SPURRED by a growing interest in the research of psilocybin mushrooms, otherwise called magic mushrooms, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro) is encouraging more locals to get involved in the fledgling industry.
According to Carol Straw, manager of tourism at Jampro, the investment promotion and trade marketing agency has identified opportunities in cultivation, development of facilities that can process the fungus according to international standards, development of facilities for treatment, and research and development.
“Our primary interest is to position Jamaica as a primary destination for research and development, particularly in the use of the mushroom for developing treatments, and also the potential for export,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
Psilocybin mushrooms are considered in jurisdictions around the world as a Schedule 1 drug; however, it has been used in the treatment of mental disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder around the world. Despite its designation as a drug in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for studies of psilocybin in depression disorders.
University of California, Los Angeles; New York University; and Johns Hopkins University are among the research institutions in the US that have conducted studies on psilocybin.
Locally, the Bio-tech Research and Development and the Natural Products institutes — both located on the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies — and the Scientific Research Council have carried out their own studies.
Currently, there are no regulations in Jamaica prohibiting use of the psilocybin.
Based on figures provided by Jampro, demand for psilocybin is growing at a rate of 16.3 per cent annually with the global market valued at US$6.85 billion.
In July last year Sweden's Klaria Pharma Holdings signed an agreement with Montego Bay-based Pure Jamaica to jointly engage in research and development and distribution of psilocybin.
“There are very established players in the area of psilocybin from a local perspective. They also have overseas partners. There have been other local persons — well established —who have partnered with doctors and other persons who are looking at doing investments in Jamaica,” Straw explained.
“So, there is pretty good interest locally from both the investment standpoint and even from the perspective of research,” she continued.
Straw added that there are still opportunities for other Jamaicans to get involved in the value chain of the product at all levels — manufacturers, farmers and clinicians. But, primarily, Jampro is “interested in positioning the country as a destination for research and development”. She also believes that Jamaica's location is ideal for North Americans to travel to for treatment as part of a value proposition for medical tourism.
“There is still some work to be done behind the scenes to build the industry. But as it stands right now, there is nothing to stop you from moving ahead with investments,” Straw admitted.