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Such changes don’t make the drugs legal — just the lowest level of priority for police enforcement. Oregon took it a step further, voting in November to legalize psilocybin — but only in a therapeutic setting. Exact rules on what that entails have yet to be worked out.
For risk-friendly investors, it’s these very ambiguities that makes psychedelics attractive.
For cannabis in North America, new investors would be “a little bit late to the game. There are already a few strong cannabis fund managers,” said Bek Muslimov, a co-founding partner at London-based venture firm Leafy Tunnel.
Leafy Tunnel is building a portfolio of around 15 companies, investing only in seed and Series A rounds with a 50-50 split on global psychedelic firms and cannabis companies based only in Europe, where he says the marijuana sector is less developed than in the U.S. He said the fund is taking a long-term view on the psychedelic industry with a 10 to 15 year horizon.
Current investments include Atai Life Sciences AG, backed by Thiel, and Synthesis, a psychedelic retreat in the Netherlands. Psilocybin mushrooms are illegal there, but a loophole means that the root of the plant — known as a “truffle” — can be used.
In Pot’s Footsteps
As with marijuana, there’s already a thriving black market for psychedelics that speaks to their popularity. And attitudes are changing, thanks in part to Michael Pollan’s 2018 book on micro-dosing and a designation from the Food and Drug Administration the same year that fast-tracked a psilocybin-based treatment for depression from Compass Pathways based on preliminary clinical evidence. Investors noticed. When Compass, also backed by Thiel, went public this September, its shares jumped 71 per cent in the first day of trading.