In this episode, Joe interviews Seth Rosenberg: Washington DC-based mycologist and anti-drug war advocate who worked on DC’s decriminalization Initiative 81.
This episode is a companion piece to the Kole and William Leonard Pickard episodes, as Rosenberg has his own traumatic arrest story. He believes that it was his arrogance in posting pictures online about how to grow mushrooms that initially flagged him, and then an internet purchase of legal mescaline-containing plants that somehow led to 11 armed SWAT agents knocking on his door while he was cooking for his family. He tells his story, detailing the financial and emotional impact created from being arrested for legal activity, and asks some powerful questions: Why did they choose to arrest him in this way? With such an obvious case of injustice, why did nobody reach out and help him? And with charges later considerably lessened, are arrests like this done just to scare brazen people into fearful compliance?
They also talk about the beginnings of (and racism in) the drug war; the fundamental problem with the “grow, gather, give” concept of the decrim movement; Dr. Carl Hart; why biotech companies racing to create new compounds likely won’t last; IV ketamine and concerns over ketamine being overhyped; the factor of spirituality in the psychedelic experience (and psychiatry’s disinterest in it); the fluidity of morality over time; the unintended segregation within the psychedelic space; and the very scary reality that no one can ever really hide anything from the government.
“My arrest with 11 people coming in for a mailed package of cactus, with machine guns, with a child in the house, could have been a traffic stop. I could have been called downstairs to sign for the package. There were a number of options that could have happened, but instead, they chose to wait for my daughter to be there and come in with machine guns.”
“The thing that bothers me the most about the decrim movement …is the ‘grow, gather, give’ model, which sounds great and it sounds very community-based, but the truth is: the grower, the gatherer, and the giver are one person. Everyone else is taking. And that’s a very risky person to be, as I found out. …There’s this idea that we’re all going to get together and do this thing, but once you follow the ideas out more logically, they don’t really seem to carry water.”
“I don’t think anybody has any idea what being arrested is until you have been arrested. I mean, I get emotional just thinking about it. It’s incredibly traumatic. You can think, ‘Oh yeah, I can deal with that,’ and maybe if what happened is you got arrested at a DUI stop and it’s just a big hassle, fine – that’s one thing. But whatever you think your reaction is going to be when 11 SWAT guys bust in your door; you have absolutely no idea.”
“They know everything. They are paying attention to everything. They have seen all of your Facebook posts, they have seen all of your Reddit posts. If you are posting about drug use, they already know who you are. …They knew more than I ever imagined that they would know. They know everything. There is no privacy. Once they have decided you are a subject of interest; everything, everything, everything is in the open. That’s it. It’s done. And it’s in the open basically forever.”
Ballotpedia.org: Washington, D.C., Initiative 81, Entheogenic Plants and Fungus Measure (2020)
Psychedelics Today: PT338 – Melissa Lavasani – The Power of Storytelling, The Preservation of Peyote, and “How to Change Your Mind”
Psychedelics Today: PT319 – Kole – Activism and Trust: A Cautionary Tale From Someone Who Got Caught
Psychedelics Today: PT311 – William Leonard Pickard – LSD, Fentanyl, Prison, and the Greatest Gift of All: The Natural Mind
The Mycological Association of Washington
Hopkinspsychedelic.org: Albert Garcia-Romeu, Ph.D.
This Is Your Mind on Plants, by Michael Pollan
Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, by Dr. Carl L. Hart
Psychedelics Today: PT236 – Dr. Carl Hart – Drugs: Honesty, Responsibility, and Logic
Chasing the Scream: The Inspiration for the Feature Film the United States vs. Billie Holiday, by Johann Hari
Psychedelics Today: Psychedelics and Religious Liberty in the United States