Canada’s largest magic mushroom plant opens in Princeton

Todd Henderson, a top researcher at Optimi Health, explains the properties of functional mushrooms. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

It would be no exaggeration to say the grand opening of Optimi Health, Princeton’s new magic mushroom facility, blew a few minds.

More than 200 people gathered in the town’s industrial park May 27 to meet the company’s founders, enjoy a free barbecue, and tour the research and production side of Canada’s largest licensed psychedelics plant.

Optimi CEO Bill Ciprick said when production is at its peak, the company will employ between 25 and 50 people, some of whom will be locally hired and trained.

The $14-million mushroom factory consists of two 10,000 square-foot buildings, and is a sister company to BC Green Pharmaceuticals, which runs a medical cannabis operation on an adjacent site.

Addressing the audience, Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne said Optimi is “changing Princeton’s future.”

It’s hoped that prescription psilocybin will prove effective in treating mental health issues, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Soon, Optimi plans a trial of micro doses of psilocybin administered to people with depression.

Psychedelics are already being permitted for use by Health Canada in certain circumstances, such as for patients experiencing stress at end of life, through a special access program.

Ciprick said he’s optimistic that in the next 18 to 24 months, regular practitioners will be able to prescribe psilocybin from their offices.

Members of the Optimi executive team – JJ Wilson, Bryan Safarik, Dane Stevens and Bill Ciprick – cut the ribbon at the new Princeton facility Friday, May 27. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

Optimi Health is Canada’s largest producer of natural, Good Manufacturing Practices-certified psilocybin and functional mushrooms.

Functional mushroom products are already licensed for use and can be purchased over the counter.

They do not contain psychedelic properties and are sometimes associated with holistic and traditional medicines.

Some can be found in the wild, and are foraged by hobbyists across British Columbia.

The Optimi facilities are sterile and security is paramount. Visitors must present government identification, don plastic gowns, booties and hair caps, and experience an ‘air shower’ before entering the research and production areas.

Mushrooms are nurtured from spores (there is a spore bank) under controlled circumstances, grown and then naturally dried before processing.

The product is then tested in a lab with equipment modelled on the technology employed by forensic crime labs. The finished mushrooms are stored in a large vault with walls more than a foot thick, monitored by video surveillance and vibration sensors to detect anyone trying to drill into the vault.

Bryan Safarik, one of the company’s principals, said the entire effort is driven by a desire to provide alternative and successful therapies for mental health patients. “More effective answers to the challenges of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders seem tantalizingly possible. For those areas struggling with the twin traumas of COVID-19’s mental health fallout and an overdose crisis, this help can’t come too soon.”

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