Photos Sam C. Long

In an exciting leap forward for the growth of psilocybin, this year’s  NoCo  conference will host its first ever educational mushroom exhibit. In Summer 2019, Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo in New York featured a hemp house with a ceiling made of mushrooms. The mushroom pavilion at NoCo, however, will be the first education exhibit dedicated solely to mushrooms at a major industrial conference.

The mushroom pavilion exhibit will bring together a variety of companies, educational groups, and nonprofits all geared toward educating the public and raising awareness regarding the various benefits of mushrooms.

According to Melanie Rose Rodgers, a key player in the creation of the exhibit, the Mushroom Pavilion will feature the Fort Collins Mycological Society, professors from Colorado State University, the Society of Psychedelic Outreach Reform in Education (SPORE), and a company called Colorado Kosher, known for its tinctures featuring lion’s mane extract as well as a soil company which uses mushrooms in regenerative soil. The Mushroom Pavilion will also feature the Zendo Project, a partner of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)

There is an 11 person council that is working directly with the city of Denver and the mayor’s office, including Sarah Gayle, who is with . The inclusion of this exhibit at NoCo is indicative of the rising profile of and interest in mushrooms. In May 2019, Denver became the first city in the US to decriminalize possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms. Decriminalize Denver is the organization that was instrumental in the passing of the initiative in 2019. The focus was on decriminalizing psilocybin, which is a compound found in certain mushrooms. Prior to decriminalization, psilocybin was classified as a Schedule 1 substance. In fact, Rodgers played an essential role in the passing of the Initiative 301 Campaign.

She was part of the six people from Denver County that petitioned the city. A large aspect of the success of the campaign was its reliance on evidence such as John Hopkins studies as well as the FDA’s classification of psilocybin as “breakthrough therapy” status. Therefore, there was little resistance from the public regarding the initiative.

The campaign also received support from the Denver District Attorney’s Office as they are open to and looking for new ways to treat mental illness. The health benefits of psilocybin mushrooms are increasingly being recognized.

According to Rodgers, “Psilocybin and psychedelics in general have a way of addressing trauma. Your trauma may come up. That’s just something that I think as Americans, we’re just so used to band-aiding, we put bandaids over our trauma, we try to heal it with other things. We don’t ever go to the root of [our issues] and so psychedelic and definitely psilocybin help with, addressing it and facing it, whether you like it or not.”

The dialogue around mushrooms and their benefits is only growing. The film Fantastic Fungi, which was released in September 2019, is a film which aims to educate and amaze audiences regarding mushrooms, including psilocybin and psychedelic mushrooms. The film’s premiere in September 2019 was sponsored by Decriminalize Denver.

In addition to mental health, mushrooms also have vast potential in other arenas as well. Companies such as Ecovative Design use mycelium, which is the root structure of mushrooms, to create materials. Ikea is planning to use these biodegradable, eco friendly materials as part of their packaging, which can decompose in a garden within a few weeks. Another company Myecoworks have created a material entitled Reishi, which is a mushroom based high end leather product.

There has been a tremendous amount of growth and progress in the mushroom industry. The Mushroom Pavilion exhibit marks the official recognition of this growth and will undoubtedly contribute to several more exciting developments in the years to come!