March 17, 2022

The Billion-Dollar Psychedelic Drug Business

Who benefits from the psychedelic renaissance?

Psychedelic drugs are a billion dollar business. But there are currently a number of key people and for-profit organizations looking to control and profit from it. Nora and Scott speak with VICE senior staff writer Shayla Love, who reports on the psychedelic drug industry. She is also the co-producer of the VICE documentary The Battle Over Psychedelic Therapy's Future.

Hosts: Nora Ali & Scott Rogowsky
Producer: Bella Hutchins
Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus
Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder
Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop
Director of Audio: Alan Haburchak
VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer

Full transcript for this episode below.


Nora Ali: What do you think of when you hear the phrase psychedelic drugs?

Scott Rogowsky: I think of the Grateful Dead. And Wavy Gravy, the ice cream flavor.

Nora Ali: Wavy Gravy? What's Wavy Gravy?

Scott Rogowsky: Wavy Gravy is just a guy who used to hang out at Woodstock, and shows, and wear tie-dye. And then they made a Wavy Gravy ice cream flavor out of Ben and Jerry's. Basically, I think of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.

Nora Ali: Sure, yes. Yum.

Scott Rogowsky: Phish Food, Wavy Gravy. Tie-dye. It's got the sixties hippie connotations, but guess what? Psychedelics are back, baby.

Nora Ali: Psychedelics are back. And I think what's so cool about the combo we had is that now we know that it's this vast industry and it's this form of alternative therapy and there's so much research being done around it. And it's not just about the concerts and the ice cream, it is this whole booming industry now. And psychedelic drugs are a billion-dollar business, and there are currently a number of key people and for-profit organizations looking to control it and profit from it because of course. So Vice senior staff writer Shayla Love reports extensively on the psychedelic drug industry. She's also the co-producer of the Vice documentary, The Battle Over Psychedelic Therapy's Future, which you can watch online. And from Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that reveals the unexpected business story behind everything. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you conversations with creators, thinkers, and innovators who can tell us what it all means and why we should care. Now let's get down to business. Shayla Love, welcome to the show. Just to get us started here in our conversation about the psychedelics industry, can you tell us which psychedelics are currently being studied for therapeutic use?

Shayla Love: I think the short answer is almost all of them, including psychedelics that are brand new, that are being developed now that most people aren't aware of, but there are a couple that are sort of in the spotlight. Those are psilocybin, which is the main ingredient in magic mushrooms. That's being studied for depression. MDMA is being studied for post-traumatic stress disorder, but then there are others like LSD and DMT that are also being looked at for their potential in treating a whole host of different conditions. But I would say that MDMA and psilocybin are the closest to FDA approval for a certain condition.

Nora Ali: And there is some level of decriminalization in some states and cities, so can you give us a little more insight into where and how exactly the drugs you listed out are being used at the time?

Shayla Love: Yeah, for sure. So I think the biggest thing to mention here is in Oregon. So in 2020 Oregon passed Measure 109, which was a bill that allowed for legal adult psilocybin services. So it's kind of a technical term, which means that you can't just go out and sort of buy it recreationally, but people can apply to the state to create a psilocybin center and then people have to do training and get a license, but then you could go and visit one of these psilocybin centers in Oregon. And that's all starting in 2023. So I think a lot of eyes are on Oregon as a model for legal regulated psychedelic use. There are a couple bills in other states that either decriminalize, which just means you can't go to jail for possessing or selling, but this sort of framework of legal regulatory use is really first happening in Oregon. And I think if it works well, we might see that model copied in other states.

Scott Rogowsky: Medical marijuana was first legalized in California 25 years ago. It was heavily regulated at the time. You needed to be approved for a medical card and go to special doctors. And yet now, several states have legalized recreational marijuana, you just walk into a store. Now that Oregon has started the process, do you see the legalization of psychedelics playing out in similar way to marijuana?

Shayla Love: I think it will in the sense that there might be a future very soon where there's medical psychedelics. Like, "This is approved by the FDA," psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. And you would go to a doctor with a medical diagnosis and you would do a treatment and the FDA would outline like, it would be very regulated and specific. But then in Oregon, you don't have to have a medical diagnosis in order to go and partake in psilocybin services there. So it's not recreational in the way that marijuana is, but that could be coming, too, but I see it more of the medical model versus just a legal regulated model. What's complicated here and what makes this a lot different than marijuana is I think there's a lot more considerations when you think about psychedelic services, like the experience of taking psychedelics and the level of skill that's needed for somebody to sort of guide you through something. Some of the ethical considerations are a bit greater and I fully support decriminalization certainly, and also I think we just have tons of evidence that the criminalization of drugs is horrible for almost everybody involved in the equation. So I'm not saying that the medical model is better necessarily, but I think they will coexist, but in the legal regulated setting there's going to be some important considerations there that marijuana didn't really have to deal with.

