There was a knock on the door. “Not now,” Hans said. He did not want to be bothered. He was trying to make sense of something, the last thing Alfred Wolfe had said to him. Hans was holding a framed photograph he kept on his desk - he and Alfred arm in arm. Years ago, Alfred had been Hans’ first psychedelic guide. That somamine experience had shown Hans the potential of psychedelic healing. Now Alfred was reaching the end of his life.

Since Solstice became a for-profit corporation, they had seen each other only once. They had met for lunch while Alfred was in town for an annual conference, running since the 1960s, called Open Science. It had been an awkward exchange, the conversation stilted, Hans feeling restless to return to work. Alfred, looking more frail than ever, had said, “Are you sure you’re doing this for the right reasons?”
Hans had smiled. “Of course I’m sure.” Inside he had been seething.

At the end of the lunch, Alfred had taken hold of his hands once more. He looked Hans in the eye. He said, “There’s one more psychedelic session we must have.”

“This is a busy time,” Hans had replied. Then he had gone back to the office to finish the last details for the patent filing.
What did that even mean, “There’s one more psychedelic session we must have”? It seemed so vague. Maybe Alfred’s mind had dulled with age. Maybe it was just an old man looking backwards.

There was another knock on the office door. Then a third, more urgent. Hans put the photograph down. He said, “This had better be important.”

A team of grim-faced patent attorneys walked into the office. The lead attorney spoke. “A challenge has been leveled against Solstice’s patent application.”

Hans’ mouth fell open. “What?”
“Solstice Science’s patent application has been challenged. They are saying that the patent is too close to a somamine synthesis that has been in the public domain for decades.”

Everything was riding on that patent. If Solstice secured it, the company would see a huge influx of capital from investors. Solstice would have the resources to make somamine a prescription medication in a few short years. The company would become the leader in the mental health care market. If Solstice did not get the patent? Hans did not want to think about that.

Hans tried to keep his voice calm. “Who is ‘they’?”
A few minutes later, Hans and his lawyers watched as Katherine Kesey, the person leading the opposition to Solstice’s patent filing, held a press conference. She began by saying that not only was Solstice’s patent application meritless, but that the company was morally bankrupt too.
“How could the folks at Solstice,” Katherine
began, “justify trying to claim intellectual property,
meaning the result of their own unique and novel work,
over a molecular structure of somamine that is so obviously
not theirs? It’s because they have to. They have no choice. If they
can’t create a monopoly, they will fail.”
“How could the folks at Solstice,” Katherine
began, “justify trying to claim intellectual property
meaning the result of their own unique and novel work,
over a molecular structure of somamine that is so obviously not theirs? It’s because they have to. They have no choice.
If they can’t create a monopoly, they will fail.”
“How could the folks
at Solstice,” Katherine
began, “justify trying to claim
intellectual property, meaning the
result of their own unique and novel work, over a molecular structure of somamine that is so obviously not theirs? It’s because they have to. They have no choice. If they can’t create a monopoly, they will fail.”
A few minutes later, Hans and his lawyers watched as Katherine Kesey, the person leading
the opposition to Solstice’s patent filing, held a
press conference. She
began by saying that
not only was Solstice’s
patent application
meritless, but that the
company was
morally
bankrupt
too.
“How could
the folks at Solstice,”
Katherine began, “justify
trying to claim intellectual
property, meaning the result
of their own unique and novel work, over a molecular structure of somamine that is so obviously not theirs? It’s because they have to. They have no choice. If they can’t create a monopoly, they will fail.”
Hans shook his head. What a waste of time.

Upon FDA approval, Solstice had to have some way to protect its market position. Otherwise anyone could make and sell the synthetic somamine they had spent a hundred million dollars developing into a prescription drug.

The right patents would give Solstice exclusive rights over somamine production and its many therapeutic uses. With a monopoly would come the power to set a price significantly greater than the cost to produce the drug, recouping investments and rewarding the investors who took the risk. The company could then scale access to psychedelic medicine to everyone who needed it.
Solstice Sciences may no longer be a nonprofit, but its mission was the same. It was a public good. Now Hans would take his patent and use it to change mental health forever.

“The people at Solstice,” Katherine continued, “claim that the only way to bring psychedelic medicine online is through venture-funded, patent-seeking, for-profit companies. They have said many times, ‘Unity can’t succeed.’ Well, it’s one thing to believe Unity won’t succeed. It’s another to be the reason it will not. Let’s be clear about something: Solstice has filed this patent to stop the Unity Research Center, because Solstice Sciences, with its mandate for shareholder returns, cannot compete in an open market with a nonprofit whose mission is to provide somamine to those who need it at the lowest price possible.”

