On April 19, the Hotel Fontainebleau Miami Beach hosted the inaugural Benzinga Psychedelics Capital Conference, billed as “bringing together the leaders of the LARGEST publicly traded psychedelic companies with investors from across North America.” General admission was $697, plus a $26.86 fee. Attendees were promised a “chance to be in the room with the leaders who will take the psychedelics industry to the next level.”
Indeed, capitalism is already tripping over itself to trip people over legal psychedelics. The estimated market opportunity hovers around hundreds of billions of dollars, according to conference keynote speaker Kevin O’Leary of the hit reality show “Shark Tank.” The industry includes a range of products beyond LSD, including psilocybin – the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms – as well as mescaline, MDMA and the hallucinogen DMT, found in Amazonian ayahuasca.
Psychedelics are still illegal under US federal law, in keeping with the longstanding US “war on drugs” that has so easily served elite corporate interests and militarization agendas overseas. and in the country – and which has historically criminalized, among others, black Americans and anti-Vietnam War protesters. But just as criminalization benefits the powers that be, legalization can also pay off. And as venture capitalists, investors, Silicon Valley tech bros and Big Pharma players currently rush to kick down the doors of perception in the realm of decriminalized psychedelics, capitalism’s latest hallucination is about to take place. to become reality.
To that end, the Visual Capitalist website offers a “Practical Visual Guide to Investing in Psychedelics,” surveying issues such as psychedelic capital flows, global psychedelic drug market forecasts, and research and development and clinical trials by various companies aimed at using psychedelics to treat conditions like anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Entrepreneurs are no doubt right to detect a gargantuan market in the United States and elsewhere for effective mental health treatments, but it is no less mind-boggling to argue that the very capitalist system that is responsible for generating vast alienation and mental disorders should now be in the business of rectifying the situation with the same approach of profiteering on people.
After all, the globalized brand of American capitalism is predicated on gross socio-economic inequality and the tyranny of the rich – hardly an arrangement that discourages depression and anxiety. Poverty and other societal ills are presented as a failure of the individual rather than of the system of racist patriarchy, which only allows the “success” of a privileged minority.
To be sure, it’s not to rain down on the whole parade of psychedelics – which potentially promises significant relief for many humans (or at least those who can afford treatment). A recent Washington Post dispatch by Maryland oncologist Manish Agrawal, for example, praises evidence that psychedelics can “reduce the anxiety of death that many cancer patients feel.” Psychedelics aren’t new either; in its deepening March 2022 report for The Nation, titled “The Brave New World of Legalized Psychedelics Is Already Here”, Zoe Cormier notes that “before we got our hands on it, Indigenous cultures used psychedelics for thousands of years as ritual sacraments”.
Now, however, the soulless rush to extract individual profit by twisting, commodifying and patenting these “old compounds” is depressing enough in itself – even before we get into the details.
Among the ground covered by Cormier: bankrupt or non-operating Canadian mining companies that spontaneously converted into psychedelic sets, thanks to the fact that the companies continued to “exist[ence] as a legal entity … allows instant access to the stock market and the ability to raise abundant funds without the scrutiny that an IPO would entail”.
For example, Vancouver-based psychedelic company Numinus Wellness Inc was created through a reverse takeover of Rojo Resources Ltd, a mining exploration company. In April, Numinus Wellness announced the acquisition of Novamind Inc – the world’s first major psychedelic fusion.
And yet, North American mining companies aren’t the only entities that have seemingly decided to move from toxic earth operations to conquering, you know, consciousness itself. Right-wing billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir – the firm that helped the US National Security Agency “spy on the world”, like The Intercept Put the – has invested heavily in ATAI Life Sciences, a self-proclaimed “clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company aiming to transform the treatment of mental health disorders”.
ATAI was co-founded by billionaire Christian Angermayer, who swears tripping over mushrooms allowed him to “finally” understand the super sketchy cryptocurrency Bitcoin – a moment of enlightenment that apparently took his billions to the next level. In November 2021, ATAI increased his shares in Compass Pathways, which bills itself as a pioneer in psilocybin therapy for mental illnesses and in which Thiel also invests heavily.
It’s the same Thiel, of course, who prompted headlines like “Peter Thiel Wants to Inject Young Blood,” a 2016 Vanity Fair report that also cited the drug addict’s views on death: “You You can accept it, you can deny it, or you can fight it. Thiel himself has pledged to be “frozen” in case he eventually perishes – a hardline capitalist approach that sees death as the ultimate defeat.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk, CEO of rocket company SpaceX and self-proclaimed “Technoking” of electric vehicle company Tesla, has also intermittently weighed in on the “benefits of psychedelics.” Last year, the president of Field Trip Health – a psychedelic therapy company created, as Cormier explains, through a lucrative reverse takeover of Newton Energy Corporation, a Canadian oil and gas company – told him asked to explain the “role” of psychedelics. by “addressing some of humanity’s most destructive tendencies”.
This, of course, is a hell of a question to ask a megalomaniac who intends to destroy not only this planet but others as well – thus effecting an eternal bad trip for humanity. And as human “tendencies” remain destructive and the ruling class remains excited, all is far from far away.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.