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Utah in the Weeds Episode #104 – Tyler Hacking on the Science of Cannabis and Mushrooms

What to Expect in This Episode

The 104th episode of Utah in the Weeds features Tyler Hacking, a cannabis consultant with more than 20 years of experience in the industry.

Hacking is also an expert in mycology, the science of mushrooms and other fungi. He uses his expertise to enable cannabis and mushroom farmers to cultivate their crops successfully.

Podcast Transcript

Tim Pickett:
Welcome everybody out to episode 104 of Utah in Weeds. My name is Tim Pickett, and I am your host here, a podcast about cannabis and cannabis culture with interviews and discussions with patients, scientists like Tyler Hacking, who we have on today to discuss mycology mushroom science, cannabis science, growth of the plant, and what’s just some really interesting things that we talked about in this conversation. So enjoying sharing these with you, and learning right along with you about the program here in Utah, and hopefully more about programs nationwide as we expand the podcast for further discussion this summer. I’d like to invite you to download the podcast and subscribe to the podcast. Thank you for doing so anywhere you have access to podcasts. Utah in the weeds. You can also find us on Discover Marijuana on YouTube and at Utahmarijuana.org, Utahmarijuana.org. You can come in for a medical cannabis card evaluation there, and you can get in tomorrow.

Tim Pickett:
If you are interested in events this summer, we have one that is really, really excited we’re involved with on Saturday the 25th, the Summer Solstice Revival Celebration. It’s a transformational wellness festival with a really unique and immersive art and nature experience. It’s Friday the 24th through June 26th, Sunday, next weekend. They sell tickets online. It is located up in the North Fork Park up in Eden, Utah. There’s a map online. Tickets are at Eventbrite, and you can go to Summerrevival.org and look up all about this celebration. You don’t have to go up there for the whole weekend. You can go up there for the day. I believe all ages are welcome. They sell tickets above 13 years old. There’s wristbands for people above 21. Just a place to share our culture, the cannabis and natural medicine culture, and enjoy some of the longest days of the year here in the Utah summer.

Tim Pickett:
Tyler Hacking everybody this episode, great discussion with about some true science and the journey of cannabis, and cannabis medicine, and mushroom medicine. We’ve had a lot about mushroom medicine lately, and it’s a growing and exciting topic. This is an exciting episode. Enjoy this discussion. Are you from Utah?

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah, I’m from Utah.

Tim Pickett:
What part of Utah?

Tyler Hacking:
So I was born at the Utah State University in Salt Lake and most of my life I grew up in Provo and Orem, but I moved around to a lot of the West Coast states. So I’ve done agriculture in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah, and that’s my corner of the world.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I mean, we met each other. Do you remember way back before the world ended? I think I met you at Max Bar, that club down. They were doing the CBD socials.

Tyler Hacking:
Yep. I remember with Mandi. I still talk to her all the time.

Tim Pickett:
That’s where I actually met you.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, with Mandi Kerr. I mean, that was kind of a fun time, because that was back in February, January of 2020. So we didn’t have COVID. We didn’t have a dispensary. We were just anticipating the dispensary opening, and the programs starting with cannabis. And things like that. How did COVID really affect you?

Tyler Hacking:
Well, I had to finish my science degree, my bachelor’s, during COVID, which made it extra challenging. There are some classes we had to take online, which were not designed for online education, and such as laboratory classes, for example, where you have to learn to handle hazardous chemicals. And so that was a really big challenge. I also moved my kids to homeschool and learned that I greatly preferred it to public school, which was also my personal experience when I was a kid. So I kind of liked it. I don’t know.

Tim Pickett:
Boy, so you had everybody at home.

Tyler Hacking:
Yep. Yeah. Was a loud house.

Tim Pickett:
Right. You’re finishing up a degree, a science degree, and then having to move your kids to that type of school. I remember that time. It was crazy. The kids at home with school, that was probably one of the most crazy things I think I’ve ever experienced, having kids home all the time, but not in the summer. That was just nuts. How old are your kids?

Tyler Hacking:
The challenge is getting… Eight and 12, and we had a hard time finding ways for them to socialize during social distancing, but my kids excelled with the online at home education. They’re doing a lot better than they ever did in public school.

Tim Pickett:
Cool. That’s great. That’s interesting. What drew you to cannabis?

Tyler Hacking:
Oh, at first it was just a job. I was a teenager about 20 years ago when a friend of mine asked me to join him in California for the summer, and I told my mom we were going to be working on an apple farm. That was not the case. I spent a couple of summers in the Redwoods learning from some of the best cultivators on earth, really amazing techniques that are highly effective for a variety of different ways to grow different cultivars of cannabis. And cannabis is a really good teaching plant. It can teach you all sorts of things about agriculture from cloning to nutrients, to pest management, indoor cultivation, outdoor cultivation, lighting, all sorts of advanced techniques that you might not encounter with other crops.

