nce upon a Dutch heyday, Amsterdam cornered the market on law-abiding-but-weed-loving tourists.
Well, not anymore.
Now the days of the Netherlands’ monopoly on the legal shroom trip industry are numbered, too.
Next year, Oregon becomes the first state in the nation where it will be legal for adults to take psilocybin—the active ingredient found in magic mushrooms—as a therapeutic treatment watched over by a trained facilitator.
A handful of hippie-luxe spots in Southern Oregon—an easy day’s drive or flight from Portland and San Francisco—are aiming to open by spring 2023, catering to trip-seeking tourists who want their shrooms with a splash of spa retreat and a side of organic meals. In the metro area, day-use clinics are already planning for a rush of people in search of guided trips.
It’s an enticing tourism prospect, particularly in Portland, where the hospitality industry has been agonizingly slow to bounce back after the upheavals of the pandemic. (And if some county commissioners around the state get their way, it may not pan out—psilocybin is heading back to the ballot in a number of counties this fall, with voters being given the chance to opt out of the statewide legalization.)
“The fact that the [statewide] measure passed in Oregon is such a testament to how much people are looking for alternative ways of healing and treatment,” says Myles Katz, cofounder and director of business development with the Synthesis Institute, a psilocybin retreat based in the Netherlands that plans a location in Ashland.
Josh Lehner, an economist at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, says it’s hard to predict just how big this new slice of the tourism industry might get, but: “All the indications are that it will create increased travel into Oregon.”
The local tourism infrastructure will be new, but tripping on psilocybin isn’t. Indigenous cultures have been using it to treat ailments for thousands of years. More recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore have found that psilocybin can be used to treat mental illness, including anxiety and depression.
Katz, who relocated to Oregon in 2020 from the Netherlands in anticipation of the psilocybin industry boom, has purchased a sprawling 124-acre estate at the historic Buckhorn Springs Resort, complete with a restored eight-bedroom lodge, a five-bedroom house, 11 cabins, 80 acres of woodland, two creeks, and a meadow.
“Being out in nature and connecting with nature while you’re having these experiences magnify the benefits that are possible,” he says. His current plan is to hold three- and five-day group retreats, including meditation, yoga, breathwork, and the chance to commune with your fellow travelers.
Also in the Rogue Valley area, two more psilocybin entrepreneurs are seeking the perfect space for a retreat center to offer stays of up to 30 days—though Jackson County is among those where voters will reconsider the measure this fall.
Jyoti Ma and Prema Sagara hope to run their psilocybin center, Moksha Journeys, alongside a microdosing café for day trippers, journal workshops, and a farm-to-table restaurant. Ma had planned to purchase property on the same grounds as their planned Nexus Center for Consciousness, a retreat space they envision as “a country club for the brain,” with meditation training, Zen gardens, an elixir and tonic bar, floatation tanks, and vibroacoustic therapy. Should the county's voters have other ideas, she says they'll seek out other spots elsewhere in the state.
“We’ve also been approved as a trial site for new virtual reality technology that induces a psychedelic experience without drugs,” says Ma. “With all of these technologies coming together, people will be transforming already, and then they’ll be more ready for psilocybin.”
Ma, who wants to offer psilocybin as an alleviation for a range of disorders, including substance abuse and PTSD, is particularly focused on the veteran community, a group she says is “now going out of the country for these services.”
The pushback from county commissioners is a setback for these would-be psilocybin entrepreneurs. Some counties, like Clackamas, will be voting for a temporary, two-year opt-out, while others such as Jackson will consider a permanent ban, though that would affect only unincorporated communities, leading to a patchwork of regulations. (The city of Ashland in Jackson County, for example, has voted to not put the measure on the ballot. The sites Katz and Ma have selected are both in unincorporated communities nestled on the outskirts of Ashland.)
"From our stance as business owners, this isn't an ideal situation," Katz told Portland Monthly. "But there's a lot of reason to be optimistic since voters passed the measure in 2020. It's actually brought Jackson County psilocybin practitioners, facilitators, and everyone together in a way that wouldn't have otherwise happened." And if the vote does somehow end up going against Measure 109 this time around? Katz says he still plans to use the space he purchased to train other psilocybin practitioners.
Back in Portland, where psilocybin legalization will not be going back to voters this November, some clinics that already practice psychotherapy are looking to expand their offerings. Dr. Seth Mehr says he’ll be adding psilocybin services to his Northeast Portland ketamine clinic, Cascade Psychedelic Medicine, hoping to cater to elderly patients with end-of-life anxiety. Mehr is readying the space for the clinic’s psilocybin experience, which he says will have “live musical instruments” to emulate the feel of a “sound bath environment.” The dimly lit room also has trippy planetarium-style lights on the ceiling to further create the mood.
“So, people are lying down, super comfortable, and have this kind of ambient lighting and stuff around them to support the journey,” he says. “The space in the setting itself is a very integral part of this process, and helping people feel safe and comfortable is a very important part of this treatment.”
Sessions will be all-day events beginning with a discussion of intentions and guided mediation; the full psilocybin experience will last roughly four to six hours. Afterwards, you can hunker down in the “post-journey reflection space” to sip tea, journal, or do some art.
“People are paying thousands of dollars and traveling across the world to do this, so I’m sure there’s going to be a tourist boom here,” he says. “I imagine that most any service center that gets a license is going to be overwhelmed with clients.”
It’s critical to have options in the metro area, says clinical psychologist and researcher Alissa Bazinet, particularly for those who “can’t take a weekend and go out of town and spend several whole days having an experience,” she says.
Bazinet is the cofounder of the nonprofit Sequoia Center, which already provides psychedelic-assisted therapy, including ketamine.
She and her partners plan a separate psilocybin center in a converted home in North Portland, where Bazinet says she’ll offer the emerging field of “psychedelic integration,” aimed at helping people make sense of their psilocybin trip after the fact.
“These experiences,” she says, “can really bring things up for people that they weren’t necessarily expecting.”