Comedian Russell Peters takes his act to the psychedelics market—no joke

The Brampton-raised funny man is part of a star-studded cast behind Red Light Holland “magic truffles” that includes former Canopy CEO Bruce Linton


Comedian Russell Peters is chief creative manager of Red Light Holland—despite the fact that he doesn't use psychedelics himself.


A small village in the Netherlands better-known for its connection to iconic American tractor brand John Deere would seem an unlikely place to sprout a psychedelics revolution.

But it’s there that an Ontario-based growing concern is planting its venture in “magic truffles” (not the chocolate variety but the psilocybin-producing kind that grows underground).

Making this foray into fungi more uncanny is the fact that the CEO is a former radio shock jock (and Blind Date contestant). Welcome to Red Light Holland.

The brainchild of former Sirius XM personality and brand ambassador Todd Shapiro is making its way into the legal recreational market in the Netherlands, where the possession of very small amounts of mushrooms is allowed, despite their being illegal. And where a grey area in the country’s opium laws has seen truffles sold in “smart shops” since 2008. Some case law already exists, says Shapiro, to allow the sale of mushrooms in their unprocessed form in the recreational market, which is to say don’t sprout a head or stem. “They have to be sold in the wet unprocessed form,” says Shapiro.

The venture has managed to recruit some very big names to the cause, including most recently Brampton-raised comedian Russell Peters as its chief creative manager. The comedian will receive three million shares in the company at 6 cents a pop (for a total of $180,000 value), in addition to “incentive stock options”, so it’s no joke. Shapiro and Peters have been friends for about a decade.

“Full disclosure—he doesn’t use,” says Shapiro. “But I think he liked the idea of helping people. He’s a bigger-than-life personality who has grown his own brand to become a global brand.”

If we’ve learned anything from cannabis legalization, it’s that startups looking for a quick win by bringing on celebrities to pump their brand usually end up holding the bag.

But Red Light Holland, whose stocks are currently being traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange, has managed to bring a star-studded cast of other notables along for the $TRIP (the symbol it trades under on the CSE).

Among them is a former pioneer in the cannabis sector in ex-Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton, who serves as chair of Red Light’s advisory board. Shapiro used to MC at Canopy events. Then there’s mega real-estate developer Brad Lamb, former Conservative health minister Tony Clement, and Ann Barnes, a former founder of Peace Naturals, Canada’s first cannabis LP.

Psychedelics was an area Linton had been exploring even before his much-publicized departure from Canopy in July 2019. He is part of the management team at MindMed, which is attracting serious interest from investors in its push to develop psychedelics as medicine.

Linton says the discussion around psychedelics in Canada and their potential medicinal and therapeutic benefits is not quite where it is with cannabis, but he offers that Canadians are equally comfortable with the product. He sees psychedelics following a similar trajectory to legalization. “This is going to be a very loud conversation until someone wins it in court.”

Some are already testing the boundaries. A number of grey-market retailers are already selling micro-doses online, much like dispensaries in the grey market before cannabis was legalized. There are also a number of legal challenges wending their way through the courts to make psilocybin available for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. Shapiro has his own stories to tell about the “very positive effects” he’s seen of psilocybin among friends and family dealing with depression, anxiety, and mental health crisis. The hope is for the company to be able to develop a medical-grade truffle in the future.

But for now Red Light Holland is focusing on the recreational market, says Shapiro. “It fits my brand more,” he says.

It’s also a quicker way into the market. Shapiro says he’s exploring opportunities in Brazil, Bulgaria, and Jamaica. But for now the company is focused on the Netherlands. Shapiro says the company has leased space and is in the planning stages of outfitting the facility for production. It’s raised some $8 million for the venture. The plan is to package micro-doses.

Like pot, the growing process is approximately 16 weeks, but unlike pot, it’s not as labour-intensive. “You’re really just babysitting,” says Shapiro, who has very big plans for the brand’s future, including event-based promotions. He would know something about that as an influencer for Canada Goose, Canadian Tire, and Samsung, among others. Think Red Bull.

“We want to create a community feel, a happiness index, and joy through things like comedy. That’s a lot of our strategy here. It’s a brand on top of a product.”

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