Nora Ali: There are also facets of these drugs that are being addressed, where it's maybe not as familiar as the drugs that enthusiasts are familiar with, as you had written in some of your pieces where maybe the trip doesn't last forever, it's only for a set amount of time or there's no tolerance buildup and trying to prevent these kinds of side effects. What are the big companies that are springing up now actually focused on and addressing that maybe wasn't addressed in the past?

Shayla Love: Well, I think one cool thing about the psychedelic renaissance, which is what this past like 10 years of research is being called, is that it sort of gave permission to researchers again to investigate these compounds and also similar compounds or use them as starting points and come up with brand-new stuff. And so in some way, this is kind of just what drug discovery is. You have an interesting compound and then you try to tweak it in various ways. And this has been happening in the underground for a long time, too. This idea of designer psychedelic drugs for various reasons. Sasha Shulgin is the famous chemist who very bravely would tinker with chemicals and then try them on himself and then record what the subjective experience was like. Companies today aren't doing that. They're not quite as brave as Sasha was in consuming them themselves, but they do recognize that these are really interesting receptors in the brain that psychedelics seem to work with. And so they're trying to come up with new molecules that could be useful, or in some cases, they think could be even better than the ones we already know. So for example, you mentioned some of these. What if you could have a trip and instead of eight hours long, which is kind of like a psilocybin trip takes many, many hours, it only lasted two hours and you could do that through a variety of different fancy chemistry mechanisms. And the reason that could be a good thing is that you wouldn't need as much therapeutic support, which is very expensive to have somebody sitting with you. And so you could cut down the cost on that, right? Or you could have a psilocybin-like drug, which doesn't have... For some people, it can be a little bit difficult on their heart if they have preexisting heart issues, some people get stomach aches when they take psilocybin. So you could try to address all of these sort of less than ideal factors. And then some people are trying to remove the hallucination part of it altogether. So there's a guy called David Olson who's very well known for this work. His lab is working on what calling psychoplastogens, which will try to evoke the sort of neuroplasticity, increase in brain connection in the brain that these drugs can bring about, but without the sort of trip part of it. And again, maybe there are some cases in which that's better. A lot of people think that the trip is really important for the outcomes, so we won't really know until we have one that we can work with and test. But these are all in the works, and I think they're going to take a lot longer to sort of come online than the drugs that we have now, because drug discovery is just a super long and complicated process

Scott Rogowsky: Talking about a lot of the emerging technologies and synthesis of new psychedelics, but there's a lot of history here. This is not just a recent phenomenon, right? Let's take a step back and explain when scientists and researchers in the U.S. were first looking into the potential for psychedelics.

Shayla Love: So the first wave of psychedelic science happened in the fifties and the sixties. And this was when people like psychologists and psychiatrists began to give people LSD and MDMA, to a lesser extent psilocybin, and did therapy with them. And one of the big things that was used for is actually alcoholism. People used it for couples therapy for MDMA. It was used for all sorts of mental health conditions. And it was really thought to be compounds that could assist the psychotherapy process. But I think something to say about the early research is that it was really exciting, but also... I was just reading the other day, this account of a historian who was doing a history of Sidney Cohen, who's a very famous early psychologist who did work with psych psychedelic assisted therapy. And he talked about how, at the beginning, they gave LSD to a bunch of people and they didn't really have the right outcome, the outcomes that they expected. People didn't really get better. And so they were like, "That's weird. We must just not be giving this to the right people." So they shifted and they found a new group of people to give it to that it actually worked on. So that story is kind of reflective of how there was a little bit of a bias in the old research of these people really believing in these substances and really believing that they were going to work, that they would sort of turn a blind eye to when things didn't go exactly as they thought they would. And so I think the old research is really valuable in showing that there is something there and it's our job now to kind of more rigorously determine which outcomes and which people is this really a beneficial treatment for.