Tyler Hacking:
And so this got me on a journey in agriculture where I just got hooked, and I was in college at the time, and a couple years after I had gone to California, and I left college again to go work on more farms in Washington and Oregon, and then I moved to Colorado right as they legalized, and stayed there for the first few years of their legalization. And I came back to Utah, and we legalized, so it’s been kind of just one amazing adventure after the next, where cannabis has been this constant presence in my life, and it’s been amazing because there is a huge spectrum of cannabis from medical cannabis to hemp textiles, to food in the form of seeds, to oils, and things like that. And it’s just such a fun plant, and I’m really interested in where we’re taking the genetics right now. So I think that’s what’s got me hooked currently. And in that process, I’ve had to learn a lot about fungi.

Tim Pickett:
Oh, really? Okay. So talk about why genetics? Why is that kind of something that’s got your interest right now?

Tyler Hacking:
Well, initially when human beings first started using cannabis, we were only using it as a food crop and as a fiber source to make things like rope. It wasn’t until later after we began artificially selecting specific phenotypes and then reinforcing them through hybridization, and in breeding, and things like that we were able to get it to the point where we could use it medicinally, and concentrate the different phytocannabinoids and terpenes that were present in the plant. And that’s a really interesting developmental process. I think it says a lot about human ingenuity, and this plant has been with us throughout our development as a species. It’s use predates written history, and I think that’s super interesting. It’s considered to be a founding crop, one of the crops that’s responsible for human beings creating society and transitioning away from hunter gatherers status.

Tim Pickett:
This because it’s so good at creating fiber? The cannabis plant in general, we don’t talk about this a lot, and in fact, this goes back to Mandi, and her organization, and the Hemp Coalition, and all these things really. Medical cannabis is really only a small portion of the cannabis industry as it will be in the future, because it seems like the thing that cannabis is the best at, or was the best at before, is growing and creating fiber, the hemp [inaudible 00:10:02] essentially.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah, and we’re just now essentially learning how to take advantage of that. In the past, it’s really been for the most part we used males because they have longer internodes for fiber. The females have more branching, and that’s not as good for fiber, and so we are just now learning about the different chemical structures of the different kinds of lignin that are found in the heart, and based on the structure of that lignin, you can do different things with it. Some of the amazing innovations I’ve seen at conferences and conventions over the last couple of years are things like hemp concrete, hemp rebar, hemp plywood, and that’s amazing.

Tyler Hacking:
I grew up doing construction and building houses with my dad, and the idea of fabricating those materials at a lower cost than is currently available and preventing at least some deforestation is really exciting. At the Utah Cann I met a gentleman who was working on a prototype to grow two by fours using hemp and inoculating it with fungal mycelium. This mycelium-

Tim Pickett:
Oh, yeah. He…

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah, did you see that?

Tim Pickett:
We got to get him on the podcast. I talked to him also.

Tyler Hacking:
Oh, cool.

Tim Pickett:
Fascinating product too.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah. I can send you his info. Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
Right? That mycelium inside the hemp as the glue, essentially.

Tyler Hacking:
Yep.

Tim Pickett:
Is that what that was?

Tyler Hacking:
Well, I’ll tell you a little bit. So think of it like creating the infrastructure of a building. Okay? We have steel infrastructure for a lot of the big buildings where we go vertical, and then between that we use wood and other materials that connect together. This provides an overall greater structural strength for the building, and when we’re growing mycelium, essentially fungal hyphae, they grow in the most efficient path possible, and so they can create really tight woven connections between the strong microfiber bundles found in the hemp heart, which is super interesting.

Tim Pickett:
So they’re trying to grow in between the fibers of the plant and fill in the gaps?

Tyler Hacking:
Yep. Exactly.

Tim Pickett:
So interesting. I grew up doing construction too. And when we did a lot of concrete work, and we incorporated what was called fiber mesh in the concrete, which is a fiberglass, a teeny strand of fiberglass, and they started out it wasn’t a great technology in the beginning, because it was like fur on top of the concrete, but then they found out you could make it smaller, and smaller, and smaller. And I can see a really easy application of hemp fiber as that, as a replacement for that, essentially, the fiberglass fiber inside of concrete to increase its tensile strength and make-

Tyler Hacking:
Reduce how brittle it is.

Tim Pickett:
So it’s not going to… Yeah, exactly. So you can see how that would work in plywood too, where you would have the fibers, and then you’d need something to glue them together, and if you could use mycelium, I mean, you could really change the world. I mean, granted, that’s a pie in the sky idea, right?

