Within the last month, the internet virtually shat its pants after the Psychedelic Club of Denver announced it would be hosting the first ever Psychedelic Cup, a community mushroom competition that will test the potencies of various mushrooms grown across the state.

Now we’ll be honest, when we first heard about a Psychedelic Cup, we imagined an American Gladiator-esque event that involved participants ingesting mass amounts of psychedelic substances before wrestling each other over a giant foam pit while 1980’s speed metal played in the background, but honestly? This is probably better.

If you or a loved one has grown some awesome psilocybin mushrooms lately, you could enter the first ever Psychedelic Cup by purchasing an entry ticket for $35 and then paying $40 for each sample of mushrooms that you want tested. One grower is allowed to submit up to five samples, with the Cup accepting submissions until October 17. 

The event, which takes place at Mile High Station on Nov. 2, still left us with a few questions, so we lined up an interview with the event’s main volunteer organizer, Jonathan Cherkoss. Cherkoss met us for a virtual interview while we were in our office, which is also a 2013 Rav4 that permanently smells like a skunk just ripped a bong.

Q:Let’s start out with asking about your official title and job when it comes to the Psychedelic Cup. What’s your role here?

A: I’m the guest organizer for the event. I’m helping to organize all the different facets like contracts, fundraising, media, stuff like that.

Q: How’s that been so far? Are you staying busy? 

A: The feedback has been endlessly positive. Some doubts have been raised about certain aspects but we’ve been quick to address it. The Psychedelic Club of Denver has always worked very democratically, and that’s a huge reason I’ve wanted to create this event with the club.

Q: What’s our official name for this event? Are we calling it the First Annual Psychedelic Cup?

A: As of right now, it’s just the Psychedelic Cup, but yes, this is technically our first annual cup.

Q: We’d imagine with the positive feedback you’ve had, you may have intentions to make the event a tradition?

A: That’s what we hope. We haven’t made it official yet though.

Q: How’d you get involved in the event?

A: I started going to Altitude Consulting after I saw that the company did a Reddit Ask Me Anything. I realized that I lived nearby, and I was working on mushroom extractions at the time. I had a lot of friends that grew, but nobody knew extractions so I thought, “Alright, I’ll do it.”

Q: Now, when you’re talking extractions, are you talking about our friends who just add a bunch of mushrooms to Everclear, or what kind of extractions are we talking about here?

A: I’d say my extractions are a little better than that now, although my first ever extraction was with Everclear. I took it to the lab, and I quickly realized that there was a conversion pathway to psilocin. Sure, you can drink it and it’ll still have a psychoactive effect, but I started doing various methanol extractions with different equipment and using evaporation, that kind of stuff. I went to the lab and they were talking about wanting to do a cup but they were interested in partnering with a non-profit, and I mentioned that I knew a great non-profit that would definitely be interested in doing this.

Q: So it sounds like submissions are open between now and October 17, with the event kicking off on November 2. How’s the response been so far? Are you guys getting a ton of submissions?

A: It’s been unbelievable. We’ve already sold about 75 tickets for the event.

Q: Has that been a little daunting?

A: It’s not NOT daunting. Out of those 75 tickets, about 60 are growing tickets, and each one of those growers can submit up to five samples. So we’d be looking at potentially 300 samples at this point.

Q: That’s a ton of samples to have already. We may have to throw some of our Ecuadors in there just so we can get the feedback on how they’re looking.

A: That’s the whole point of this event is to get people to test their mushrooms. Once they’re tested, people will actually know what they have. This helps to create informed consumers. People who take the mushrooms have an opportunity to know what they’re looking for and what they want, such as a certain psilocybin dose per gram.  

Q: We see that it’s $35 for an entry ticket and then $40 for every sample that a grower wants tested. Is that usually what it costs to get your mushrooms tested at a laboratory?

A: At Altitude Consulting, it’s usually $50, so they are throwing us a discount for the event. However, in a lot of the labs that we’ve talked to and heard about, it’s pretty expensive. It can get upwards of $150 for a test. The unique thing about Altitude is that they’ve been around for a while doing Cannabis and hemp testing. They’ve adapted their systems to work with psilocybin, but they didn’t have to bring in an entire investment to open up their psilocybin lab, which is incredibly expensive and hard.

Q: How long has the Psychedelic Club of Denver had this event in the works?

A: We started talking about it at the beginning of the year. I kind of served as the matchmaker between the club and Altitude Consulting. 

Q: What if people want to attend but have no mushrooms to submit?

A: Tickets are $35 for regular entry to the event, and that’s going towards the free food and the catering of the event. We’ll have guest speakers and a mushroom beauty contest. Our sponsors will have vending booths as well, so it should be a pretty fun night.

Q: You guys have a lot of categories for entry. We really like that you didn’t put emphasis solely on the mushrooms that are submitted with the highest psilocybin content. You have prizes for the most average psilocybin content and even the lowest psilocybin content. How does the judging and testing work and how many categories do you have?

