Havn Life Chief Psychedelic Officer Dr. Ivan Casselman (Ph.D., FLS) is an ethnobotanist, analytical phytochemists, and plant geneticist with a primary focus on cannabis and psychedelic science.
PsyTech: How did you get interested in the psychedelics space?
Ivan: My interest in psychedelics stemmed from my love of all things botany. Since I was very young I had a keen interest in plants. As I grew older and started to be exposed to War on Drugs propaganda masquerading as “drug education”, I knew that I was not being told the whole story, so I started getting into ethnobotany and understanding how humans use plants, particularly psychedelic ones.
After decades of studying the relationship between humans and psychedelics, it brings me deep satisfaction to be at the frontier of this industry, working with a team that is as passionate about addressing human potential as I am. As the Chief Psychedelic Officer of Havn Life, I get to not only look at growing and extracting psychedelics, but also study their applications and develop innovative processes to support the growth of this industry as well as our company.
PsyTech: What is the biggest issue holding the industry back?
Ivan: In Canada, we currently do not have a defined regulatory framework for patients to access psilocybe mushrooms, or other psychedelics for treatment.
The societal conversation regarding psychedelic medicine is certainly progressing but only among small groups. A wider conversation and acceptance of psychedelics as medicine would certainly help. That is one of the key reasons we launched an education portal on our website. We want to help people to gain an understanding of psychedelics and other plant medicines from a reliable source that looks at research and shares people’s journeys through psychedelic experiences and mental health.
PsyTech: What’s one fact you want the general public to know about psychedelics?
Ivan: Psychedelic medicine has been used by humans for a long long time. Human biology has multiple receptor sites that interact with psychedelic compounds-—these are not foreign compounds to our body.
Psychedelic mushrooms have hundreds of compounds that interact to give the experience associated with psychedelic mushrooms. This is why at Havn Life we believe it is important to not only create naturally-derived psilocybin, but to identify and separate each compound within the mushroom to be able to research their respective properties and understand how to utilize them as medicines that will help humans thrive.
PsyTech: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to anyone interested in getting into the psychedelics industry?
Ivan: I have focused the majority of my attention on my education to ensure that I had the correct credentials to participate in the development of the psychedelic medicine industry. Degrees in science (chemistry, botany, etc.) and/or medicine would be very helpful. There is also opportunity for people with higher degrees in psychiatry and psychology.
PsyTech: What’s the question you get asked the most when someone finds out you’re involved in psychedelics?
Ivan: Some people do ask me questions but almost everyone I meet that finds out that I am in the psychedelic industry is very passionate about describing their experience with this type of medicine to me. There are so many people out there that have benefited from this medicine. It tells me that the demand and need for these compounds is there, we just have to build a reliable and scalable legal mechanism that will allow safe access to these compounds.
PsyTech: What’s some typical pushback you experience as someone involved in this industry, and how do you respond?
Ivan: Honestly, I have not experienced much pushback, the people I interact with have all been super supportive and very interested in what I was working on.
PsyTech: What makes Havn Life unique from other companies emerging in this space?
Ivan: Right now, there is growing evidence that psilocybe mushrooms work for the treatment of various medical and mental health indications. But, where can patients access quality controlled, standard, safe medicine? Currently there are no options, but that is where Havn Life comes in. We are working hard to ensure that patients can access regulated, safe medicine that is naturally derived. Essentially, we are trying to build a supply chain for natural psychedelic medicines.
We also have a well-rounded team that really understands the world of policy, controlled substances, and even natural health. Our chairman and chief scientific officer share over three decades of experience working for Canada’s largest natural health manufacturer and distributor.
PsyTech: What’s coming up for Havn Life?
Ivan: Over the last 9 months we have been talking with various researchers from around the world and are determining a way to help them. I am super excited about Havn’s first supply agreement with Revive to supply their clinical trials with our psilocybe formulations. This is a huge step for the industry and for Havn Life. Our Havn Retail division was also just approved for our first six natural health formulations as well. These are a really exciting element of the Havn Life umbrella, because it allows us to fulfill our mandate to help humans reach their full potential. The first range will launch early next year and is our first offering to the world in contributing to mental health and human performance.
PsyTech: What are the biggest current hurdles in the space, and how have those hurdles evolved over the past few years?
Ivan: Humans have used psychedelic medicine for generations, however, here in Canada we are now tasked with merging centuries of accumulated knowledge and creating a framework for patients to access quality controlled standardized medicine.
Earlier this year, 17 Canadian healthcare professionals—including doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, clinical counselors, and social workers applied for legal access to psilocybin. This pivotal moment can set precedent for patients being granted access to psilocybin. Yet currently, no mechanism exists for patients or researchers to access legal naturally-derived psilocybin. We are doing something unique here. At Havn Life we want to grow the psilocybin mushrooms and build a supply chain for researchers to have access to the hundreds of compounds found in psychedelic mushrooms so that we can harness their capabilities and build the medicines of the future.
PsyTech: Where do you see decrim/recreational regulation evolving in the next 12 months, and is that the most effective means of changing public perception of psychedelics?
Ivan: In Canada we are already taking steps to develop access to psilocybe mushrooms for “end of life” patients. This is an important first step. In the next 3-4 years I would like to see the Canadian government establish regulated access to this medicine.
PsyTech: What impact will this year’s election have on the industry?
Ivan: I do not think the current BC election will have any impact on the psychedelic industry, as controlled substances are federal domain. As it is still undetermined as to a federal election, best to wait and see. Based on indications that are well managed by psilocybe mushrooms like PTSD and depression, I feel either Canadian party will see this as an important advancement in medical policy in Canada and develop rational mechanisms for access.
PsyTech: What was the initial reaction when your friends and family heard you were involved in the psychedelic industry?
Ivan: I had been studying these plants through my Ph.D for many years, so it came as no surprise to my community that I would be leading the charge into this emerging industry. Everyone in my social network is super excited and supportive of my involvement in the psychedelic industry. I am very grateful to have amazing people in my network!
PsyTech would like to thank Ivan for his time and unique insights. We’re also grateful to Ivan’s company, Havn Life, for their kind sponsorship of our recent summit.