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
Because there’s industry behind this, and you have to have the ability to scale it all, but coming back to what you were talking about before, Tyler, was the genetics of the plant. If you’re manipulating the genetics of the plant, you’re essentially saying that you could make that easier or make that more productive and produce more, but essentially specify the plant you’re growing for the application that it is going to move to after harvest. Am I getting that right?

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah. And there’s so many different applications. For example, we can use gene editing techniques like CRISPR and other techniques to arrange the DNA in a way where it expresses how we want it to in the order that we want it to. And so let’s say, for example, you were trying to clean up a toxic spill, and you wanted to use hemp as a bio accumulator, a bio remediation technique to clean out radiation or other contaminants in the soil. You could genetically engineer and genetically modify the cannabis plant to be more bio accumulative, to pull in more of the negative debris, and to be more tolerant to it, to grow in a way where it accumulates more biomass and less flower, for example. A lot of the farmer breeding techniques that we’ve been using have really increased the percentage of THC to the point where people are like, “Okay, maybe that’s enough.”

Tyler Hacking:
And people are starting to take a look at some of these other phytocannabinoids, the other terpenes and alkaloids, and the other compounds that are found in the plant, and the exciting part about this, about doing assays and biochemical analysis, and then comparing that to specific medical treatments is really exciting I think, because when you consume cannabis, you are not just consuming THC or CBD. You’re consuming 90 to 140 different potentially bioactive alkaloids. And depending on the concentration and abundance that you find them in, they change in their interactability. The entourage effect is a very real thing. You experience it every single day when you eat any kind of food, essentially.

Tyler Hacking:
The combination of different substances that you ingest from your food have different effects. For example, if you ate just sugar, you’d feel a very specific way. If you ate just carbs all day, you’d feel a different way, and if you ate just protein all day, you’d feel a different way, right? But if you mix them together, you feel pretty good, I think. And cannabis is that way too, and so we can come up with hyper specific medical treatments for very specific medical conditions using this kind of genetic editing. And I think that’s really exciting that we can make this medicine more precise through this kind of research.

Tim Pickett:
Are you familiar with where this type of research is happening? Because it seems to happen in Germany a little, in Israel some, in Canada some. I mean, I heard Penn State doing something, but there are few places that have even the capability of doing research like this do you think?

Tyler Hacking:
So it’s a platitude of research. There’s the agriculture sector that is working really hard to quantify the biosynthesis of these different plants, what their genetics can actually do. And then there’s the medical sector. I would say that the medical sector has a lot more red tape because getting institutional review board approval and clinical trial approval to work with human beings is very difficult, and painstaking, and sometimes just straight up illegal. And so we haven’t really been allowed to do this research until recently because of the Controlled Substance Act and all of that. And so it’s really nice living in a world where we’re starting to see legalization spread, because it’s creating the opportunity for universities around the world to perform this kind of research, which will give us the data that we need to prove that it’s helpful or hurtful.

Tyler Hacking:
And I think that that’s really important to talk about as well, because it’s not a cure all, and it does help some people, and there are also people who have experienced negative side effects from using cannabis, specifically medical clinical trials are showing that certain types of schizophrenia, bipolar, and mania, people who have experienced psychosis, that they can have negative reactions to the use of cannabis. And I’ve experienced that personally, where I had a friend who had a rare form of schizophrenia, and when she would use cannabis, she would pretty much just freak out and do scary, dangerous things, but the rest of us didn’t experience that same thing. And that’s because as human beings at a genetic level we are different, and we have different amounts of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies.

Tyler Hacking:
And sometimes they’re are different shapes, enough that the reaction that it has on us can be different from one individual to the next, and I think that that’s really important to take into account. Dosage and frequency of dosage, and the individual’s genetics are huge variables in how this medicine affects you, and things like tolerance, and even what we would call an overdose. I think there are some people who overuse cannabis, but most users, at least based on the research that I’ve conducted, I conducted some research on the impacts of cannabis on addiction and drug use, and it was really interesting because what I wanted to investigate was does cannabis lead to other drug use? Is it a gateway drug like people have said for so long?

Tyler Hacking:
And my data showed that in most cases it helped people to get away from what we would consider hardcore drugs, like methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and that it wasn’t something that led people towards drugs. In fact, the first drug that almost 70% of people used was alcohol. If anything, alcohol was the gateway drug all along.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. That’s interesting. Alcohol seems to be working in medicine too. I mean, anecdotally. I didn’t do any research on this, but certainly I would see not a lot of people come in with a weed problem, but certainly people come in to die in the hospital with alcohol problems, and alcohol is still something that society allows us to do in public. Right? I mean, there are places where you can go, and socialize, and drink, and certainly nobody would ever think about something like that for cannabis here in Utah, but I mean, it would make sense that in some ways it would be safer if we all went to a cannabis bar, and were using cannabis there instead of alcohol. It would be less harmful for the human body. I mean, I’m sure there’s an argument to be made.

