BIV: New Canadian psilocybin-access rules create business opportunities

Vancouver’s Optimi Health harvests first batch of psilocybin mushrooms

Optimi Health CEO Bill Ciprick

 

New large psilocybin production facilities have started to pop up in B.C., providing the latest evidence that this nascent business sector is expanding in the province.

The niche of farming and providing the psychedelic compound that comes from magic mushrooms has started to gain life thanks to Health Canada in January launching a program that allows physicians to request government approval for patients to access psilocybin.

Without that approval, using psilocybin is illegal.

Health Canada’s so-called “special access program” approved its first authorizations in March, as it sparked interest among doctors who believe the mushroom compound can help treat depression, additions, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.

Dr. Valorie Masuda was the first Canadian doctor to get this approval when Health Canada approved her requests for six patients.

Since then, doctors for several other patients have also been approved to provide psilocybin, Holly Bennett, director of communications at the Victoria-based non-profit coalition TheraPsil, told BIV.

Her organization helps Canadians access psilocybin for medical purposes.

Before Health Canada launched its special access program, the only way Canadians could legally access psilocybin was to directly appeal to Canada’s health minister for what was called a Section 56 exemption to the country’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Fewer than 100 of those exemptions were given to people who would then buy black-market psilocybin, Bennett said.

When the health minister gave the exemptions, she added, it was because the patients making the requests were dying, and in distress.

She believes that the new special access program increases the number diseases or conditions for which psilocybin could be approved.

“The special access program is very clearly for serious and life-threatening illnesses, but the government has yet to define exactly what they mean by that,” she said.

One other element of the new program is that it requires the psilocybin to come from approved dealers.

Businesses are newly getting Health Canada approval to farm psychedelic mushrooms, make psilocybin and sell the compound to drug-makers, or to doctors to give to patients.

Optimi Health (CSE:OPTI), for example, received its dealer-licence approval in February, and it said in a May 25 statement that it has harvested its first batch of psilocybin and functional mushrooms.

Many other B.C. companies are also operating in the sector, and trying to produce psilocybin as cost effectively as possible. 

Optimi mushrooms

(Image: Some of Optimi’s mushroom harvest sits in a petri dish | Optimi Health)

Optimi plans on May 27 to cut proverbial ribbons on two buildings that each have about 10,000 square feet of space, and are in Princeton. One of those buildings is already about half occupied with Optimi staff growing psychedelic mushrooms, Optimi’s CEO Bill Ciprick told BIV. The other building is nearly complete.

Optimi employs about 25 staff, with about a handful of those being at a Vancouver head office, and the others in Princeton.

The company generated around $22 million from going public in February 2021, Ciprick said. It is spending up to $15 million to build the facilities on land that it is leasing for a small amount from two of its four co-founders: Bryan and Jacob Safarik. Its other two co-founders are Dane Stevens and JJ Wilson.

Optimi lost nearly $4.7 million in the six months that ended March 31, and it remains in what Ciprick called its “pre-revenue” period.

Sales just launched for nutraceutical products, which do not contain psilocybin and are sold through Vitasave and other retailers.

“We are generating revenue, and when we report our second quarter earnings we will be starting to show revenue – and hopefully from some psilocybin sales as well,” he said.

He added that psilocybin-supply agreements with “drug formulators” are likely to be announced soon.

His operation now involves workers growing and drying mushrooms before grinding them into a fine powder that can be put into drug capsules. 

“With mushrooms, you do vertical growth,” he said. “Picture these really fine, space-age looking racks.”

His mushroom-growing rooms have 20-foot ceilings, with the fungi grown in racks spaced 1.5 feet above each other, and rising up to 14 feet high.

Each of the racks holds black tubs that Ciprick said resemble the dish containers used in restaurants.

“The mushrooms just pin, and grow and kind of explode out of the substrate,” he said. “Then you’ve kind of got a window of time once they pin to harvest them before they get to the point that you lose some of the potency of the psilocybin-containing mushrooms.”

gkorstrom@biv.com

twitter.com/GlenKorstrom

ABOUT OPTIMI

(CSE: OPTI) (OTCQX: OPTHF) (FRA: 8BN)

FOR INTERVIEW REQUESTS OR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Investor Relations
Email: investors@optimihealth.ca
Phone: +1 (902) 880 6121
Web: www.optimihealth.ca

ABOUT OPTIMI (CSE: OPTI) (OTCQX: OPTHF) (FRA: 8BN)

Optimi Health Corp. is a Canadian-based company licensed by Health Canada to produce and supply natural, EU-GMP grade psilocybin and synthetic psychedelic substances, as well as functional mushrooms that focus on the health and wellness markets. Built with the purpose of producing scalable psychedelic formulations for transformational human experiences, the Company’s goal is to be the number one trusted, compassionate supplier of safe drug products throughout the world. Optimi’s products are grown at its two facilities comprising a total of 20,000 square feet in Princeton, British Columbia, making it the largest psilocybin and MDMA cultivator in North America.

FOR INTERVIEW REQUESTS OR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Investor Relations
Email: investors@optimihealth.ca
Phone: +1 (902) 880 6121
Web: www.optimihealth.ca

FORWARD‐LOOKING STATEMENTS

This news release contains forward‐looking statements and forward‐looking information within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation (collectively, “forward‐looking statements”) that relate to Optimi’s current expectations and views of future events. Any statements that express, or involve discussions as to, expectations, beliefs, plans, objectives, assumptions or future events or performance (often, but not always, through the use of words or phrases such as “will likely result,” “are expected to,” “expects,” “will continue,” “is anticipated,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimated,” “intends,” “plans,” “forecast,” “projection,” “strategy,” “objective,” and “outlook”) are not historical facts and may be forward‐looking statements and may involve estimates, assumptions and uncertainties which could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those expressed in such forward‐looking statements. No assurance can be given that these expectations will prove to be correct and such forward‐looking statements included in this news release should not be unduly relied upon. These statements speak only as of the date of this news release. In particular and without limitation, this news release contains forward‐ looking statements pertaining to activities proposed to be conducted under the Company’s dealer’s license and associated business related to Psilocybin and Psilocin and Optimi’s plans, focus and objectives.

Forward‐looking statements are based on a number of assumptions and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond Optimi’s control, which could cause actual results and events to differ materially from those that are disclosed in or implied by such forward‐looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the impact and progression of the COVID‐19 pandemic and other factors set forth under “Forward‐Looking Statements” and “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Annual information Form dated January 12, 2022, and other continuous disclosure filings available under Optimi’s profile at www.sedar.com. Optimi undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward‐looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required by law. New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for Optimi to predict all of them or assess the impact of each such factor or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause results to differ materially from those contained in any forward‐looking statement.

Any forward‐looking statements contained in this news release are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement.

Products do not contain psilocybin

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