In this episode, Joe interviews Nick Kadysh: Founder and CEO of PharmAla Biotech and member of the board of directors for The Canadian Psychedelic Businesses Association.
PharmAla Biotech is a Toronto-based Life Sciences company with two focuses: contracting with manufacturers to provide researchers with GMP MDMA (created under Good Manufacturing Practice regulations), and creating and researching novel analogs of MDMA. And just today, they announced that Health Canada has authorized them (and their distribution partner, Shaman Pharma) to supply their LaNeo™ MDMA for the treatment of a patient under Canada’s Special Access Program – the first time this has happened in Canada.
He discusses the creation of PharmAla and why their model changed from primarily researching analogs to manufacturing; why they’re operating out of Canada and using manufacturers instead of running the lab themselves; the excitement around Australia’s recent about-face on MDMA and psilocybin-assisted therapy; the bureaucracy of U.S. drug policy and how much a broken supply chain affects the whole industry; bad IP and companies filing rapid fire patents; why creating new analogs of MDMA is so important; and why the psychedelic space needs to bring culture along with us.
He also talks about Spravato, cannabis and risks of cancer, THC nasal sprays, and research he’s most excited about: that MDMA seems to alleviate dyskinesia caused from Parkinson’s disease, and that MDMA could improve social anxiety in people with autism. He’s aiming to run a clinical trial and believes they have developed a safe MDMA analog that the autistic community will respond to very well.
“I don’t want to give the impression that we think that MDMA is unsafe. In the case of PTSD-assisted psychotherapy the way that it’s being presented by MAPS, I think it’s remarkably safe. But, you know, better is still possible.”
“If you told me that you have a brand new drug that was developed in a lab that nobody has ever seen or tried or tested before, and let’s call it drug A. And then you have drug B, which is derived from a mushroom, that people have been consuming regularly for the past 5,000 years and no one’s died. And you’re asking me which one is safer? It’s the mushroom, man. It’s not even a question.”
“We owe it to ourselves in this industry to take the population along for the ride. This is why I think safety is so important, because if you’re working on safety, people like that. People trust that. That’s what happened last time: there was the counterculture and the culture, and the culture won, and we’re still paying for it today. So let’s bring the culture along.”
In this episode of Psychedelics Weekly, Joe and temporary-Colorado-resident Kyle once again record in-person, discussing how psychedelics could change business, the drug war and safe supply, and more.
-a Rolling Stone profile on David Bronner, who makes the case for multi-stakeholder capitalism; where businesses are accountable to their workers, customers, the environment, and surrounding Indigenous communities instead of just investors – an idea more people would likely align with after a psychedelic experience;
-The first psilocybin service center in Oregon (EPIC Healing Eugene) finally receiving their license via the Oregon Health Authority;
-A man who saw his color blindness improve for four months after a 5g mushroom experience;
-The opening of ‘The Drugs Store’ in Vancouver, British Columbia: a mobile store selling drugs illegally as a response to the opioid epidemic and constant influx of untested and laced drugs – the “inevitable result of the government doing nothing” towards offering a safe supply;
-and a survey from the CDC showing that cannabis use among teenagers has declined since legal dispensaries began opening, disproving one of the most common prohibitionist arguments that legalization would only increase use.
And of course, these topics bring on a lot of conversation: how businesses need to be more reflective on how they’re operating; concern over if too much regulation is nerfing the world; the human cost of the drug war and the ever-escalating amount of ODs and drug poisoning cases; HPPD and the need for research around psychedelics and vision/perception; why we will always need both clinical access and the recreational underground, and more.
Have you attended a psychedelic industry conference over the past few years? Gone are the days of few-and-far-between events, and the lone, massive annual psychedelic happening that one simply must attend if they want to keep up on new research and development. It’s 2023, and the psychedelic conference circuit has become a bonafide industry in and of itself.
With dozens of new psychedelic-focused events springing up ’round the globe in recent years – from Oakland to Reykjavik to Tel Aviv – one can tap into this global network of entrepreneurs, activists, and psychonauts, and really choose their own adventure for the first time in psychedelic history. Interested in learning about the commercializing of psychedelics? Perhaps applying insights to your own life or business ventures? Or how about simply keeping up on what’s happening at the vanguard of the psychedelic industry that’s rapidly evolving (for better or worse)? Chances are, there’s a psychedelic conference for that.
