The vote upends plans for a massive psychedelic wellness ranch outside Ashland, but Silo Wellness CEO Mike Arnold says he plans to keep trying.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has voted to restrict mushroom retreat centers to commercial zones, upending a proposed business venture between Silo and the New Frontier Ranch: a 960-acre psychedelic wellness retreat in rural Jackson County.
Mike Arnold, founder and CEO of publicly-traded psilocybin therapeutics company Silo Wellness, says the board’s decision only punishes people trying to use the drug in a therapeutic way. (The vote comes at the same time reporters discovered a Portland retailer is selling psilocybin mushrooms openly, defying of both federal law and Oregon statutes, the latter of which only permits sale and use of the drug in a therapeutic setting.)
In October, Arnold’s company, Silo Wellness, announced plans for a psychedelic wellness ranch on a rural property near Ashland. At the time Arnold worried that plans for the ranch could be undone by the results of a ballot measure that would keep psilocybin use illegal in Jackson County.
That measure failed. In its wake, however, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners introduced an ordinance mushroom retreat centers to commercial zones — that is, developed areas like highway corridors and the cities of Medford and Ashland. Last week, the board voted in support of the ordinance.
Arnold, who also runs a psilocybin retreat business in Jamaica, says his search for a retreat venue in his home state continues, and that limiting psilocybin companies to cities means less competition for Silo in the short term.
“One of our competitors has spent $5 million in Jackson County and now doesn't get to play ball. Scarcity means here's opportunity for entrepreneurs, because scarcity equals consistent demand and more expense for the people that need the medicine,” Arnold says. “I guess Silo Wellness wins in the short term. But in the long term we all lose because this company exists for our clients because it is artificial scarcity.”
Now he’s looking for a business to partner with in the city of Medford or Ashland where the products can be consumers before taking participant out into nature, which he says can be a crucial component of the therapy process.
Rick Dyer, who has served on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners since 2014, says caution was the driving force behind the board’s decision. He says he understands the potential benefits of these nature-based mushroom retreats, but referenced a 2016 John Hopkins University Study, which urged caution applying therapeutic psilocybin mushrooms, and recommended enclosed rooms as the most suitable environments for Psilocybin.
“I weighed [the retreats] against the potential negative impacts, which is an all-cash business being operated in a remote area where resources may be hard to get to. I didn't feel that the need outweighed the potential negative impacts,” Dyer says.
Arnold says the commission’s decision didn’t consider the full scope of current psilocybin literature, including a 2020 literature review from the Imperial College in London that found that “Maximizing enhancement of nature relatedness through therapeutic psychedelic administration may constitute an independent and complementary pathway towards improvements in mental health that can be elicited by psychedelics.”
“In the literature they find the results are best when operated in large rooms, but of course that’s what they’re going to find because that’s where the vast majority of the research has been conducted up to this point so far,” Arnold says.
Arnold says the actual selling of the mushrooms isn’t the primary source of the company’s revenue, and Dyer acknowledged that the potential black market from operations of psilocybin had little chance of become the same large-scale grow operations of illegal cannabis that have continued to crop up in the state even after legalization.
Dyer says the door is “never entirely shut” on psilocybin retreats, and that laws can change in the face of new evidence.
“Let's see how it works in the commercial zones and municipalities that are allowing it. Let's see how this works and see how this evolves,” says Dyer. “Then we can open that door.”
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