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Princeton mushroom research and development facility officially opens, sells first grow of psilocybin mushrooms

First batch of 'shrooms sold

Casey Richardson

A new cultivation facility that is hoping to change lives with psychedelic mushrooms had their grand opening on Friday in Princeton, after being awarded a dealer's license in February by Health Canada.

Optimi Health Corp. is a Canadian company that researches, develops and grows psilocybin-producing mushrooms and functional mushrooms. The company has been building its two adjacent 10,000 square foot facilities since August 2020.

The grand opening event and reception invited investors, stakeholders and the residents of Princeton to take a tour through the facilities. Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne and UK Conservative MP Crispin Blunt spoke in support of the facility.

Businesses have been recently receiving approval from Health Canada to farm psychedelic mushrooms, make psilocybin and sell the compound to drug-makers, or to doctors to give to patients.

Todd Henderson, the head of cultivation at Optimi, said that as a Metis with Cree heritage, he was drawn into joining the company to carry on work he learned at a young age as a part of his culture.

“Mushrooms have been a part of our culture for hundreds of years, this is something I picked up early and I've just carried it on. I'm the next generation doing it,” he said.

“This is a natural medicine. They're creating medicine synthetically, and giving it to people to do exactly what this can do. The potential for psilocybin is untouched.”

Approval of providing the psychedelic compound that comes from magic mushrooms started after Health Canada launched a program in January that allows physicians to request government approval for patients to access psilocybin.

Without that approval, using psilocybin is currently illegal.

“There's really been medical curiosity, but then also historical evidence of where it can make a big difference in anxiety, depression and PTSD. and a life existentialism and addictions I mean, it used to be routinely used,” Bill Ciprick, Optimi CEO said.

There are still stigmas that exist around the use of psychedelics.

“That was there was a reason why in the 70s, that the Nixon government put in place the Controlled Substances Act, which then kind of got spread to 140 countries around the world. Some of it was warranted, some of it was not warranted. And quite frankly, most of the bad press was with LSD," Ciprick added.

“Psilocybin is the most studied psychedelic molecule right now, around the world. And there are literally hundreds of trials that are being done, and more forthcoming.”

Ciprick said there needs to be more outcome data and studies on the psilocybin-producing mushrooms to give that comfort level heading forward into introducing a larger market for the product.

It’s not only psychedelic mushrooms that are being grown, Optimi also has its hand in functional mushrooms that will go into their nutraceutical side.

“I'm excited that we're the first doing it. I think it's incredible that here in Princeton, BC .This is the pinnacle of this medicine coming to fruition naturally,” Henderson said.

The team has been focused on creating an environment that can be perfectly controlled for production.

The psilocybin mushrooms are headed to clinical trials, drug companies and medical facilities.

“I'm excited that we pulled our first crop down. It's already sold to Halucenex in Nova Scotia, we're excited about that. We have other deals on the books already,” Henderson said.

“It's one thing to to put an amazing facility in place, but then to actually concentrate that with our first sale of the first batch of psilocybin mushrooms. I think for everybody, myself included, it was a very proud moment,” Ciprick added.

Optimi hopes to see others have a chance to see the work they’re doing and their commitment to being a standing natural GMP psilocybin producer.

“I want people to be excited about natural medicine. Don't be afraid of psilocybin, we're not growing it as a recreational drug here, we're growing it, GMP (good manufacturing practices) to be used in medical practice,“ Henderson said.

In their 10,000 square foot facility, production of natural GMP psilocybin for use by approved entities in clinical trials and individuals granted access by Health Canada will be given through legal mechanisms such the Special Access Program and Section 56 exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.



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