The U.S. treasury secretary said that the magic mushrooms she ate at a restaurant in China last month were “delicious,” but she did not trip even though the fungi contained psychedelic properties.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen laughed about the meal during an interview with CNN on Monday, explaining that she was only informed after the fact that the mushroom dish, which has seen a surge in popularity since her dining experience was first reported, was made of the psychoactive Lanmaoa asiatica, a species of fungi native to Asia.
“I went with this large group of people, and the person who had arranged our dinner did the ordering. There was a delicious mushroom dish,” she said. “I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties. I learned that later.”
It’s not clear what compound gives the mushrooms their psychedelic effects, as they’re not the type that most people know about which contain psilocybin.
“I read that if the mushrooms are cooked properly—which I’m sure they were at this very good restaurant—that they have no impact,” Yellen said. “All of us enjoyed the mushrooms, the restaurant, and none of us felt any ill effects.”
Anecdotally, people have said that eating the raw mushroom could produce a hallucinogenic trip that last for multiple days, which could have proved problematic for the secretary as she works to sell President Joe Biden’s economic agenda following a tumultuous year of rising inflation and federal interest rate hikes.
When it comes to drug policies, Yellen has expressed frustration about ongoing barriers to traditional financial services for the marijuana industry under federal prohibition, saying earlier this year that it is “unfortunately” the case that banks remain reluctant to work with state-licensed cannabis businesses, and it’s something regulators “have been looking for solutions to.”
Last year, she said that it’s “extremely frustrating” that Congress has so far been unable to pass legislation like the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and that Treasury is “supportive” of the proposal.
With respect to psychedelics, the story of a Biden administration cabinet official eating hallucinogenic fungi is just one of the latest examples of how broader reform is entertaining the mainstream conversation. It comes at a time when states are moving to legalize and regulate access to more well-known psychedelics, and as bipartisan lawmakers in Congress reexamine federal laws governing the substances.
Marijuana Moment recently asked a different cabinet official—U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra—about his department’s current thinking on psychedelics policy issues, but he deferred to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which falls under HHS.
NIDA Director Nora Volkow said last month that psychedelics have “promising” therapeutic potential—but research into them has been stymied by ongoing federal prohibition.
Earlier this month, NIDA also called for research into the impact of evolving laws around psychedelics, including the effects of allowing regulated access to substances like psilocybin.
The agency separately announced in May that it is soliciting proposals for a series of research initiatives meant to explore how psychedelics could be used to treat drug addiction, with plans to provide $1.5 million in funding to support relevant studies.
Volkow told Marijuana Moment in 2021 that researchers need to prioritize psychedelics research, as more people are likely to use them as they’re exposed to studies showing the therapeutic potential of the substances.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, is also taking steps to facilitate research into psychedelic therapies. Not only has it designated psilocybin and MDMA as “breakthrough therapies,” but the agency recently released first-ever draft guidance to scientists on best practices to study the entheogenic substances in the interest of drug development.