I’d advise every young entrepreneur on this path to retain a lawyer before signing any contracts. The future is looking very bright for grassroots entrepreneurs in this space.
There’s a booming, bustling, massively thriving mycelial network that’s been carrying this movement underground for decades and centuries - and those people have most recently been labeled as outlaws - they had to take risks to make sure that the psychedelic movement got to where it is now. As we introduce these things to the mainstream, we should not forget the legacy folks who brought it all this way and into mainstream culture. It wasn’t the people in suits and ties that carried this movement to where it is, it was the legacy cultivators and the underground activists.”
Cassandra Posey Of Cognitive Function On Capitalism And Building A Psychedelics Business
“In my opinion the best way to start a business is to start with authenticity and let it build organically. For example, the mushrooms truly built Cognitive Function. They allowed me the space to start the business, paid for that first round of jars to fill products in and have helped me scale the business from day one. They provided and continue to provide.
My biggest aim is to be able to utilize Cognitive Function as a means to gain resources to fill back into our collective agenda of spreading ecological literacy. I believe in trying to create these whole loop systems (sustainable business models) that enable us the space to co-exist in a capitalistic society. These companies can provide us a container to be the change we want to see in the world. Cognitive Function has allowed me to push the agenda of U.S. cultivated mushrooms to the forefront. I give this example quite frequently, but I’d rather pay a premium to support our small growers here who are [doing the work].”
Soma Phoenix Of Psilly Girls On Universal Access to Psychedelic Medicine
“It’s important that we give everybody access to these medicines - currently, to do it legally, people are charging $1,000, $3,000, even $10,000 dollars - some people only have $20. It’s important that we make sure everybody has a chance to access these medicines, regardless of their ability to pay.”
Benjamin Daniel Of Pacific Substrates On Using Resources For Psychedelic Accessibility
“Psychedelics and capitalism can absolutely co-exist. We have something that’s incredibly personal and that’s sensitive to a lot of people, but we also want to get it into as many people’s hands as possible - and the way you get these things into people’s hands is you either need to give them the tools to do it themselves, which is Pacific Substrates’ approach, or you need to use the economic resources available to you like distribution channels, raising capital, compliance and lab testing, etc. - and use those tools to get these medicines into the hands of as many people as possible.”
Ophelia Chong Of StockPot Images On Value Alternatives Beyond Traditional Commerce
“We can also consider data as a form of compensation - when working with different populations (such as veterans), we can give people biomass, and they will return value to us in the form of data. We can use that data to improve our products and services.”
Robert Johnson Of Mycroboost On The Power Of Small Business In The Psychedelics Industry
“There’s so much competition out there that never gets started because they don’t think they’re good enough - and this is what the pharmaceutical industry is counting on with small businesses in the emerging psychedelics industry; they want us to think it’s too daunting, too difficult to be successful against them. But all of us can be successful; all of us have it in us to do this. The consumer is the person who has the ability to fire the CEO, because they make choices with their purchasing decisions. So you just have to be an option!”
What’s Next For The Psychedelics Business?
The question of psychedelics and their compatibility with capitalism continues to reverberate through the psychedelic ecosystem as an industry begins to form around these novel molecules and ancestral plant medicine traditions.
As an ever increasing amount of venture capital and “old money” pours into what could potentially be the world’s most disruptive market, the future of business and psychedelics is shaping up to be a wild ride in which numerous stakeholders and competing ideologies are pitted against each other before a backdrop of drug policy and social justice reform on a scale we haven’t ever seen before.
The race to monetize and mainstream mind-altering molecules is in full effect, and there are very few sure bets at this point in time. But one aspect of this power struggle that cannot be overlooked is that the future of business and psychedelics is proving to be a much more cosmopolitan and diverse conversation than the traditional gatekeepers of power are prepared to entertain.
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Dennis Walker is the host of Mycopreneur Podcast, an educational media outlet focused on platforming and connecting fungi entrepreneurs around the world. His ‘psychedelic satire’ videos on social media have garnered over 1 million views in the past few months, earning him a cult following in the space. He is an avid world traveler and mediocre salsa dancer who aims to be the first person to eat mushrooms on Mars. Visit www.Mycopreneur.com and follow @mycopreneurpodcast on Instagram.
Featured image: (C) Nathan Karsgaard