Tim Pickett:
So what are you working on? So how does your knowledge, and your expertise, and your science degree, and all your background, how does that help you and help the people that you work with? Do you consult companies? Do you work for somebody?

Tyler Hacking:
I’ve been a cannabis agriculture consultant for the last decade, and it’s been a pretty fun adventure because my main goal is to essentially find the problems, and I approach it very scientifically. I use analytical sensors to collect data. I do soil testing. I do microbial testing. I bust out my microscope, and what I’m trying to do is to establish a low work, high productivity environment using the resources that my clients have. Many of my clients are hemp and medical cannabis cultivators within this state and other states, and also mushroom cultivators. And I like to really focus on problems. I like to remove them from the equation and just make the entire situation as efficient as possible.

Tyler Hacking:
And it’s been a blast because the feedback I get from clients is very positive very consistently. I end up talking about compost a lot more than cannabis, especially here in Utah and some of the drier states, because we do not have the habitat that cannabis evolved in, which was a subtropical climate in Southeast Asia, and instead our humidity, our relative atmospheric humidity is about half. The light is really good, but it’s too dry, and our soil is not acidic enough. It’s too alkaline. It’s also salty and full of sand and clay.

Tyler Hacking:
Cannabis really likes a substrate of organic matter or material that’s really easy for the roots to grow through. If it can’t, they’ll just grow sideways instead of downwards and not establish very well. And so a lot of the times I really try to clients about soil transformation, and that involves things like compost, using worms, so vermicomposting, and using the liquid that comes out, which is called leachate shape to make compost tea, which I brew, and then apply to their fields, and the transformation is drastic. I had a client in Blanding who after applying or compost tea mixture for just one season, they had 1400% increase in biomass production on their hemp crops, and it was just night and day.

Tim Pickett:
Wow.

Tyler Hacking:
It holds in more water. It saves money, because you don’t have to buy as much fertilizer. And it prevents soil erosion by enabling plants to spread the roots through the soil and hold onto it. And so it’s really funny. A lot of the times the first thing I do is just get onto the compost, because it tends to be the solution to many of the obstacles and challenges that these clients are having, especially here in Utah.

Tim Pickett:
So fascinating to talk to people who get into something, and not that you’re assuming it’s going to be a certain way, not that you’re planning on it being a certain way, but you really get into this field where you’re an expert in one thing, and you end up… You know the low hanging fruit is compost, for example, right? You find that out through experience, and then you end up having the same conversation, not necessarily using your expertise that you’ve trained for, but that got you in the door, right? And then you solve their problem using something that was unanticipated.

Tyler Hacking:
Yes.

Tim Pickett:
I find that so much in cannabis medicine where somebody comes in, and they have these problems and things like that, and I’ll talk about sleep, and I’ll be like, “Well, how do you sleep?” “Well, not that great.” “Well, if we can get you sleeping better, then we can solve kind of all of these other problems probably, or at least make a big dent in it.” And so we end up talking about something that’s not really related to cannabis, but it’s simple and straightforward. It makes a big difference, and I think it’s always fascinating how that works. Experts in a lot of fields, I think, will find that, that it’s accounting. Maybe an accountant would say, “Well, I’m this expert in forensic accounting, but really the bottom line is I just teach people how to journal.” Right? Or something like that. If they’re keeping records, then it doesn’t really matter. I don’t need my skills.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
This crosses over into mushrooms too and fungi.

Tyler Hacking:
Right.

Tim Pickett:
And is this because it’s the same people, right? The people who are interested in cannabis are interested in mushrooms too, or is it because you’re in agriculture, and these things kind of fit together? How do they fit together for you?

Tyler Hacking:
There’s definitely overlap between the cultures of the mushroom community, the fungi community, and the agriculture community of plants. So I actually went and moderated a panel at the Utah Cann later that day. I went and spoke for a panel at the Fungi Festival, the first Utah Fungi Festival which we had recently, and I was one of the organizers for the festival and also presented at it, and took people on a mushroom hunt, for me in my career when I started learning about plants, what I learned is that essentially there’s an equation, and plants are just a part of that equation. The other variables are environmental chemistry, microbiology, and in other cases there are other variables, but for cannabis it’s mostly about the chemistry of the environment, and then also the microbes, because plants do not have an immune system. They can only protect themselves chemically and physically, and so they’re very dependent on symbiotic relationships that they have with bacteria and fungi to protect them from other bacteria and fungi, which are pathogens, kind of like powdery mildew, for example.

