🫠 Psychonaut POV

[5-min read] Q&A with Reggie Harris, Founder & Educator

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Reggie Harris started from the underground; now he’s here. When the mushroom market went south years ago, he pivoted from cultivation to an above-board analytical testing lab called Oakland Hyphae. Now, it’s his connection to the legacy community that sets his research apart.

We spoke to Reggie about testing mushroom potency, what everyone should know about gray market chocolates and gummies, and his wish list for psychedelic legalization.

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Reggie Harris, Psychonaut POV
How did you first get involved in the psychedelic underground, and what led you to creating a mushroom testing lab?

It all started because I was looking for mushrooms myself. In my high school days, I’d try anything I could get my hands on that would make me hallucinate. My curiosity led me to connect with an international supplier, who was offering high-quality mushrooms at an unbeatable price. I ended up working with him for years. Eventually, I dropped out of college because I realized the practical knowledge I was gaining on the street was more valuable than my formal education in political science and business. My peers at school were trying to figure out how to make money, but I was already doing it.

The mushroom testing lab, on the other hand, was born out of necessity. After Oakland decriminalized psilocybin, I dove deeper into cultivation and scaled from a modest operation to a significantly larger one in a short period. I taught myself from scratch with books and YouTube. However, as the market evolved and prices started to drop, I was faced with a choice: continue in a race to the bottom or pivot towards something more sustainable. So, I picked the latter and focused on developing a reliable method to measure mushroom potency.

From the day I met my team in 2019, we’d been trying to solve this problem. We didn’t buy nice cars or live lavish lifestyles. We just kept investing everything back into research and development. That bet paid off. We figured out our method and made the conscious decision to walk away from commercial cultivation.

Besides, we were all just tired of having stupid conversations with people who thought they were smart. Back then, there were all kinds of baseless ideas floating around about potency. Thankfully, you don’t hear those conversations much anymore.

What’s involved in your testing process? I assume you’re measuring psilocybin and psilocin content. Are there any secondary compounds you pay attention to?

Initially, we focused solely on psilocybin and psilocin levels, but we quickly expanded to include a wider range of tryptamines, such as baeocystin and norbaeocystin, among others. Today, we test for 13 different tryptamines for the most comprehensive analysis possible.

Our main tool is High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). It provides the best reliability and accuracy in preserving the integrity of our samples and the data derived from them. The procedure involves taking a dried mushroom sample, pulverizing it, performing an extraction, and then running it through the HPLC. The machine generates a graph with peaks that correspond to different tryptamines. From this data, we can calculate the concentrations of various compounds in the sample.

Over time, we've also started to pay more attention to moisture content. We’ve seen that it plays a significant role in the degradation of the compounds over time. So, now we include moisture content in our reporting because it speaks to the stability and longevity of the samples.

At this point, we’ve accumulated what must be one of the most extensive libraries of mushroom samples anywhere. I like the idea of creating some kind of digital archive as a scientific resource for the community. Or maybe we’ll think of a more tangible way to share our collection.

Is there any meaningful difference, at a chemical level, between strains and species of psilocybe mushrooms? What about caps and stems?

From our observations, the main difference between strains and species of psilocybe mushrooms comes down to the concentrations of tryptamines present. We’ve started talking to experts like Zeus Tipado to try to understand how the secondary compounds affect the user's experience. How are we defining a trip if we don’t even know how these tryptamines act in concert? Maybe it only takes a small amount of some of these lesser-known compounds to influence the visuals or overall experience of a trip.

As far as the caps versus stems debate, that was actually our first report. We ran tests that showed negligible differences in psilocybin concentrations between the two. Our findings challenged the common assumption at the time that caps were significantly more potent than stems. Based on our research, it’s best to consume the whole mushroom. Otherwise, you’re missing out on its full potential.

Our approach has always been community driven. We’re connected with cultivators and enthusiasts in the underground, and that perspective guides our testing priorities. An outsider would never have even thought to run the caps and stems test, but we knew what people believed. So, we got to dispel that myth once and for all.

What’s your view on gray (or legacy) market products? What should people know about mushroom chocolates, gummies, etc.?

Proximity to the source is key. Small-batch producers, who may not have the most buttoned-up packaging but are known personally to their customers, offer a level of accountability and care that mass-produced items can't match. These grassroots creators care about the psychedelic community and its healing way more than the larger brands you find in gas stations and coffee shops. All those companies care about is doing numbers.

There’s also a real concern around inconsistency and mislabeling within the market. We recently collaborated with DoubleBlind on an analytical report that revealed serious discrepancies between product labels and actual content. For example, products marketed as containing psilocybin sometimes had none. Instead, they were likely made with Amanita muscaria, a legal psychoactive mushroom that contains no psilocybin and is often contaminated with harmful heavy metals. Other products tested positive for 4-ACO-DMT, which, while psychedelic, is not what the consumer thought they were buying.

These are some of the risks associated with being too far from the manufacturing process. It's a matter of consent as much as safety. Consumers have the right to know exactly what they're ingesting. You won’t hear me say 4-ACO is bad, but consent goes further than the bedroom.

In your ideal future, what happens if and when psilocybin products become legal and regulated?

The legacy market is a major and mostly overlooked component of the psychedelic renaissance. We’re the risk-takers and pioneers who've laid the groundwork for today's discussions around psychedelics, where therapists, veterans, and activists are now being centered. Underground folks—the people who are operating right now—should be at the table as a forethought, not an afterthought, when decisions are being made about legislation and legalization. And as far as I’m concerned, indigenous folks should be able to do whatever they want to do. We don’t write indigenous laws.

Now, if psilocybin does become legal and regulated, especially in California, I envision reform happening through a ballot initiative. That way, citizens can directly shape the law without political compromises. A ballot measure could also streamline licensing processes for selling psilocybin products. I’m all for safety and control, but entrepreneurship needs to remain accessible.

Before any commercial gains, priority should be given to expunging the records of anyone previously penalized for what's now legal. They could even couple expungement with licensing opportunities as a form of restitution and inclusion.

Public education needs to be a part of this future, too—not just for adults but starting with young people. Kids are going to experiment, as they always have. So let’s provide them with accurate, honest information to foster safer environments and prevent harm.

It’s important to me that we preserve the grassroots essence of the psychedelic community. Implementing measures to limit the influence of institutional money and big business would protect the interests of smaller, community-oriented operators. I’m not a finance person, but maybe there’s a $2 million investment cap for the first two years post-legalization. That’s enough for the small mom and pops, and it could prevent large-scale entities from dominating the market and pushing out the legacy players. If we keep big business out, there’s more than enough opportunity for everybody.

Want more from Reggie?

Check out the testing reports from Hyphae Labs, and subscribe to the Hyphae Leaks newsletter and podcast for unfiltered takes from the underground.


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DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. The use, possession, and distribution of psychedelic drugs are illegal in most countries and may result in criminal prosecution.

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