There’s magic in mushrooms for Jamaica, says Senator Longmore
Recognising the potential exponential growth of the psilocybin (magic mushrooms) industry, Government Senator Dr Saphire Longmore is continuing her strong push for the controlled use of the substance for medical/spiritual purposes in Jamaica.
She said Jamaica has the potential to capitalise on the industry which is projected to grow to more than $85 billion by 2028.
Dr Longmore, who was making her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday, said that Jamaica is already catching on with “sophisticated presentations” including legal psilocybin-assisted therapy retreats.
“You have, at this present time, over 20 retreats. One retreat in Treasure Beach reports contributing over US$1 million to the local economy last year — one retreat,” she said.
The senator, who is a psychiatrist, said that in addition to the monetary benefits for the country, “there is definitely magic in mushrooms for Jamaica,” for addressing some of the psychological issues some Jamaicans face, especially people who have a history of trauma.
“We are seeing where it is effective in treating refractured depression, suicidality, substance use disorders, [and] one of the personality disorders which tend to be associated with violence like antisocial personality disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, etcetera,” she said.
Known to be an illegal recreational drug, magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, the main psychedelic compound found in more than 200 species of fungi (mushrooms). Psychedelics are a class of hallucinogenic substances that produce changes in perception, mood and cognitive processes.
The compound has been used for therapeutic and spiritual purposes by cultures around the world for thousands of years.
Research has found that extracts from mushrooms can treat psychiatric and psychosomatic illnesses. Psilocybin has been used to treat ailments such as chemical dependency, obsessive compulsive disorder, cluster headaches, and other psychological disorders.
Dr Longmore has long been advocating the use of psilocybin and in 2020 moved a private member’s motion in the Senate calling for the standardisation of the psilocybin industry.
She told the Senate on Friday that she had moved the motion at the time as she saw the potential of the substance but also saw the need for the safe application of its use.
“A lot of people are hearing the stories of bad ‘trips’, and people having very negative experiences. Let me just indicate that it is very critical that the person who is guiding you through its use is qualified or is able to do so [or] else the mere processing of the traumas can end up being a very bad experience, and that is what, in my experience, has made persons have this very negative association with it, where they’ll take the substance in a setting that is not good,” she said.
“So they take a high dose and go party and they may be drinking or smoking along with it and they end up having serious problems. Or it is being administered by someone who is not trained to help the person navigate it. But if it is applied in a way that is trained, you can have a transformation in the individual. I have treated persons, testimonies [of] people who are suicidal, who are substance users — none of that anymore; absolutely fantastic potential,” she said.
Dr Longmore noted that there are formulations of the substance, including gummies and capsules, but stressed the requirement for caution, especially with children.
She said she now chairs the Jamaica Psilocybin Industry Working Group which is in the process of “seeing to the formal standardisation of this industry for its safe and available use in our space”.
“We [are seeking] to ensure that it is the actual players in the industry, the persons who are growing, the persons who are actively involved in retreats, the academics, we are all sitting down and we are all formulating the standards for this industry to ensure that it is not too restrictive but it becomes something that the regular Jamaican who can benefit from it will have access to it and the potential for mental health care and spiritual health care is truly amazing,” she said.
The working group was established last month by the industry, investment and commerce ministry through the Bureau of Standards Jamaica to study and understand the production and distribution arrangements, recommend suitable methods to facilitate, enable and encourage the standardisation of practices and the growth of the psilocybin industry in the country.
The group’s work will extend for a period of up to six months by which time a full report will be submitted for consideration by the ministry. Recommendations to Cabinet may follow that review.
In July 2021, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Floyd Green said that the Government had put in place interim protocols to facilitate the cultivation and processing of psilocybin mushrooms in Jamaica.
Green said Jamaica has never promulgated laws to make psilocybin illegal in the country, therefore it is legal to grow magic mushrooms here.