Tyler Hacking:
One of the biggest reasons people call me as a consultant for help is that they have a powdery mildew infestation on their farm. It’s one of the most common ways that a healthy farm will go down, and that material has to be destroyed because it’s contaminated with powdery mildew, which is a fungi, by the way. And it’s really good at just eating the plant, and it takes advantage of plants that are stressed out, and that don’t have enough energy to chemically protect themselves, and it just eats them using enzymes. And so I’ve seen this powdery mildew cause people to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of crops, and it’s a very serious thing. Prevention is definitely the key.

Tyler Hacking:
Treatment is possible, but what I learned is that if you maintain a healthy microbiome, just like with your body, for the plant in the soil, that a lot of the times the beneficial symbiotic microbes will protect the plant, not only from pathogens, but from environmental stresses as well, and so the more I learned about plants, the more I learned that I had to learn about plant microbiology, and a really big part of that is fungi. Fungi also helped plants in their root systems to acquire more water and nutrients, and they can make some of those nutrients available to the plant where they might not be available based on the structure. For example, plants can’t use N2, atmospheric nitrogen. They can’t use ammonia either, and ammonium, but they can use nitrates and nitrites, and all four of those are forms of nitrogen, but only two of them can be used by plants, and they require bacteria and fungi to transform the other versions of nitrogen into bioavailable nitrogen, and so really we’re growing a system.

Tyler Hacking:
We’re growing ecology, and it’s very rare that we’re really growing just one organism. That happens almost exclusively in hyper sanitary hydroponics, for example, and it’s never, ever found in nature, not ever. And honestly, mushrooms are really fun organisms to study. The one that comes to everybody’s mind is psilocybin a lot of the times, but the world of mycology is so much more diverse than that. Next month, I’m flying to Florida to present at Mycological Society of America conference to present some of the research I’ve conducted on morel mushrooms. Have you ever had one?

Tim Pickett:
No. What are they?

Tyler Hacking:
Okay, so you buy them at-

Tim Pickett:
I want to now.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah, you really should. They don’t have the same flavor or texture as the other mushrooms you’ve tried in your life. And in fact, to me, they taste quite beefy like steak, and they have a chewier texture like steak. They’re the second most expensive fungi on earth, right behind truffles, and this is because they’re highly seasonal. They’re very, very difficult to cultivate. Just recently in the New York Times there is an article about the first successful instance of scaled up morel cultivation. And this is likely what I’ll focus my PhD on, which I am applying for right now at a few different universities, and it’s interesting because it’s challenging. It’s not very well understood.

Tyler Hacking:
It was only in the very recent past that we even realized that fungi are not plants, which was only really discovered because of genetic analysis. They were actually classified under plants for a really long time scientifically, and imagine them like animals, but instead of bringing things into their body, they digest on the outside of their body, and they grow outwardly instead of inwardly. So they’re actually more closely related to the animal kingdom than either are to any other kingdom. So we’re very close relatives with fungi, and they play all of the roles.

Tyler Hacking:
They play the predator, and they play the symbio. And so they can have a protective role in your crop, or they can have a devastating pathogenic role in your crop, and I think understanding both is critical to having successful harvests, especially in places like Utah, where we’re not perfectly acclimated for cannabis agriculture.

Tim Pickett:
I mean, your research certainly has gone across psilocybin.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
If you’re into mushrooms at all, it seems like at some point you’re going to run into the psychedelics.

Tyler Hacking:
Right.

Tim Pickett:
Are you familiar with the new appropriations bill that was passed this year to study that type of program here in Utah?

Tyler Hacking:
A little bit. Yeah, I know that it’s been on Capitol hill, and a lot of the ketamine clinics are wanting to use it as a medical application as well, because there’s some people who react better with psilocybin than they do with ketamine.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. I wonder. Those types of grow programs, what does a mushroom grow program look like? I mean, does it look like a basement with no lights and just like a wet, damp, dark room?

Tyler Hacking:
So yes and no. Okay, so we actually use light, because fungi have photoreceptors and that helps them to grow upward. They grow towards light. Okay? And so typically people are growing in totes, like storage totes, and it’s hyper sanitary. So we spray isopropyl alcohol on everything. It’s usually under a flow hood that we build one of these totes, and then after sterilizing the media, which is different types of grain, and wood, or straw, for example, using intense heat and pressure to kill everything, we allow it to cool, and then inoculate it with fungal mycelium. And once you inoculate it, and the substrate is sanitary, the fungi doesn’t have to compete. It won’t get contaminated, and you pretty much just let it grow.