Nora Ali: Can you tell us, Shayla, a little bit more about the for-profit psychedelic companies that have popped up and specifically the ones that support, as you alluded to, this medical model, where maybe the FDA is involved, and what some of the avenues they're promoting are for these psychedelic assisted therapies for mental illnesses?

Shayla Love: Yeah. I think that most of the for-profit companies are really pushing for the medical model because that's a case in which, when you develop a drug, even a novel psychedelic, you're going to try to put that through clinical trials and submit it to the FDA and to the medical path way. One of the companies I've written about a lot is COMPASS Pathways. And that's just because they are sort of the big, first, rockstar psychedelic for-profit company. They also shifted from a nonprofit to a for-profit, which was kind of controversial at the time when they did that. And they are one of the closest companies to FDA approval with their psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression trials. They just released the phase IIb results at the end of last year. And so then there's phase three, and then you submit your data to the FDA. So they're one of the ones that are closest along. But yeah, I would, I think that most of the for-profit companies are really working within the medical model framework.

Scott Rogowsky: How would FDA approval of a drug like COMPASS's affect the cost of psychedelic therapies, particularly in places like Denver, Seattle, and other cities that have decriminalized psychedelics?

Shayla Love: This is a really good question. There's a lot to speculate and there's a lot that we don't really know yet. So on the one hand, if FDA approves a psychedelic drug, there's the possibility that it could be covered by insurance. So that's a really good thing because in a legal, regulated system, you're kind of just left up to market forces to determine what the cost of things are. So in Oregon, for example, you're going to have all of these psilocybin services center opening, and there's the hope that there would be a range of entry points in terms of price, but we're already seeing that there's going to be a lot of very fancy, expensive service centers that are open there and your insurance is not going to cover that. So FDA approval theoretically means insurance coverage. That's a good thing. The bad thing is that we have horrible insurance coverage for therapy in this country. I don't know if you guys have ever tried to get a therapist covered by insurance, they're all out of network. It's literally impossible.

Scott Rogowsky: Never.

Shayla Love: So I have no worries about the drug itself being covered by insurance, but we're talking about a really therapeutically intensive process where somebody has to sit with you, you have to have sessions before, you have to have sessions after, all those things are really important to feeling supported and having good outcomes. That's the piece of it that sounds kind of expensive that is the big question mark about insurance. And FDA has never regulated therapy before, so this is like a big black box that I think me and many other people have been asking questions about, and we just literally don't know the answer. But I think FDA approval could be a way for some people to access this at some sort of reduced cost through their health insurance. Again, that doesn't make it better than decriminalization, because you need both of those things at the same time, in my opinion. You need the option to access it through therapy. And also you need to not be able to go to jail if you want to do just legal use on your own. Both of those things feel really important to me. So they're just different pieces of the puzzle and different access points for when people have different reasons for wanting to try these drugs.

Nora Ali: Are there learnings from ketamine or MDMA, where for ketamine therapy, for example, a billion-dollar industry for treatment of depression and then the FDA is considering approving MDMA for the treatment of PTSD. For example, any learnings on cost junctures and insurance from those drugs or that's still unknown as well?

Shayla Love: Yeah. The thing with ketamine is, I think a lot of people consider it kind of a, not a failed rollout, but a less explosive rollout than people thought it would be. So there's only one version of ketamine that's approved by the FDA. It's kind of a ketamine analog and because ketamine was a legal drug before that, it's an anesthetic, people can prescribe the more traditional form of ketamine off label sort of gesturing at the data and the FDA approved version, which is for depression. But when a drug is off label, often insurance won't cover it. So we've seen a lot of ketamine clinics pop up. I wrote about a ketamine telemedicine service that just mails ketamine to your house. All of those are pretty expensive and they don't come with a lot of therapeutic support. It's just kind of you get an infusion at a clinic or you do this sort of app based video chat type service. And I have got some concerns around that. Not because I don't think that some people might ever be able to do telemedicine for psychedelics or might ever be able to do this sort of in and out type thing. But I think it should really be determined on a person's need, support need, rather than what they can afford. When I interview people who use the telemedicine ketamine thing, they were like, "Well, this is the only thing that I can afford. So this is the platform that I chose to do it in." So I think with ketamine, it's a bit different, because like I said, ketamine was a legal drug before this. Right now if FDA approves MDMA for PTSD, you couldn't just take an off-label version of MDMA instead. So I think there'll be more constrictions in where it's available.