An uncomfortable thought came to Hans. Had Katherine learned about the things he had done over the past few months? It was best that none of it came to light.
He had bent industry protocol to force the only manufacturer that could synthesize somamine at scale into an exclusive contract that barred the lab from synthesizing it for anybody else. Then Hans had discovered that for less than $50,000 his team could buy up the world’s supply of a chemical critical to the production of somamine. The chemical was difficult to make and had limited commercial application. Solstice now had so much of it that vats might expire in the warehouse, unused. But if anyone else needed to produce pharmaceutical-grade somamine for wide-spread clinical trials, they would not have the manufacturer or the key starting chemical to do so.

Judith had said it was going too far. None of it had bothered Hans. This was not about Unity. Unity would fail anyway. It was about showing investors that Solstice knew how to play the game. It was about proving the company would do whatever it took.

Katherine’s press conference ended. The lead attorney cleared her throat. “Solstice’s patent, as it’s been filed, will not survive this challenge. We didn’t anticipate such a tight response. We’ll need to improve our claims of novelty. It will take time and resources for research and development. But-”

“No!” Hans yelled.
The attorney continued, her voice raised. “We jeopardize our entire filing if we don’t withdraw some of our claims now.”

How was this happening? This attack came from people so stubborn they would rather see the field fail than change their model. How had they put together such a strong response?

Hans told the lawyers to leave. “For god’s sake,” he said, “get back to work.” Then he was alone. The office was silent. Hans put his head into his hands.

In the months that followed, Solstice filed a stronger patent application. Another legal challenge was mounted. Once again, claims had to be rescinded. The legal fees grew. Investors became uneasy. Hans felt his nerves fray. Word of the smallest setback would make him snap. Only Judith could calm him. She would say, “Remember why you’re doing this.” Hans would curse under his breath and walk back to his desk. He would wait for his heart to stop racing. Then he would open his computer and log back in.
Obstacles stacked up. Nothing seemed to move. Hans became nearly paralyzed with fear, thinking he might fail, despite having come so far.

Then Solstice’s research team had a breakthrough. The somamine that had been synthesized to date had two different chemical structures, a “left handed” and “right handed” branch. The technical name was (S)-somamine and (R)-somamine. Solstice’s chemists could “filter” one branch out, isolating the (R)-somamine, which in its pure form had never before been patented. Technically, the (R)-somamine would be no better. It would just be different. When it came to getting a patent, that was all that mattered.
Hans felt a thrill as he looked over the report. This was it. The patent examiner was sure to bite. Solstice would be granted ownership. Since (R)-somamine would show up in all synthesized somamine, and was almost impossible to remove completely, Solstice could assert patent infringement on anyone else’s synthetic somamine. This was the path to the monopoly the company’s investors needed it to have. This would change everything.
The team was waiting for his reply. “Do it,” Hans said. Then he added, “Congratulations on the innovation.”
When they left, Hans found himself looking at the photo on his desk, he and Alfred arm in arm. That first psychedelic session with Alfred had changed Hans’ life. It put him on a path to where he was today, carrying Alfred’s work forward. Did it matter if they had grown apart? Alfred was a good man. Hans often spoke of him as a teacher. Alfred had just let himself be blinded by idealism.
Hans studied the man in the photograph, now so close to death. I’m doing what you wanted, he thought. I’m bringing somamine to the world.
A few months later, while out to dinner with his son, Hans received a text from Nicholas Wells.
Solstice Sciences' somamine derivative patent has been approved. Congratulations.
Before he could stop himself, Hans whooped out loud. Victor seemed embarrassed. People turned to look. “Excuse me,” Hans said. He could not stop from grinning.

This was a key moment in the history of Solstice Sciences. The company would raise tens of millions of dollars in new funding. Hans could add the word, “unstoppable” to his pitch. Soon Unity would fail. Everyone would see that Hans had been right all along, that indeed the only way to heal the world with psychedelics was to embed psychedelics in companies that could scale them, treating patients while richly rewarding investors along the way. The psychedelic community would come to say, “If not for your vision, we would have no hope.”
Hans tried to explain Solstice’s patent grant to Victor. He did not understand. He just said, “Isn’t it a plant? Doesn’t it grow in the ground? Can you own something like that?” Then he went back to pushing the food around his plate.

It was often like this. Hans would try to explain what the company was doing to his son. For a moment it would seem like Victor had something to say. Then he would look away. He would mumble, “Okay.” A silence would fall between them.

This time it seemed important for Victor to understand. “It’s not the soma plant,” Hans explained. “It’s a specific molecular structure of synthesized somamine, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant. It gives us the intellectual property rights that make it economically feasible to bring this treatment to market as a drug.”
Victor did not look up. “Isn’t the plant a drug anyway?”

“It’s a different kind of drug,” Hans said. “You can’t use it as medicine. It’s illegal.”

“Isn’t what you’re working on illegal too?”