My Psychedelic Conference History
I first became aware of the mainstream psychedelic industry conference circuit when I attended the Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference in New York City in 2022. For those unaware, Horizons is the longest-running psychedelic conference in the world (15 years and counting!), and for a long time, was unmatched in its size and scope.
The day before Horizons’ official programming started, I was invited to a pre-party hosted by journalists Josh Hardman and Shayla Love at Shayla’s apartment in New York City. I counted my lucky stars for my extroverted personality, as I found myself awkwardly wedging into established circles and cliques of prolific psychedelic journalists, academics, and entrepreneurs who all seemed to know each other already. Curious about how they all became friends, I asked how everyone seemed to know each other so well. Without skipping a beat, three people simultaneously answered: “Conferences!”
The psychedelic conference circuit has become the place to connect with, learn alongside, and build a meaningful sense of global psychedelic community that is arguably impossible to establish or replicate quite as intimately in a digital environment.
Admittedly, when I launched the Mycopreneur Podcast in January 2021, I had never heard of any of these conferences. Despite being a deeply committed psychonaut and media producer since 2006, I was unaware of the existence of psychedelic conferences until I was invited to Meet Delic in November 2021.
Since then, I’ve been invited to a number of major conferences as press, moderator, and a panelist, and am set to present at and report on considerably more major international conferences throughout the rest of 2023.
I’ve been to eight major psychedelic industry conferences to date, and another dozen or so well-attended underground conferences and festivals across three countries over the last two years. Here are my top tips for maximizing ROI at psychedelic conferences.
1. Clearly define your goals ahead of time
My first psychedelic conference experience felt like a piñata swinging contest, whereby I blindly maneuvered around in search of my bearings and an actionable game plan. The whole time, I felt like I was a step behind everyone and was unsure of the optimal protocol and conference flow. Luckily, Liana Gillooly of MAPS took me under her wing to help me navigate the numerous conference-adjacent events happening in that week, and to help me infiltrate an exclusive afterparty for the Palo Santo fund where I loaded up on prosciutto and camembert cheese while masquerading as the heir to a Connecticut hedge fund fortune.
I left Horizons feeling like I had one foot in the door of the ‘psychedelic industry in-crowd’ (which, yes, is a thing) and recognized the value of investing in attending conferences at all.
When the opportunity surfaced to join the press corps at Wonderland in Miami one month later, I jumped on every connection I had in the area to make it happen. This time, I was ready.
I clearly defined my goal for the event: meet as many people as possible, and get contact info for the ones that resonated with me. I take a shotgun approach to networking, which is more of a benign tactical strategy than a hostage situation, but I whittle down the ‘call to action’ group for following up after the conference with people that I really see myself building and collaborating with.
I managed to connect with at least 100 people at Wonderland in face-to-face conversations and afterparties, and I followed up with a few dozen of them after the event. Some of these meetings and connections have prospered into ongoing friendships and business relationships that have returned great value to my life and platform.
What are your goals? Expanding your network? Finding sales leads? Or simply to make more sense of psychedelics and learn? Write them down. Look at your goal statement periodically throughout the event – does the way that you’re tackling the conference, the presentations and panels you’re taking in, and the people you’re spending time with align with your goals? If not, adjust. Rinse, and repeat.
2. Get real about your budget and resources
Conferences can be extremely expensive. If you can’t afford to make the trip and you don’t have an employer backing you, they’re 100% hackable – if you’re resourceful.
I’ve rented Airbnbs one hour away from a conference and commuted on public transport because it was all I could justify affording. Sleep on people’s couches and air mattresses if you have to. I’ve eaten bread and hummus from the grocery store on many occasions, skipped meals, and even better, loaded up on deli meat and cheese from platters at afterparties. Like anything, you get out of these events what you put into them – so eschew any sense of expectation or entitlement, and focus on defining why you’re there in the first place and executing on your game plan while leaving some room open for spontaneity and the magic of psychedelic community.