Scott Rogowsky: I want to live in a world where there's equal access for ketamine amongst horses and people, right?

Shayla Love: Yeah, exactly. Even though I know you're joking, I'm just imagining in my brain, all the off-label MDMA, horse MDMA companies that would be springing up with really nice millennial marketing campaigns. And there's just a lot of companies popping up capitalizing on the hype and there's reason to be really excited, but these can be really powerful substances and people who come to them are often really vulnerable. So I just always feel like it's my position as a journalist and somebody writing about this field, to be really cautious, and wary, and always have that vulnerable person in my mind.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, we got to hold our horses because we're taking a quick break, but we'll be back in a keta-minute with more from Shayla Love. Let's talk about patenting, Shayla. Patenting has become one of the central issues around the future of psychedelics. You've talked about this for-profit company COMAPSS Pathways, which has been called out for, in your words, exhibiting monopolistic shady behavior. Can you tell us a little bit about the people behind COMPASS Pathways, their co-founders George and Katya?

Shayla Love: So Katya is a doctor. They have a history of mental illness in their family and they came across psilocybin-assisted therapy which really helped, according to them, numerous members in their family, one being a son and one being George's ex-wife. He talks about that in the documentary a little bit. And they started out as a nonprofit and then they made this shift to become a for-profit company, which sort of ruffled some feathers because I think it's something that's important to note here is, because of psychedelics legal status and because it's kind of been stigmatized and on the fringes of society, it's really been something that's philanthropically supported. Until now it was sort of boosted, and the researchers being funded by a group of philanthropists who exist in nonprofits and who really believed in this work. Then when COMPASS became a for-profit company, people were sort of like, "What do you mean it's for-profit?" They were just the first ones to say like, "Well, we're going to do this in the traditional kind of biotech way." And the traditional biotech way, and they say this all the time, and it's true, is that you form a for-profit company, you are developing compounds, you file patents on them, you file the patents so that you can get money from your investors, because you can promise them a return on investment. You go through clinical trials, then you sell the drug, and then you make money, and you pay everybody back, and that's the way it works. And that is the way that biotech has worked for a long time. The tricky thing here is that COMPASS is working with a version of psilocybin that people don't really think is that new. So usually when people file patents, you file on it on a new invention. And the controversy around COMPASS's patents, and I should say many other psychedelic patents, not just their patents, is how new is this this thing that you're saying you invented? So because psychedelics have been in underground for so long, there's a lot of stuff there, but the patent examiners don't always know where to look to see if it already existed before or in the case of COMPASS's patent, they have gotten patents on different crystal solid versions of psilocybin, which when you eat them and they're consumed into the body, it just turns into psilocybin again. There are people who argue that it's very much the same thing that's been in existence and used for thousands of years, including in indigenous cultures in Mexico. So I think what we're seeing here is really the clash of the typical biotech formula with a community that feels really strongly that these compounds have been around for a long time and claiming ownership over them isn't something that should be A, eligible under patent law, but also just ethically correct. And that's really been my interest in sort of this philosophical contention between sort of the traditional way of doing things and then a community that thinks otherwise.

Nora Ali: And the founders of COMPASS were pressed on this very question in the documentary. It led to a very interesting exchange, but are there any benefits to patenting psilocybin or the way that they're approaching it, and what is their defense at this point?

Shayla Love: The benefit is that you can have enough money to get through clinical trials. And it is true that this process is extreme expensive. I mean, they have multi-centers all over the world. It takes tons of time, and people, and resources to do this. And so having a patent just ensures that somebody's not going to swoop in and take your product and sort of then you lose out on your investors. But there was a big challenge against COMPASS's patents at the end of last year from a nonprofit called Freedom to Operate. And they did a lot of very complicated chemistry to try to prove that the specific solid of psilocybin that COMPASS uses has actually been made before. This was a really interesting process. They did it by going and finding old samples of psilocybin that would've been stored away in labs since the sixties and seventies, and testing those to try to find out if they were the same or not. And so if that challenge is accepted, then COMPASS could potentially lose some of its patents or have to amend them. And it's sort of unknown how that'll infect their investors or their business plan or whatever it is, right? So they still are the farthest along in terms of presenting their data to the FDA. So they're not going to lose that no matter what happens. I think it's really just about pulling enough money to get through the clinical trial process is the reason that I hear behind why people want patents.

