Marketing magic: How influencers are helping sell psychedelics to social media masses

In a video posted on TikTok, Fort Collins resident Rachel Pastor outlines the key ways to benefit from microdosing with psilocybin.

Take care of your physical body, she says, and be sure to set an intention when taking the substance. Have a consistent microdosing routine and, most importantly, make time to reflect on the experience and apply any lessons learned to other aspects of life.

Pastor’s video, which has been viewed more than 10,000 times, is like many others on the social media platform that tout the benefits of microdosing with psychedelics and answer questions about doing it. One of the more common inquiries: Where can I get ‘shrooms?

Pastor isn’t shy to answer. In a video from last year with more than 18,000 views, she points people to Golden Rule Mushroom Company, which sells microdosing capsules as well as psilocybin-infused chocolate bars and other products. The company’s website allows shoppers to fill a digital basket and check out with the ease of any other e-commerce purchase.

When Pastor, who goes by @anatomyofloveofficial on TikTok, refers people to Golden Rule, she receives a monetary kickback.

Psilocybin mushroom companies sometimes rely on social influencers to get the word out about their illicit products. Wild Mind Mushrooms, for example, has an affiliate marketing program that provides its marketers with unique codes that shoppers can use to get a discount on infused microdosing capsules, chocolates and teas. (Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post) 

“I know who’s making these products, I know where they’re coming from, I know they’re safe, I know they’re reliable,” Pastor told The Denver Post in an interview. “So I feel good to be able to offer people something out there they’re going to be OK to use.”

Pastor said having a trusted source helps ensure her 73,000 TikTok followers don’t get scammed like she did the first time she tried to buy psilocybin online. “That happens to people all the time. That’s what’s hard about this space, it’s the Wild West.”

Sourcing drugs has historically been relegated to the underground, where you had to “know a guy” to make a purchase. But as the world moved online, so too did the marketplace for drugs. That’s especially true of psychedelics, which are increasingly seen as a potential mental health tool.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, traditional advertising opportunities, like radio and television, are limited in the psychedelics space. But as decriminalization efforts have ramped up across the country, some psilocybin mushroom companies have begun relying on social media influencers to get the word out. The setup here is similar to how influencer relationships work in dozens of other industries, from travel and clothing to nutritional supplements and pet accessories. In this case, however, the product they’re peddling is illegal to sell in Colorado and entirely illegal in most other states.

The adoption of influencer marketing in psychedelics was inevitable, according to Ricardo Baca, founder and CEO of the Grasslands marketing agency, which focuses on cannabis clients. And those companies that leverage it are following a well-worn path.

Baca (who served as The Denver Post’s first cannabis editor) remembers seeing illicit marijuana growers promote their wares on social media as far back as 2013. Because cannabis remains illegal per federal law, even legit companies in Colorado and other states with legal industries have a hard time advertising on Google and Meta platforms, he said.

One wrong word or picture can get an account blocked without warning. To users, it looks like the account has been deleted. That’s why many cannabis and cannabis-adjacent brands also work with individuals on social media to promote their products.

“This is exactly what modern influencer marketing is built for,” Baca said. “When you’re working with illegal substances your options for marketing that product are extremely limited. So why wouldn’t you go to one of the newest forms of marketing – one of the least regulated and least understood forms of marketing – and the marketing that literally positions your brand, your product and your value prop in front of your target audience?”

Psilocybin mushroom companies sometimes rely on social influencers to get the word out about their illicit products. Golden Rule Mushroom Company has affiliate marketers who point people to its website, here they can fill a digital basket and check out with the ease of any other e-commerce purchase. (Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post)
Psilocybin mushroom companies sometimes rely on social influencers to get the word out about their illicit products. Golden Rule Mushroom Company has affiliate marketers who point people to its website, here they can fill a digital basket and check out with the ease of any other e-commerce purchase. (Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post) 

Get ready for mushroom Sunday

Dig through the right hashtags on Instagram and TikTok and you’ll find dozens of companies selling psilocybin-infused gummies, capsules, chocolates, teas and more via ads and sponsored content. Like other companies, they exude an air of professionalism through distinct brand identities, educational posts and partnerships with content creators and influencers.

Some offer these influencers the opportunity to promote products through affiliate programs. For example, anyone can apply to be an affiliate marketer with Golden Rule and, once approved, receive discounts on personal orders, a discount code to share with their followers, and commissions based on sales. Golden Rule says on its website that its suppliers use mushrooms grown in Colorado. (The company didn’t return email messages seeking comment for this story.)

One of the more eye-catching brands is called Wild Mind Mushrooms. Like Golden Rule, it appears to operate out of Colorado but has affiliate marketers across the country. The people in its network take to social media to showcase and review products, such as various flavored herbal teas infused with psilocybin. (Wild Mind didn’t return calls or emails seeking comment.)

TikTok personality @momcallsmebirdy, for example, regularly invites her more than 91,000 followers to get ready for a “Mushroom Sunday” with her. She often starts by preparing a snack before making tea with a Wild Mind blend or throwing one of the company’s chocolates into a smoothie. Her colorful knit sweaters and snippets of her plant-covered apartment add a sense of enchantment to the videos.

“I always get a lot of questions about how much I take each time I do this and honestly every single time is totally different,” she says in one video from October with nearly 1 million views.

She explains the Wild Mind gummies, each with 250 milligrams of psilocybin, give her a mild buzz but still allow her to hold a conversation and do activities like yoga and journaling.

“But when I took the gummies, I was like, you know I probably could have taken two and still been in a great headspace, which makes this tea perfect. The tea is 500 milligrams of psilocybin in each tea bag,” she says while pouring hot water into a mug decorated with cacti. “To get the best effects, I’m going to let this steep for like 5 to 10 minutes.”

A 10-pack of Wild Mind tea bags runs $89; however, buyers can snag 10% off by using a discount code from one of its affiliates, who often share them in captions and comments. Input your credit card and shipping information, and the order arrives at your doorstep in about a week.

Liz Dorman applied to be a Wind Mind affiliate after seeing another content creator post about the company. A certified yoga instructor and reiki practitioner, Dorman began using psychedelics, primarily in large doses, as a medicinal form of therapy during the pandemic. Her TikTok account (@lizsueko) offers glimpses into her daily life as she discusses living with ADHD, dances enthusiastically and, occasionally, makes mushroom tea.

Dorman doesn’t get paid to post about Wild Mind, but she earns a commission whenever someone uses her unique code on a purchase. Given her robust experience with psilocybin, she feels confident recommending Wild Mind based on the product quality, she said. “I just really like the taste of their products. I personally have used other companies’ products that are similar that just don’t taste as good. I like the ease and convenience of consumption.”

For Marilyn Motto (@mushiesandmagic), who also works with Wild Mind, having a trusted source helps her business as a microdosing mentor. She began offering one-on-one guidance to people virtually a couple years ago after informally helping friends integrate, or process, their own psychedelic journeys.

Motto says much of the promotional material around microdosing often promises a quick fix, a misconception she tries to dispel through her social media content and coaching. Though she lives in a state where psychedelics are not decriminalized, Motto thinks it’s important to use her platform to destigmatize plant medicine, especially among queer and neurodivergent folks like herself.

“The products themselves are great. I tell everyone it’s what you do with them that matters though,” she said. “Microdosing and psychedelics, in general, helped me so much with unmasking, with reconnecting with myself, with healing a lot of those experiences, shifting a lot of that perspective, as well as getting off the medications I was taking that were really unhelpful.”

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