Prior to Wonderland, I reached out to Miami psychedelic community stalwart Ray Oracca of Moksha Arts Collective, who had extended an open invite to me to do stand-up comedy at their art gallery earlier in the year. Once I made a deal to stay at the Moksha studio for a week in exchange for a stand up performance, I used credit card points to book the cheapest, most inconvenient flight I could find to Miami. I think I had seven layovers en route, and three of them were in Las Vegas. I didn’t even have a ticket when I showed up, banking on finagling my way in by insisting that I was related to Bob Parsons. The day before the conference kicked off, an unexpected VIP pass showed up with my name on it thanks to Ray and the Moksha community. This type of magic happens more than you can plan for on the conference circuit, and plenty of people arrive at a conference without a ticket and capitalize on the networking and afterparties that surround the event. Almost every event has room for volunteers, media, and programming support, so offer yourself up.
Do you have the finances to afford attending the event? If not, will your employer support your trip? If all else fails, ask yourself: “who do I know, and what can I offer that could help fund my event experience?”
3. Find the others
This is probably the most important angle of the conference circuit. At SXSW in Austin earlier this year (which was jam-packed with psychedelic programming), I was so overwhelmed and baffled by the first half of day one that I considered going back to my friend’s house and spending the day with his dog instead. It took everything in me to come to terms with the madhouse frenetic environment of the convention center and downtown Austin; I spent two hours sitting cross-legged on the floor trying to ground myself by chanting the mantra “psychedelic renaissance” over and over until it became a meaningless verbal Rorschach test.
This all changed when I connected with my friend Peter Vitale, who is an excellent steward of community and psychedelic lawyer (which is actually a more sober and jurisprudential vocation than Hunter S. Thompson’s attorney in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas would have you believe – though there are certainly some overlapping elements).
Peter got me dialed in to the wider and more connected community of psychedelic industry folks who were at SXSW, as opposed to the more scatterbrained approach I was taking wherein I just kept attaching myself to the fringes of Paul Stamets’ entourage. Connecting with a critical mass of aligned people is key to a successful conference experience. Finding likeminded people enables you to move with the ebb and flow of the group, and to break off into satellite groups with one or two people at a time for side quests as you see fit.
4. Don’t sell yourself up front
This is a big one for many people hoping to build and scale their networks and businesses. I learned this one the hard way in my early days navigating the music and entertainment industry, when I shot my shot far too often without any sense of connection or community framework to the people I was pitching myself to. Quentin Tarantino doesn’t care that your new script has a scene where he gets anally probed by proboscis monkeys with AI capabilities when he’s just trying to have a nice dinner out with his family in Tribeca, and the same principle rings true among the psychedelic conference circuit movers and shakers.
I’ve seen the same thing happen time and again as this industry continues to ascend, but this time, I’m the one who receives the unsolicited pitches and million-dollar ideas that sound far better on ketamine than on paper. It’s best to build rapport with people and communities first before trying to sell them on your project – people buy into you as much (if not more) than what you’re working on, so establishing trust and relationships is key. Be patient. As you continue to hone your network, you may find yourself invited into projects and opportunities that serve to strengthen and add value to your own work.
5. Pace your partying
I learned this one the hard way after Wonderland. I actually quit drinking largely because of my experience at the Wonderland afterparties. Open bars and a taste for mezcal are awesome for stags and the Gathering of the Juggalos, but not always great for professional networking. This, of course, depends on your intention that you’ve clearly stated as your reason for being at a conference (see tip #1). Considering my standard goal is to effectively and meaningfully network and add value to other people’s organizations while elevating my own platform (and also to pick up new satire material, because I can’t switch that part of my brain off anymore and industry types are often unintentionally hilarious), blacking out and rambling about boofing Hape on camera for a professional film crew at an exclusive afterparty sponsored by a high-profile company is, arguably, detrimental to the cause. I’ve seen this kind of thing happen a lot, and while some may not hold it against you, it’s probably not the look you’re going for. Don’t be the person from the afterparty everyone talks about the next day.
In parallel, it’s essential to stay hydrated, on point, and ready to pivot at any moment. Opportunities arise on the fly, and you need to be positioned to jump on them. During events, I’ve received many unpredictable invites to meetings or opportunities that require precise timing and preparedness, so I’ve learned that my phone must always have a charged battery, and that I’m ready to jump in an Uber or navigate to a second location at a moment’s notice. You can’t do that when you’re busy staring in disbelief at galactic swirls in your fingerprints all night.