Nora Ali: So benefits appease or help the company and help to appease investors, but are there benefits to patients who are seeking treatment if a company has a patent on psilocybin?

Shayla Love: It could be, but it depends what you do with the patent. So patents inherently are neither good nor bad, but what you do with your patent can make a big difference. So let's say you and I patent something, we get granted the patent and then we decide that we're going to charge $10,000 for it, for a single treatment. And nobody else can sell it because we own it. And if anybody else tries to, we sue them and then you know, their business folds and we make a bunch of money because we win the lawsuit. That would be a way that would punish patients, because we own it, we're able to set the price really high. Now you could say, we own the patent. I'm going to make sure that with my ownership, I always make this cost something that's affordable to other people, or I'm going to donate the patent to the public domain, or I'm going to share it with other people or I'm going to say, "I own this patent because I wanted to get to clinical trials, but I'm never going to sue anybody if they do the same thing as me." I'm going to be more open to competition. So it all depends what you do with the ownership. But I think in this case, there's so many unanswered questions about what exactly is going to be done with these patents. If they're going to be enforced, at what level they're going to be enforced, what the treatments are going to cost at the end of the road, that people are very nervous and they just want some sort of assurance that these patents aren't going to be used to create some kind of monopoly that creates a barrier to access. But I do think that one of the reasons that I covered the challenge is that the science in it was very impressive. And not only was it just that they did the science and submitted it in this challenge, they published it in a peer-reviewed journal. This work that they did of characterizing old psilocybin samples, that's a pretty big deal. Because you had people who honestly don't care about psychedelics at all. These are just, they're called crystallographers. They look at the shape of chemical structures. They peer reviewed this work and they were like, "Looks legit to us. We all agree." And it was published in [a] crystallography journal. And so the strength of that piece of evidence, and that'll be used as evidence in court if it gets there, means it'll be a very interesting year. I know that me and many other people have a close eye on that

Nora Ali: Crystallography is not something I'd ever thought about before.

Scott Rogowsky: Wait, which journal was that? Crystallography Quarterly or Crystallography Today? Because I have several subscriptions, but I want to make sure I'm getting the right one.

Shayla Love: It's called Acta C.

Scott Rogowsky: Oh, okay. Okay. I've got to renew that one.

Shayla Love: Yeah. So my parents are both crystallographers actually.

Scott Rogowsky: What?

Shayla Love: Yeah, so-

Nora Ali: What? So cool.

Shayla Love: This was a very interesting overlap in my expertise.

Nora Ali: Oh my gosh. You had context that most people just don't have naturally. That's amazing. All right, let's take a very quick break. More from Shayla when we come back. So, Shayla, there are a lot of players in the psychedelic business that you might not expect. One of them includes a soap company and the New York Times reported about Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, which donated more than $23 million to drug advocacy and research organizations. Reportedly, this company is one of the biggest financial supporters of efforts to win this mainstream acceptance of psychedelics also to loosen government restrictions on all illegal drugs. Why is a soap company interested in psychedelics? What's the story here?

Shayla Love: Yeah, I think this all just goes back to David Bronner who's the head of this company and who I've, I've spoken to several times. He is somebody who, as you gestured to, he helped a lot with Measure 109 in Oregon, donating money to that and helping the bill be passed. I think he's just somebody who really believes in psychedelic therapy and services to help. He's now offering insurance coverage to his employees if they want to try ketamine assisted therapy. Which this is really what people hope to happen in the future is that, not that everybody should do it and it's the right thing for every single person, but that if you want to try it, you can have it covered and it can be accessible. And so in that sense, I think that it's really great. But Dr. Bronner's soap labels have always had a bit of psychedelic flare to them. I remember that from a long time ago buying Dr. Bronner's. It's interesting to see a company have a personal interest in this, but I think we're seeing that psychedelics are becoming more and more like a nonpartisan topic. I think that comes a lot from the PTSD work in veterans that people are doing with MDMA and otherwise. And so we might soon see companies that you never expected to be advocating for and advertising psychedelics.

Scott Rogowsky: Are there other for-profit companies working in this space, in the psychedelic therapeutic space, besides COMPASS? I guess COMPASS is the biggest, but I did read about Field Trip Health, MindMedicine, are there others trying to compete with them? Or maybe nonprofits who are competing with the for-profits?