Hans told himself to be patient. “Yes. But we’re working to make it legal. With the FDA.”

“Does that make it better?”

“Yes. Because the somamine is synthetic, the dose can be standardized.”
“Couldn’t you do that with the plant?”

“No. Well yes.” Hans cleared his throat. “But it would take millions of dollars to create a chemical process to extract somamine from the plant.”

“How much have you spent?”

"It’s not the same," Hans’ voice was louder than he intended. “We have to structure our work in a way that lets it generate returns for investors. Otherwise we couldn’t raise the needed funds to make the medicine available to patients.”
Victor’s voice seemed cold. “Why can’t you just make the plants legal?”
“You can’t,” Hans felt himself flush. “It wouldn’t be safe. You wouldn’t have the FDA involved. And there would be no good manufacturing practices, no risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, no interface with healthcare insurance providers. Besides, not enough people care. And then there’s the Sixties. It would be the exact sa-” Hans paused. He was not sure Victor was tracking. “The important thing,” Hans said, “is that you can’t make the plants legal.”

Hans looked at his son. He’s only a child, Hans thought. That’s why he doesn’t understand.
The next day, Hans slept in. He deserved it. Solstice was almost there. When Hans got up, he sat with his coffee, enjoying the sun filtering through the kitchen windows. He kept thinking, we’re so damn close. Hans sighed. A beautiful day, he thought. And rightfully so. He opened the newspaper and began to read.
Hans spilled his coffee. “Shit,” he said. He picked up the newspaper, holding it away from the table so the liquid could drip off.

“Activists in Portland have put a measure on the municipal ballot to decriminalize Soma.”

This can’t be real, Hans thought.

It was only the beginning. Hans had watched company after company form in psychedelics, many raising venture funding off patent strategies similar to Solstice’s. He did not realize a parallel movement had sprung up. In October, the Portland Soma Decriminalization Measure passed by a wide margin. Then, on New Year's Day, Boulder’s City Council voted unanimously to decriminalize all psychedelic plants and fungi. Dozens of municipalities picked up the movement. They called it, “No Prison For Plants.”

What was happening? Just a few years ago, Hans could not get a reply to an email about psychedelics. Now voters and legislators were making psychedelics a lower law enforcement priority than jaywalking.
With each new story about psychedelic decriminalization, Hans felt a mounting fear. People were getting way ahead of themselves. Things were happening too fast. Someone was bound to get hurt. Any high profile psychedelic tragedy had the potential to set the field back years.
Hans had to remind himself to set his worries aside. These were inconveniences, not threats. They were happening in small cities. Their impact would be small at best.
With each new
story about
psychedelic
decriminalization,
Hans felt a mounting
fear. People were
getting way ahead of
themselves. Things
were happening
too fast. Someone
was bound to get
hurt. Any high
profile psychedelic
tragedy had the
potential to set the
field back years.
Hans turned his attention back to the task at hand, stewarding his company to bring somamine into the world the only way it could safely be done. It started with replying to an email from a reporter writing a piece about the company. She had a question Hans had grown tired of.

“Some people are saying Solstice’s actions, which look like a play for a legal monopoly, will hurt the field and limit access to psychedelic treatment. How do you respond?”

Hans sighed. How many times do I have to say this?
Dear Joan,

Thanks for your question about whether we’re inhibiting other players in the field. I love the newspaper, and so look forward to your article. I’ll take this time to clear up a misconception that Solstice is stopping other people with our approach.

We are not planning to charge high prices or stifle competition. Nor do we have any intention of our patent inhibiting anyone else from developing another commercially viable way of scaling patient access to somamine. We sympathize with the criticism, because we share the same goals as the people who repeat it, but it comes from a place of misunderstanding.

If it was clear there was a better way to bring somamine online we’d gladly support it. Like it or not, there is no-
"Ping"
A news alert flashed across the top of Hans’ screen.
Activists in Washington State Move to Legalize Soma

SEATTLE. Activists in the state of Washington are collecting signatures to put a new initiative - The Washington Soma Referendum - on the state-wide ballot. If the referendum is voted into law, the state will legalize access to soma plants for treatment from certified practitioners.

Though somamine, the psychoactive chemical in the flowers of the soma plant, has been shown to be effective for a wide range of clinical diagnoses, the referendum includes access for anyone who felt psychedelic treatment could in some way help their lives.
Hans felt his heart begin to race. He read the rest of the article. He saw that other news outlets had picked the story up. It was not a mistake.

Hans quickly fired off his reply to the reporter. Then he started a new email to his board.
Emergency Meeting: 9am Tomorrow

Clear your calendar and prepare for three hours. We have a crisis. Please read this article and think carefully about what this could mean for Solstice Sciences. Come ready with suggestions about what we can do about it.
Hans slammed his laptop shut. He had to think. He could not think.