Tyler Hacking:
Inside of that tote, yes, you do want it humid, because they grow a lot better when it’s humid. The mushroom season here in Utah is typically spring and fall during the more humid times of the year when things aren’t frozen or dried to a crisp during the summer. And so a lot of the mushroom cultivation facilities are layered in a way where you can retain the humidity and cycle it back through the system using a dehumidifier that controls the amount of humidity in that system, which is critical to maintain throughout the mushroom cultivation process.

Tim Pickett:
It seems like it would take a lot less room, a lot less space to cultivate a psilocybin farm than it would take to cultivate a cannabis farm, but I’m interested as the legalities go forward how that’s going to look in the nation really. I’m as interested in it nationally as I am here in Utah. I think Utah won’t necessarily. There’s a little bit of momentum behind it now, but I don’t think that will last. Personally, I think they’ll wait till somebody else develops a program to copy, being that we’re-

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah, and then modify the crap out of at the last minute.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, at the last minute. Right? But it is. From a medical standpoint, I think this just goes to show that society as a whole is interested in non-pharmaceutical medications and non-pharmaceutical medicine like plant-based medicine, getting serious about it.

Tyler Hacking:
Right. And there is a lot of validity to that. For example, if we’re comparing things in pharmacology, typically we’re working with an isolate, something that is one chemical that is mixed into a mixture of inert chemicals. So for example, when you take Tylenol, that’s what you’re taking. You’re taking one molecule mixed with things that do nothing to you, and the difference between that natural medicine, a great example is cannabis. You’re consuming hundreds of biochemicals simultaneously. Never in nature do you find just one chemical. That’s not a thing, and so we didn’t evolve to interact with isolates and concentrated chemicals.

Tyler Hacking:
It’s just it’s not as natural as an actual plant. That being said, there are naturally occurring toxins as well, and so we had to be careful with the natural medicines as well. To touch on the cultivation part of things, you can grow a lot more mushrooms with the same space than you can with cannabis, because you only need a foot or two based on the mushroom that you’re growing, and then you can stack things vertically on shelves. So it’s really easy to do vertical integration into mushroom cultivation systems compared to cannabis where it’s really hard to do multiple levels.

Tim Pickett:
What’s next for you? You’re applying for your PhD program. When you apply for a PhD program in this type of research, are there a lot of facilities that offer those types of programs?

Tyler Hacking:
No, they’re very hyper specific.

Tim Pickett:
Is it hard to study mushrooms and cannabis?

Tyler Hacking:
It is really, really difficult. I would say that it’s easier to study cannabis than it is to study mushrooms. Mycologists are rare in the scientific community, even amongst biologists they’re very rare. I’ve been lucky enough to know a few and have them as my research mentors, and I’m hoping to meet quite a few more at this conference next month that I can discuss potential PhD programs with. And that being said, I want to do mycoagriculture. I want to grow mushrooms for my PhD, and I’ve kind of had my fill with plants for now, and I’m really interested in fungi. I like studying how they interact more than anything, and so what I’m looking for right now is a mentor who will allow me to research morchella, morels. And the reason that that’s super interesting to me is because we actually don’t understand their full sexual life cycle.

Tyler Hacking:
Part of it is a complete mystery. We don’t really know how… It’s called the sclerotium. We don’t understand how the sclerotium is really impacting the sexual development of the ascocarp carp, which we call the mushroom. And that’s why only one business has ever been successful in cultivating them, and that’s very recent. I really like to study entheogen psychoactive substances, and how they affect human beings, and how they affect things like addiction, and I think one of the most exciting things about psilocybin and cannabis is that they both have a powerful ability to mitigate the effects of addiction. I’ve experienced that personally, and I’ve seen that effect in many other people throughout my life, and if you listen to the testimonies of people who have tried these substances, that’s one of the very common things that they say, especially when they were doing other hard drugs at the time. They kind of lost the desire to do so, which I find really interesting. Yeah. Do you want to talk a little bit about the history?

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. Yeah, let’s do it.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah? Okay. All right. So there are at least eight psychoactive alkaloids in psilocybin mushrooms. Most of the psilocybin mushrooms that people eat on earth are called psilocybe cubensis. However, in the psilocybe genus there are 50 to 100 different species based on how you categorize them. Okay? And each of them have their own unique microchemical combination of alkaloids and terpenes just like cannabis and other plants do. The other really interesting thing… Uh-huh?

Tim Pickett:
So there are 50 versions of psilocybin or more that we could use that are of mushrooms? So you would say cultivars, or would it be similar to saying this is a different cultivar of the plant or of the same species?

Tyler Hacking:
It’s close. So for example, psilocybe cubensis is a species. There’s also psilocybe mexicana, which is another species, and so psilocybe is the genus that they fall under. Cannabis, all varieties of cannabis are the same species, cannabis sativa linnaeus, even indica and ruderalis are taxonomically subsumed under cannabis sativa linneaus. So all cannabis plants can interbreed because they are the same species, and when it comes to psilocybe, not all of them can interbreed, because they’re not the same species, but, yes, it is synonymous in that we have 50 to 100 varieties of the same genus of fungi that have similar and overlapping but different chemical combinations in their properties.