Shayla Love: Last November, I went to a conference called Wonderland, was held by Microdose, which is this conference company. It was in Miami and it was basically like a psychedelic business conference. And when I was there, I think it really clicked for me how many companies there are now. I mean just hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds. And I think one concern that I've heard is that before, maybe even five years ago, this was really a nonprofit-dominated space, but these nonprofits haven't really had to compete with companies that are really hardcore business, profit oriented. And so I think it'll be interesting to see how these two compete with one another. And I think at this point it's hard to tell who are the companies that are going to really stick around the longest

Nora Ali: With more and more of these for-profit companies popping up, this raises the question of what are their incentives? What are their ethics? And that is a question that you posed in one of your pieces called, "Is it possible to create an ethical psychedelics company?" Based on your reporting, what would an ethical psychedelic company look like?

Shayla Love: Most of these psychedelic companies, they say that they care about mental health, right? That's why they all theoretically exist. And so the ethics of a company sort of depends on what their goals are. So the ethics for a mental health company might be different than the ethics for an environmental company, for instance. So to me, I'm a mental health reporter first and foremost, not a drugs reporter. So to me, for a company, a mental health company, to be ethical, that means thinking almost primarily about access and also responsibility of, what are you going to do if something goes wrong, basically. And with psychedelics, we've started to see that even though these can be very safe substances in some ways, when really vulnerable people take them, or when there are facilitators or guides who have unethical activity, people can be really harmed and really damaged. And so I think about these factors of not letting the desire for profit outweigh the ability for equitable access for all people. And then also just not being too dogmatic in your overarching belief that these substances will magically work for everybody. I think a big part of the ethics is not promising blanket cures for every condition under the sun and building a lot of accountability into your model from the beginning. And then the third branch also is something that some companies have started to do, but not many, is this a idea of indigenous reciprocity. And I think even broader than that sort of reciprocity towards the prohibition movement, or the criminalization of drugs movement and thinking about, if you're profiting off something that was made illegal and so many people suffered from doing illegal drugs, are you going to just- There's a similar conversation with marijuana, people getting rich off marijuana while people are in jail for selling small amounts of marijuana. So I think there's many ethical buckets that people could be delving into if they really want to have a super-ethical company.

Nora Ali: Are you optimistic that these for-profit companies are going to take an ethical approach at the end of the day as a whole?

Shayla Love: Capitalism, man. I don't know. It's hard because it's not just about the individual companies, it's about the greater system that we live in, too, right? I think there's this unfortunate reality, which is that when you live in a capitalistic system and you decide not to value profits above everything else, it either ironically takes a lot of money to do that to begin with, or you end up losing, or you don't, you're not able to rise to the top or even have any power whatsoever. So I hope with psychedelics that because there's this really strong preexisting culture, that in some cases does want to do well, that there can be some way to overcome those challenges. But a lot of what I think about is how psychedelics will not be existing in their own sort of separate, magical healthcare system where everybody has access, but our regular healthcare system is so terrible. So I think that actually the way to make psychedelics roll out better is to not think about psychedelics, but to think about the other systems that they're going to exist within, which then would benefit even people who aren't taking psychedelics. I said this before, but something like universal healthcare would benefit so many people, it would also make the roll out of psychedelic medicine a billion times better. Decriminalization of drugs would affect people who never use psychedelics, but use other kinds of substances, that would really benefit the way that we treat drug crime in this country, which is horrendous. It would also benefit people who take psychedelics. So I think thinking outside it, like having a less myopic approach to just psychedelics, but thinking about the bigger systems that cause problems, is the best way to make psychedelics roll out better.

Nora Ali: What a smart answer. Thanks. Thanks, Shayla.

Scott Rogowsky: Thank you, Shayla for, for filling us in on the psychedelic status of things. Now it's time to put you to the test, the Electric Kool-Aid test. It's time for Quizness Casual, the Business Casual quiz. This is your wheelhouse. So by the way, you also have Nora here to help you out.

Shayla Love: Okay, we're teammates.

Scott Rogowsky: The two of you of you are going to go- Yes. Two of you teaming up, teammates, shroom-mates. For today's quiz, all about psychedelics. You ready-

Shayla Love: Ready.

Scott Rogowsky: To get down to the nitty gritty. Here it is. Qumero numero uno: Who is credited with popularizing the phrase, "Turn on, tune in, drop out"? Norman Mailer, Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, or Mario Savio?

