Benzinga Psychedelics conference
Benzinga Psychedelics conference

Are Psychedelics Cannabis 2.0? - The Benzinga Psychedelics Conference 2023

The Benzinga Psychedelics conference is a groundbreaking event in Miami every year!

Posted by:
Thom Baccus on Thursday Apr 20, 2023


benzinga psychedelics show

A funny thing happened on the way to Fort Lauderdale having Biblical flooding after the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Miami, with the airport closed for 48 hours, got to stick around and cover the psychedelics show that follows the Benzinga cannabis show by one day.


The great part of this one-day show for us was that we got to sit through 8 hours of speakers and presentations since we were neophytes on the subject of “where psychedelics are legally, medically, etc”.  Instead of staying in the hallways and meeting people like a cannabis show, this show we decided to be students and sit through every presentation.  It was one of best “learning” days we ever had, this time around, we got to be the student and listen and learn. 


Let’s cover some the basics readers might have just like we had walking into the Psychedelics show.


Are psychedelics legal?No, not at the Federal level, but Oregon and Colorado have legalized some psychedelics, and Quebec (Yes, we said Quebec!) has approved medical payments and use for some psychedelics. Vancouver, BC has decriminalized some psychedelics like mushrooms for personal use only. Well, aren’t some “psychedelics” legal then? Yes and no, but that leads us to the next question.


What defines a psychedelic? This is up for some debate within the industry as what are the “must haves” in order to officially be a psychedelic, but you may have heard of Ketamine and MDMA (ecstasy if you are old enough) as being in the news, and around you in your life.  These drugs are considered psychedelics by some and not by others in the industry.  Hallucinate or not, you will be hearing alot about the serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) as the industry advances, as that is the brain area psychedelics work with the most.


Ketamine is a drug being used to help people with depression and anxiety, and it is has been, and  is, completely legal at all levels, as in state and Federal. VA insurance programs approve payments and reimburses clinics for veterans who are prescribed ketamine sessions.  This was the first honeypot for the psychedelics industry, set up ketamine clinics next to VA hospitals.  Early investors and VC funds rushed into this model, but it appears to have cooled off by now with some early entrants bankrupt and closing clinics without notice.  MDMA is right behind ketamine for mainstream medical use with PTSD, so clinics that dispense both may have a future, especially by the right veterans’ hospitals.


Ketamine and MDMA are the closest thing to revenue generating positive cash-flow type deals going on in the psychedelic space right now.  Mushrooms, LSD, and psilocybin generate headlines and clicks but we are a long way from Federal legalization for these psychedelics.  Medical use could be on the horizon in the same way cannabis has rolled out with a dichotomy in state and Federal laws.  Some states may legalize medical use like cannabis, but changes to Federal law are a long time away.


Are psychedelics Weed 2.0?  No, yes, kind of. No, it is not a blueprint of cannabis legalization history and pathways, but as they say, “history may not repeat, but it does rhyme”.  There are some similarities between the two industries in trying to create revenue and get legitimacy.  For example, the cannabis industry loophole around “hemp now gets you high” with Delta-8 and Delta-9, is similar to “novel molecules” in the psychedelic industry.  A novel molecule is a brand-new compound or molecule you can create, patten, and get credit for down the road if a big discovery is made using your compound. So, LSD and psilocybin may be Schedule 1 illegal drugs, but this “novel compound that is one carbon atom different” is not illegal because it isn’t on the Controlled Substance List.  Change an atom or covalent bond, and boom, you have a loophole around the CSA list of banned drugs, but that new compound does 99% of what the outlawed one does. Sound familiar if you are in the cannabis industry?


How Does Anyone Make Money in Psychedelics Right Now? – Well, not many are making money, let alone have revenue yet.  Remember, this niche is 10 years behind the cannabis industry in emergence and public awareness. Almost every company is seeking investors and funding with the promise of future riches.  Similar issues exist from the cannabis industry with taxation as well, Ketamine is subject to the same 280E tax as cannabis as the Federal level.


But wait, how is anyone going to get rich in psychedelics to begin with?  The big homerun pitch is in the creation of as many novel molecules as a company can create and then get a patent on them as soon as possible.  There are thousands of patents being sent in by early state psychedelic companies as part of a “molecule land grab” if you will, being that if you own the patent on XYZ novel molecule, and it later helps to reverse dementia in seniors, guess what?  You just bought yourself an island.