Tim Pickett:
Okay. So keep going with this explanation, because I know you’re getting to more interesting things about the genus, these different species.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah, this is the history part is really interesting. So we have evidence that psilocybin mushrooms have been used by human beings for as long as 6,000 years in our human history. Okay? But it wasn’t known to the rest of the world until 67 years ago when it was shared by a shamanist, who lived in Mexico in a state called Oaxaca, and her name was Maria Sabina, and in 1955, she introduced psilocybin mushrooms to an American anthropologist. His name was Gordon Wasson, and three years later, it was cultivated in Europe, and its primary psychoactive ingredient, psilocybin, was isolated and extracted in a laboratory by the famous chemist, Albert Hoffman, who also conducted the research and development of LSD. LSD is directly relative to fungi because it’s produced from a lysergic amino acid that comes from a type of fungi we call ergot, and ergot grows as a pathogen on rye, and so the development of pharmaceutical grade psilocybin and LSD actually happened within a 20 year period of each other from the same scientist.

Tim Pickett:
Wow.

Tyler Hacking:
And in addition… I know that’s super Interesting, huh?

Tim Pickett:
It is.

Tyler Hacking:
But it’s brand new to the world, yeah. That’s less than 70 years.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. I mean, 67 years ago you just all of a sudden. So did it just go dark? It was like the dark age for psilocybin for all those years in between, or were people using it indigenous cultures?

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah. So it was used that whole time in Mexico, but mostly as a ritualistic shamanic experience that was focused on spirituality and connecting people with nature, or causing them to look inside themselves to get over emotional turmoil. So it was actually used to treat PTSD before most history was written by tribes and tribal people in Mexico. There were five different tribes that used it. So it wasn’t just from Maria Sabina’s tribe. There was an entire region, but it wasn’t studied in Western medicine until very recently, and a lot of that had to do with the technology needing to develop to where we could do chemical and genetic analysis. And so once that happened, there were scientists who were very excited to work with it as a source of pharmaceutical substance, and that led to lots of other research.

Tyler Hacking:
So one big thing is that most of the psychoactivity is actually not from psilocybin. Psilocybin breaks down in your system when you orally ingest it into psilocin. And so psilocin is the primary psychoactive ingredient in psilocybin mushrooms. Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
When did it become illegal? Because if we are doing this research, then it has some sense of legality or at least if Hoffman’s doing research and developing these things, when was it added to the list of things we can’t use?

Tyler Hacking:
So in it depends on the country that we’re talking about. In the United States, it became a schedule one drug, which was also pressured by the UN, but that happened during the Controlled Substance Act in 1970.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. Okay. So they basically rounded up everything that was fun for anybody, and they thought was causing trouble.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah. Yeah. Their argument was that there was not a medical benefit, and at the time there wasn’t research to show that there was a medical benefit. That research takes a long time and was stinted by the Controlled Substance Act, making it illegal for scientists to even conduct that research.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. Yep. Same type of argument there for cannabis, right? If there’s no medical benefit and the anti-government hippies are using it, we need to take it away.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah. There’s a huge theological debate that it has a lot to do with different religious theologies. There are many religions who are against the use of psychoactive substances, and when discussing this topic in as non-biased a way as possible, the conclusion that many people come to is that when you change the way that somebody thinks, it might cause them to think in a way where they think against that religion.

Tim Pickett:
Right.

Tyler Hacking:
And so it’s been deemed for a very long time. I won’t name any religions, but it’s been deemed for a long time that it’s evil and bad, however, the use of these substances for medicinal reason predate each of those religions.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. There’s some very promising research on PTSD and addiction with psilocybin, these heavy doses of psilocybin. Super cool research that when I talked to Steve Urquhart, the founder of the Divine Assembly here in Utah, the Mushroom Church, he and I had a good conversation about that too, and I do think I would agree with you that there is a fear amongst groups of people with specific beliefs and ideologies that a psychoactive substance or experience would make somebody, “make them,” I’m holding my air quotes here, make them think differently about their original beliefs, and that would be bad, right? And that perception, and of course to the scientific community the opposite is probably true, where that perception change represents further understanding, not necessarily disbelief, I guess.

Tyler Hacking:
No, let’s talk about that, because this is a really important topic. Let’s talk about cognitive liberty and cognitive awareness. Okay? If you have never experienced a substance, then you couldn’t possibly have had the experience to have an opinion about it. Right?

Tim Pickett:
Right.