In the Washington Soma Referendum, Hans saw a potential crisis for Solstice like none his company had faced. How was this possible? Just a few years ago, potential donors would laugh when Hans told them his nonprofit was working with somamine. Now voters in Washington were considering legalizing regulated access to plant it came from?
What would such a policy mean? Hans thought about the lack of standardization as new players flooded the field. He thought of the lack of accountability. There would be no measurable, enforceable standard of care. It was not even just for people with a clinical diagnosis. And worse, if the Washington Soma Referendum passed, it could become a template for similar reforms. In a matter of years, it might be possible for patients across the country to receive legal, state-sanctioned psychedelic therapy, not with Solstice’s proprietary, patented SOL1000 synthetic somamine formulation, but with the soma plant itself.
Hans felt the blood drain from his face. In that future, SOL1000 could become worthless. Solstice Sciences could be rendered obsolete. Everything Hans had done - all the sacrifices he had made - would be for nothing. The field of psychedelic medicine would spiral out of control. Everything would be lost.
How long would it be, Hans wondered, before investors realized that Solstice Sciences could be existentially threatened by drug policy reform? More urgent - more immediate - what could Hans do to stop it?
It was a long time before Hans’ heart slowed down. By then he was deep into drafting a deck with every strategy he could possibly think of to derail this initiative.
That night, with the deck nearly done, Hans told Judith about the Washington referendum, and what Solstice could do about it. Each time he had explained the anti-competitive measures the company had to take, Judith had seemed upset. Now she said, “How could you oppose this?”
“Is this not registering?” Hans’ voice rose. “They would let clinicians use plants in therapy.” Hans felt the urgency. The fear. Why did Judith not feel it too? “The plants would be a commodity. They would cost almost nothing.” Hans looked at Judith expectantly. “In order to recoup the costs of our R&D and give a return to investors, we’ll need to charge more than $1,000 a dose. If clinicians could use plants in their practice, and they could buy them for almost nothing, how could we compete?”
It was a long time before Judith spoke. “Some of the things you’ve done in the past few years have been very difficult to watch. Each time I’ve said, ‘This is what has to happen for our son to have this treatment.’ But even before you told me about this referendum, I was starting to feel unsure.

“When you changed Solstice to a for-profit, you said you were sure nonprofit pharma wouldn’t work. Why is Unity still moving forward? Yesterday, I read that they open-sourced their innovations on somamine synthesis, because ‘affordable patient access matters more than anything.’ Now there’s Washington. When we started paying attention to psychedelics, we couldn’t have imagined that a U.S. state would consider a path for legal access to soma plants. It’s such a brilliant idea. It’s hard to believe it could be possible.”

Judith continued. “You see the initiative and say, ‘I have to shut this down.’ What if you supported it instead? You could offer your expertise. You could help make it better, safer, more effective. You could use your platform to amplify it. If it passed, there would be a legal psychedelic treatment for our son sooner than it could come through Solstice. All for the cost of the plants and the practitioner’s time.
“But you can’t support it.” Judith’s voice began to shake. “It’s another threat. So instead you’re using your time, your money, your spirit to stop it. Is that why you got into this? Is that why you’ve given five years of your life to it? To stop an initiative like Washington?”

“Judith.” Hans pressed his palms together. “We are months away from Solstice’s IPO. Do you realize what this referendum could mean for that?”

“Listen to yourself,” Judith said. “This whole time you’ve said it’s about bringing psychedelics to the world. Did you only mean it if they come from you? Is that really who you are? Is that the kind of thing you want our son to see?”
Hans clenched his fists. “This is a distraction! We are wasting time.” Hans lowered his voice. “Each time I’ve taken on an investor, I’ve looked them in the eye and said, ‘You are trusting me with your money. I will do my best to make this gamble pay off, so you can turn your millions into billions, and together we can make sick people heal.’” His voice went flat. “I am going back to do my job. We can talk again when you remember why I’m doing it at all.”

Judith held his gaze. She said, “Why are you doing it?” Hans turned and walked out of the room. Judith was left standing there. She turned toward Victor’s bedroom. She closed her eyes. She whispered, “I hope Victor didn’t hear that.” Then Hans was out of earshot, halfway up the stairs to his study, thinking of all the work he had to do before he could go to sleep.

That night Alfred Wolfe died. Alfred slipped away peacefully. He was surrounded by people that he loved. Hans, busy promising research grants to scientists in Washington if they spoke out against the state’s Soma initiative, did not hear about it for a week.
Days later, in his comments at Alfred’s memorial service, Hans talked about the world Alfred had dreamed of - a world where psychedelics were reintegrated into society with a spirit of service at its heart. Hans said, “Alfred was so happy to see how this was happening.” Then he choked up, his eyes sweeping the sanctuary filled with psychedelic luminaries looking up at him.
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