Smart money is setting up their companies in this manner in order to someday, fingers crossed, be bought by Big Pharma.  An IPO or sale to Big Pharma is the homerun, so having IP (intellectual property) many at experts feel is the key to a big payday down the road.  If your company has a patent on 4,000 novel molecules that need research, the odds are better one of them turns out to be medically miraculous, as opposed to a company that may have 500 novel molecule patents. These novel molecules, many with no research being done on them, are like little lottery tickets for these very small psychedelics companies. Enveric Biosciences is publicly traded and is aggressive in following this model.  Psychedelics also has an ETF, from AdvisorShares, the symbol is PSIL, for psilocybin.


Remember, many, many early psychedelic companies don’t even have revenue and are long-shot bets.  If you want to move one step up the ladder to companies that at least have revenue, IP, and are publicly traded, check out the PSIL ETF, and click on their “holdings” tab.  That is a good place to start for publicly investable psychedelics as of now.

The other way to create cash is to follow the trends and jump on one fast, like the ketamine clinics by VA hospitals.  When we asked around how much do ketamine sessions cost, many told us it is sold as a 6-pack of therapy, each session lasts about 5 hours, and it costs between $2,500 and $3,000.  Wowza! We figured out once VA insurance agreed to pay, why clinics around VA hospitals become big!


Did you know the industry has its own Weemdaps called HealingMaps? It shows you locations for ketamine and MDMA clinics as well as gives the user the ability to overaly VA hospital information to see where there could be a busienss opportunity to set up a clinic.


What are the problems in industry? – No investment money and a long runaway that could veer in many directions and take years to get legal stature in the US.  Telemedicine has also hit them where it hurts as ketamine can now be approved and shipped to your house for self-dosing through most telemedicine doctors.


What are the 3 debates smart people are having in the industry?


  1. Hallucinate vs. Non-Hallucinate – Enveric is working on taking the “tripping balls” part of psychedelics out of the medicine due to medical purposes and not all patients may want or feel comfortable with that part of the new drugs. This has the industry torn on if it is a good idea or will have the same results as the “real deal” psilocybin. If you are in the cannabis industry and understand the “entourage effect argument vs. just individual cannabinoids” then you get the drift here.  Smart people on both sides are debating if the medical benefits and overall experience will be worth it or altered too much by taking out the “tripping part”.  On the other hand, if grandma can have dementia reversed and she and you don’t want her tripping balls, well…

  2. Clinics vs Retreats – Experts have different opinions on whether the industry should be built around clinics and regular treatments, or retreats and destination places to experience a psychedelics breakthrough.  Ayahuasca retreats or sessions at your local strip mall?  There is no right answer, and usually the best solution lies in between the two extremes.

  3. Telemedicine vs. traditional therapist relationships (aftercare debate)– Telemedicine, like in all areas, is eating into the margins of the traditional medical industry, same with psychedelics.  You can get ketamine doses with telehealth approval now and do them at home.  Coming out of ketamine session is a wild card and much like coming out of an LSD or shroom experience, counselors and people may be needed to help you.  Help can mean psychological help or psychical help, thinking of coming out of anesthesia after a colonoscopy, the nurse’s monitor, give you some time, some crackers and juice, etc.



Final Thoughts

The psychedelics industry in 10 to 15 years behind the cannabis boom and bust, so you have plenty of time to research companies and learn about the field.  Like all industries coming out of the darkness of society and into the light, there will be some educated and responsible people trying to lead the movement, as well as some more “interesting swashbucklers”. That is just what you get with an industry like weed, gambling, or shrooms becoming legal, some good intelligent science guys telling you why we can even talk about this stuff being legal, and some “get rich quick guys”.  While the morning session of the Benzinga conference rolled out a few characters that looked like they were villain-rejects from the 1972 Adam West Batman show, there were also intelligent, educated, well-spoken people who you could learn from and ask questions to and about the industry.


While psychedelics isn’t Marijuana 2.0, it does have some similarities around the novel molecule Delta-8 story, the entourage effect vs hallucination or not hallucinate, etc.   In the end this makes sense when you think about those drugs coming out of the 1960s.  The same guy who sold you weed back then probably sold you mushrooms and LSD, but the percentage of people smoking weed compared to trying psychedelics is probably 10 to 1.  Hence, the cannabis movement has a much broader base and support than the “let’s legalize LSD” crowd, at least for now.


Like any industry that has so many pre-revenue companies, be very careful who you give your money to in this space right now.  Super long shot dreamers may outnumber normal long shots by 10 to 1.  Many people will be sold on “we have the next medical breakthrough coming in novel molecule XCX” but without FDA testing and IP, many of those stories will run out of money well before their investors see any positive returns.  Just like betting on early state bio-pharma companies, for every single one bought by Pfizer, there are 100 that failed.


The industry has just barely begun, buyer beware and due dilligence will be key to many investment decisions right now.





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