Tyler Hacking:
I think that to people who haven’t tried entheogens, that it is unimaginable. You can have an experience that lacks words to describe how you feel from that experience, and many of these substances cause you to look inward. They cause you introspection, and introspection is the key to growth and the goal of most therapeutic applications, to look within one’s self and heal on the inside. These substances tend to catalyze that experience and accelerate the process quite a bit by enabling us to drop our baggage, for example, and to have the ability to break out of the patterns of thought that we can get stuck in as human beings.

Tim Pickett:
It’s really well said. Okay, tangent just for a second. Do people with allergies to mushrooms or intolerances to mushrooms, can they take some of these substances still? Can you distill it down to where it doesn’t have that allergy? I know a couple of people who are super intolerant to fungi in general, right? If they eat mushrooms on a pizza, they end up just throwing up. It’s not a true allergy, so to speak. It’s more of an intolerance. Can that be affected by the way they’re processed?

Tyler Hacking:
Definitely. So the cell membrane of fungi, it’s similar to insects. It is composed of a molecule called chitin, and there are some humans who are very sensitive to chitin to where it’s toxic to them, and they can have a negative reaction. So through processing, you can extract and concentrate different alkaloids out of the biomass and separate it from the chitin. This removes the allergic reaction, if you do separate out the chitin. There are also other mycotoxic compounds that are present. For example, the button mushroom, the cremini, the Portobello mushroom from your grocery store, it contains a toxin called agaritine, and if you don’t properly cook your mushrooms, then you can experience agaritine toxicity. The same is true for any fungi.

Tyler Hacking:
All fungi have mycotoxic compounds, and I would recommend cooking with them for sure. A lot of people when they eat psilocybe, they are doing so raw, which means that it did not break down any of the mycotoxins. It didn’t break down the chitin, and so it enhances that toxicity effect. So one thing that people can do is just make a tea, for example. That’s a simple technique. It won’t remove all of the potentially irritating molecules that could cause a reaction, but it will remove most of them. There are also definitely concentrates and isolates, isolates and extracts of the alkaloids from mushrooms to separate it and concentrate it. Sometimes it’s more effective in a concentrate form based on its application.

Tim Pickett:
Hmm. Okay. I learned a lot just then, because it’s just been something that’s been interesting to me about fungi, and how you could be allergic to it when it’s essentially ubiquitous in some ways.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
This has been a fascinating conversation, and what have we missed?

Tyler Hacking:
I think the big takeaway from this topic is that as human beings, we are all different. We have different DNA, and that is the reason that we have varying experiences. The same thing might affect you and I differently at the same exact dosage, and I think it’s important to learn for yourself if it’s actually going to help you, and to identify when it’s not. That’s probably the healthiest way that one can go about exploring the world of entheogens.

Tim Pickett:
Well said, Tyler Hacking.

Tyler Hacking:
Thank You.

Tim Pickett:
We’re going to have to check in on you as you continue your journey towards your PhD and learning more and more. We’ll come back to you as the subject matter expert for sure.

Tyler Hacking:
Thank you, Tim. It’s been a pleasure.

Tim Pickett:
If somebody has questions for you, do you have a place where people should go to ask those questions, or to get in to connect with you?

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah. I have a strong presence on Facebook and Instagram, where I advertise my business, Green Dreams Come True. You can also find it under just Green Dreams. And I have pages and groups, and I love sharing scientific information with people to help them to learn about these topics. It’s my favorite thing to do. So I love those questions, even if you’re just starting out with mushroom cultivation in your basement or hemp cultivation, anything like that, hit me up. It is my favorite thing to talk about, and I love seeing how it helps people, seeing how it changes their lives for the better. That’s why I do this. That’s why I’ve continued to do this, and it’s exciting. These businesses, Tim, especially in the cannabis industry, they have a 90% fail rate for startups, and I think a lot of that is preventable by the sharing of effective techniques.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. Yeah. I think people get caught up in trying to do it themselves and be better than everybody else, and then they end up in trouble, and the better companies tend to be more willing to share and understand that it is kind of a collective, right? Everybody needs a haircut. My mom did hair for years, and my uncle was a barber, and he’s like, “Yeah, a barber can open up down the street, and that’s probably okay, because everybody needs a haircut.” Right? There’s enough business to go around. Let’s be a good community first and help people first.

Tyler Hacking:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
Well I’m glad you came on. This has been awesome. I really appreciate your time and expertise, and for those of you who are not subscribed to this podcast, Utah in the Weeds, we’re talking about things that I think are pretty interesting, and who knows? You might learn a thing or two. So thanks, everybody. Stay safe out there.

Tyler Hacking:
Thank you, Tim.

 

By UtahMarijuana.org
Published June 17, 2022
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