A: We really wanted to do a paradigm shift compared to say, cannabis. It’s really not about highest potency. At the end of the day, psychedelics aren’t weed. You can have a rough reaction to weed, but you don’t want to take too many mushrooms. Without the information from testing, people aren’t going to know what their mushroom doses are. We’ll have twelve overall categories, with six of those being for cubensis species and six being for non-cubensis species. The reason for that is that we got a lot of feedback regarding extremely potent non-cubensis strains, like Pan Cyans. If we allowed those all in the same category it would just blow out the competition. I know a lot of people are growing exotic strains and non-cubensis strains for a variety of purposes, and we really wanted to open that up. At the end of the competition, when we have all the winners, we’ll likely offer genetic testing just to confirm that certain strains are or aren’t cubensis strains. But we wanted to keep our entry cost as low as possible, so we’re only doing potency testing.

Q: What all will these potency tests be testing for?

A: It’s a seven panel potency test, so we’re testing for a lot of different stuff. The seven compounds are psilocybin, psilocin, aeruginascin, baeocystin, norbaeocystin, norpsilocin and 4-hydroxy-TMT, or iodide.

Q: What’s to stop us from taking all of our aborts and submitting that as a sample? (Reader note: in the world of growing mushrooms, not every mushroom turns into a giant cap and stem. Due to a variety of growing reasons, mushrooms may begin to “pin” and then stop growing when they’re around the size of your fingernail. These mushrooms are known as “aborts” and often have incredibly high psilocybin contents for their size.)

A: Ah! So in the rules we’ve specified that we don’t want just caps, or just stems, or just aborts, but that we need a representative sample. You can identify aborts pretty easily. However, aborts are part of growing mushrooms, so if someone wanted to throw in an abort in addition to the rest of the sample, that would be fine. All of our samples are going to have pictures taken, and then we’ll release the entire data set with anonymous information. People are going to be able to see what everything looks like and the winners are obviously going to be shown. The lab also has a lot of discretion when it comes to requesting additional samples and stuff like that.

Q: When you have your winners, will you be publicly announcing who they are? Will every participant in this contest have their name publicly outed as a mushroom grower?

A: We’re going to have the award ceremony and organize it with the unique ID that every participant gets on their grower pass. It is a public award ceremony, so if a person wins and wants to come up and introduce themselves, they can, but we’ll introduce it using the sample number.

Q: It sounds like you guys have a lot of options to help guard privacy if someone still wants their mushrooms tested but don’t care to be publicly known.

A: Exactly. Growers all get a ticket to the event, but if they don’t want to attend the event they don’t have to. If they win, we’ll contact them. 

Q: Do you differentiate categories based on different growing methods? For instance monotubs versus cakes made with brown rice flour?

A: As of right now, we’re putting more of an emphasis on the testing. Additionally, when people submit their samples we ask for different data points, asking how they grew it, where they got their genetics, where they got their growing mediums, stuff like that. We really want to give credit to the brands out there that are really making a name for themselves and pushing it when it comes to genetics and supplies. However, we’re mainly putting emphasis on potency testing. We do ask about growing mediums, for example, did you use brown rice, did you use popcorn? We want to know that. With all the different samples we’re expecting to receive, we’re hoping that we could present some data points on growing methods, mediums and substrates.

Q: We feel like, in some respects, psilocybin mushrooms is still a field that many feel a little iffy towards. We think a lot of people still have trouble understanding the difference between decriminalization and legalization. Could you maybe comment on the legality of the entire thing?

A: The Natural Medicine Health Act and Senate Bill 23290 are kind of the things that allow this. Senate Bill 23290 legalized the testing aspect. It allows for testing labs to collect and test samples and receive remuneration. Under that law the labs can do their testing without anyone getting in trouble. This is why all growing participants have to drop off their samples to Altitude Consulting themselves.

Q: Are you guys accepting samples that are say, put into a capsule or powder?

A: The issue is that there’s a lot of oxidation that occurs on ground material. That’s one of the major reasons we’re asking people not to submit ground material. Once the mushrooms are exposed to air and ground up, the potency essentially nosedives. It eventually stabilizes, but it stabilizes at a significantly lower level. If you’re going to grind it, I’d encourage you to eat it right away as opposed to saving it for later. I personally haven’t done shelf stabilization testing, but someone certainly will and someone certainly should.

Q: We’d love to thank you for your time and the work that you’re doing. This stuff is incredible and we’re stoked to be in the front row to witness the changing times. It’s fantastic to know that we’re not in high school anymore and that people are really starting to care about their mushroom doses. Is there anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t asked you about yet?

A: I’d really like to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors for the Psychedelic Cup. (Reader note: these sponsors include Denver Spore Company, Colorado Cultures, Clark Consultancy, Rooster Magazine, Monster Mushroom Company, Elevated Mushrooms, Dosd Edibles and Kolab Consulting.)

Lastly, I’d like to give credit to the Psychedelic Club of Denver. It serves the community by offering twice monthly free educational events at the Mercury Cafe, free substance checking, and free integration circles. It’s a volunteer-led organization with a member base of over 250 people. You can find out more about membership and events on our website and social media pages.

For more information on the Psychedelic Cup, visit Copsychedeliccup.com. Entries for the Psychedelic Cup will be accepted through October 17, with the event taking place at Mile High Station on Nov. 2.

For more information on the Psychedelic Club of Denver, visit Pcodenver.com.