Over the past several days, and in an upcoming documentary, CityNews has been investigating what’s being called the psychedelic revolution. It’s a movement to make powerful mind-altering drugs like magic mushrooms and LSD legally available to treat mental health problems.
Research is showing psychedelics can be a game changer in that realm and Bay Street is paying attention. Are we heading for a psychedelic gold rush like we saw with cannabis a few years back?
“Investors are always looking for the next big thing. They had cannabis. They’re saying, what’s next? And it turned out to be psychedelics,” said Bill O’Hara, a Toronto-based investment analyst. “It’s called the psychedelic revolution.”
“Science has shown that’s an absurd classification”
LSD, magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs that have been listed as illegal and dangerous since the 1970’s are now showing promise in research labs to treat mental health disorders.
“Psychedelics were all pretty much banned and are still classified as so-called schedule one substances, which means they are dangerous, there’s high potential for abuse, and no possible medical use,” said Ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna. “Now, science has shown that’s an absurd classification.”
Ground breaking research has emerged over the past few years from world-renowned institutions like Johns Hopkins University and NYU, which have shown drugs like psilocybin, which is the psychedelic prodrug-compound produced by magic mushrooms, have the potential to treat mental woes.
But, more conclusive clinical trials are needed to get acceptance from the federal government to allow these types of treatments to be legally prescribed.
Many companies are banking on the hope that we aren’t far away from that. In the past year, there has been an explosion of new companies created to be ready if that day comes.
Many of them are seeking investors to help further research so they’re ready if and when psychedelics become available to Canadians to treat mental health.
“It was a rapid increase,” O’Hara said. “The markets themselves are generally forward-looking. So they’re anticipating the future. They always look at what will happen. The more money you get, the more you can do research.”
Many company leaders believe psychedelics could go down the same path as cannabis.
“What the market saw was that the cannabis space was an illegal substance that started to get acceptance across the world slowly. People recognize that you can make a lot of money in that space by funding early stage companies,” said O’Hara.
There have already been signals of approval. In 2020, a few patients facing terminal illness were given approval by Health Canada to access psilocybin to help treat end-of-life anxiety. Headlines like that have boosted investor confidence and created a competitive race for companies.
Early promotion and marketing of these companies is one important key to win at the finish line.
RELATED: The Psychedelic Frontier
“Companies are saying what’s the next press release? Who have you added to your roster of people to promote your story?” O’Hara said.
For instance, one Toronto-based psychedelic company hired world famous comedian Russell Peters, who has Canadian roots.
“I’m the Chief Creative Officer for Red Light Holland,” Peters told CityNews. “I got involved with the company via its CEO Todd Shapiro. He asked me if I would come on board and help run the creative side of it.”
Toronto-based Red Light Holland roduces, grows and sells a premium brand of magic truffles within the Netherlands, a place where it is legal to do so.
In an upcoming documentary “Veracity, The Psychedelic Frontier” which will air on Citytv, our cameras went to Holland to show you their operations. Peters also talks more about the company and opens up about his own struggles.
The hour-long program also documents one war hero’s mental health struggles – and his wild journey from Toronto to Vancouver to use a psychedelic that he hopes will save his life.
VeraCity: The Psychedelic Frontier airs Monday, Jan. 25 10 p.m., only on Citytv.