Solidarity Fridays – Week 8 with Dave McGaughey

May 22, 2020

In today’s Solidarity Friday’s Episode, Kyle and Joe interview Dave McGaughey, Founding Partner of NorthStar. In the show, they talk about NorthStar, Ethics, and the story, “We Will Call It Pala”.

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In today’s Solidarity Friday’s Episode, Kyle and Joe interview Dave McGaughey, Founding Partner of NorthStar. In the show, they talk about NorthStar, Ethics, and the story, “We Will Call It Pala”.

Show Notes

About Dave

  • Dave was interested in natural food and kombucha and sold kombucha commercially and personally for 10 years
  • He mentions his favorite book of all time Island
  • The critical moment for Dave was at a convention hall on an escalator
    • On the escalator, in the middle, there were signs for an ‘exit’ that each company sold for
    • “What do we spend our short lives doing and why?” – Dave
    • He became humbled by the genius around him there and left the natural foods ‘industry’ for something more

Business Ethics

  • People come in with really good intentions, and then things get out of hand
  • Money screams security and comfort, even though that’s not really the case
  • Joe says integrity has been Psychedelics Today’s number one goal, we’ve turned down investors that were not ethical, been public about partnerships (and the ending of some), etc
  • Reflect inward to maintain ethical standing
    • “How do we reflect on what we actually need and what we need to do?” – Joe
    • Since the beginning, Joe and Kyle would reach out to their advisory board for questions and guidance

Anchoring Community

  • At Northstar, they look at a large coalition of people in the psychedelic field
    • Pollanators – those who have read Pollan’s book and are super excited
    • Those who have had their own psychedelic experiences
    • Investors who are coming into the space and gaining a lot of power very quickly
    • Anchoring Community – the people who have been here for the longest time, and doing work in this space (elders, drug policy activists, etc)
  • In the underground, there is no strategy of how to hold accountability of facilitators, etc
  • “The eco-system is most thriving when non-profit pharma, and decrim and legalization are going really well” – David


  • Mindmed is making a drug that acts as a LSD Neutralizer technology to shorten and stop LSD trips
    • Dave says it could be really valuable for the ‘bad’ experiences
    • Another thing about the patent that might be bad for the community is that it says that trips are bad
  • He says Mindmed is specifically structured at doing something that may hurt the field

Book Recommendations

  • Dave recommends two books that give insight on organizations and language use
    • Dave mentions a book that helps centrist people understand systemic issues around inequality, The Jungle
    • He recommends to the activist community, Nixonland, of the rise of the culture war

Consumer Education

  • It could be wise to have consumers decide the market
  • “The fact that the field is more precarious, actually puts more incentive to act ethically, especially for patient care.” – Dave
  • Dave says at NorthStar they ask, “In what ways do you build power to incentivize or pressure ethical action across the ecosystem at large?”
  • Joe says a lot of the stuff happening in psychedelics are by people that are underfunded and underpaid
  • NorthStar is not an industry association

NorthStar Pledge

  • It’s a starting point to a dialogue on ethics
    • The NorthStar Pledge is on integrity and ethics
    • How do people in the field who care about this, talk about ethics?
  • Kyle says capitalism has influence on systemic issues
    • He says that people who embody psychedelic influences, are typically ethical
    • Being capitalistic, usually equates to bad ethics, but how do we embody the psychedelic wisdom to create a new model and change the capitalistic model to be more ethical?


  • Is capitalism really bad?
    • Imagine how capitalism would look if it were run by women and people of color, individuals who systematically don’t operate with power
    • Imagine if companies were run by ethics, and not by money or power

Final Thoughts

  • At NorthStar, there are 3 women in high leadership positions
  • Dave wants to see more women and people of color in leadership positions
  • Dave says he is so proud by the leadership who runs NorthStar



We Will Call it Pala

About Dave McGaughey

Dave McGaughey serves as Creative Director for Auryn Project, a non-profit incubator in the psychedelic field supporting heart-lead, highly effective organizations scaling equitable, affordable psychedelic medicine. He is a founding member of North Star, an initiative dedicated to centering integrity and ethics in the heart of the emerging psychedelic field, starting with the North Star Ethics Pledge. Dave is the author of We Will Call It Pala, a short work of graphic fiction exploring one potential future for psychedelic commercialization. Dave has done graphic design and web development for Auryn Project, North Star and Sage Integrative Health. Prior to psychedelics, Dave worked in Natural Foods and has brewed kombucha commercially and personally for more than ten years.

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