Shayla Love: Oh, it's multiple choice. Even better. I know the answer unless Nora, you want to answer?

Nora Ali: She knows- I don't want to attempt, because I have no idea. Give it to us, Shayla.

Shayla Love: It's Timothy Leary.

Scott Rogowsky: That's right. The counterculture era phrase, "Turn on, tune in, and drop out" was popularized by a writer, psychologist, and psychedelics advocate Timothy Leary in 1966. We saw him in the documentary saying those very words to a large group of hippies, I assume. All right, question two. What was the name of the group that developed around the novelist Ken Kesey and was immortalized in Tom Wolfe's 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? The Fools, The Beats, The Merry Pranksters, or Hell's Angels?

Shayla Love: So my instinct is that, The Beats in general was the bigger countercultural group movement of the time. But The Merry Pranksters is ringing a lot of alarm bells for me from having read that book back in high school, actually. So I'm going to go with The Merry Pranksters, even though that might be wrong.

Nora Ali: The Merry Pranksters. Is it right? Is it wrong?

Shayla Love: No, I was wrong.

Scott Rogowsky: Merrily we roll along, because yes, The Merry Pranksters is correct.

Shayla Love: Okay.

Scott Rogowsky: Ken Kesey, who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and was also big into the psychedelic scene, him and his Merry Pranksters lived communally at Kesey's homes in California and Oregon. And they took that famous trip across the U.S. in a painted school bus called Further. The bus came on and I got on, that's where it all began. Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, all part of the scene. It was a good time to be alive from what I can tell from all the reading I've done, but nice job. Two for two.

Nora Ali: Nice.

Scott Rogowsky: Shayla and Nora killing it. Here we go. Q3, the final question: Which of following is not considered to be a psychedelic drug?

Shayla Love: Ooh, controversial. Very controversial.

Scott Rogowsky: Oh, this is controversial, but what do you think? Toad venom, mescaline, ibogaine, or St. John's wart?

Shayla Love: Oh, okay. I know the answer. Not so controversial, actually.

Nora Ali: Shayla's a genius.

Shayla Love: Because there is some kerfuffle about whether ketamine should be considered a psychedelic. There's some drugs that are sort on the fringes. Ketamine is one of those that people... Different receptors are at play there, but St. John's wart is my answer here.

Nora Ali: What is St. John's wart?

Shayla Love: It's something that you can accidentally drink in tea and then it'll fuck you up from the times I've accidentally had it.

Scott Rogowsky: I don't want to ingest anything that is called a wart. You know what I mean? But St. John's wart is a flowering shrub. It is not considered psychedelic, although it does contain active ingredients like Hyperforin.

Shayla Love: Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: Not a psychedelic substance, but yes, sometimes used to enhance mood and treat mild depression. Congratulations. You're three for three, Shayla. You're in rare air here. You and Gary V. I believe are three for threes.

Shayla Love: Very cool. I'm glad I unearthed that piece of knowledge from high school.

Nora Ali: Shayla was more confident. She was more confident in every answer than anyone else we've ever had on this show.

Shayla Love: Wow, cool.

Nora Ali: So great job, Shayla.

Shayla Love: Yeah, good to know. 

Nora Ali: She just knew every-

Scott Rogowsky: You're on a different wavelength, Shayla. So that's what it is, just surrendering to the flow. One with the universe, Shayla Love and psychedelics. Thanks for your time.

Nora Ali: Thanks, Shayla.

Shayla Love: Yeah, thanks for having me. It was fun.

Scott Rogowsky: We love hearing from our Business Casual listeners, so please hit our line. We're working on an upcoming episode about Zillow and the housing market. And we want to hear all about your experiences buying or selling in this white-hot housing market. Have you tried to buy a house? Have you tried to sell a house? Are you getting squeezed out, priced out, like I am? Send us an email at or DM us on Twitter @bizcasualpod, that's B-I-Z casual pod, with your thoughts.

Nora Ali: You can also leave us a voice memo on our website,, or give us a ring and leave us an old-fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. As Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners old and new. Drop us a line and don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from so we can hear from you in a future episode.

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is produced for profit by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins, additional production sound design, and crystallography by Daniel Marcus. Alan Haburchak is the director of audio at Morning Brew. Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia. Music in this episode from Daniel Marcus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get nasty with your casty. And we'd love it if you give us a great rating and a review. 

Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.

Nora Ali: Keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual, man. Far out.