At each subsequent conference I’ve attended, I’ve refined my approach to include eliminating alcohol and substance consumption from afterparties to stay sharp and on the ball. I’m usually a solo macrodose tripper, and conferences give me all the social fulfillment I need without surrendering my consciousness to a trustafarian shaman with a Hape applicator and really good MDMA.
As Salvador Dali said: “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” Okay, fine. I’ll try some of your mushroom chocolate if you twist my arm.
6. Find the WhatsApp and Signal Groups
There’s virtually always some kind of group chat thread where invitations to the afterparties and unique events that are not officially announced anywhere are posted. If you see someone who works with an established psychedelic company, flag them down and naively inquire about the existence of such a group. Use blackmail if you have to. It’s great to have an overview of the conference atmosphere and what people are doing, and you can take and leave the invitations to panels, parties, and events as you see fit. You don’t have to go to everything, but if you don’t know, you can’t go.
7. Carve out time for 1 x 1 meetings and collaborations
Going to lunch with people, building personal relationships, and dreaming up plans and projects together is what it’s all about for me. The best way to bypass the digital age of impersonal queries and project proposals is to meet people IRL. I’ve sowed the seeds of projects during five-minute conversations with people at conferences that have taken over a year to manifest. If you can steal a few minutes away to eat meatball sundaes with Kyle Buller while the Psychedelics Team shops for rugs at IKEA before Cannadelic Miami, do it.
Get people’s phone numbers and keep in touch with them. Don’t just hit people up when you need something from them or want to sell them on something. If you have a chat about pygmy elephants with someone at a conference, and you click, then text them the next time pygmy elephants come up in your life (this happens surprisingly often in my world). Text or call people on their birthdays, show an interest in what they’re doing, and look to add value to their lives and be a resource rather than trying to extract value from them.
I can’t over-emphasize the importance of showing up wherever you can. Take a leap of faith and put yourself out there.
Hit the Ground Running
Are you looking for an upcoming psychedelic happening to attend or support in 2023? Psychedelics Today wants to see YOU at these great upcoming events:
DiscoveryCon 2023: Taking place on April 18 – 19 in the Bay Area, this gathering of the psychedelic community includes an impressive lineup of speakers including Robin Carhart-Harris, Hamilton Morris, and Bia Labate. DiscoveryCon will be held on Bicycle Day, the anniversary of the first intentional LSD trip taken by Dr. Albert Hofmann (use code PSYCTODAY for 30% off tickets).
Breaking Convention: Europe’s largest psychedelic consciousness conference is happening April 20 – 22 in Exeter, U.K. Breaking Convention offers groundbreaking research and insights across disciplines such as human and social sciences, law, politics, art, history, and philosophy (use code PSYCHTODAYBC10 for 10% off tickets).
Trailblazers NYC: Happening April 24 – 25 in New York City, Trailblazers brings together entrepreneurs, investors, and other leaders in the psychedelic industry.
PsyCon: Scheduled to take place in Portland, OR from May 19 – 20, this event will focus on the emerging psilocybin market in Oregon, featuring speakers including Lamar Odom, Yolanda Clarke, and Del Potter. A second PsyCon event is being held in the fall (from Sept. 29 – 30 in Denver, CO.)
Psychedelic Science 2023: Organized by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Psychedelic Science is set to be one of the longest-ever psychedelic conferences. Held from June 19 – 23 in Denver, CO the event features research on psychedelics, therapeutic uses of psychedelics, and the impact of psychedelics on society (use code PT15 for 15% off tickets).
In this episode of Psychedelics Weekly, Joe calls in from Los Angeles to cover the week’s news with David.
-Dr. Julie Holland’s recent appearance on the The Cannabis Investing Podcast, where she discussed the concept of cannabis being a psychedelic;
-Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, Canada, planning to establish a Psychedelic Research Centre, with a focus on the historical and ethical context of psychedelic substances, using a “two eyed seeing” approach that combines Western-style science with Indigenous perspectives;
-A group of investors creating a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) to purchase real estate for the purposes of psychedelic therapy, which, if used as the collaborative model we imagine it could be, could solve a lot of problems;
-Diplo completing the Los Angeles Marathon in 3 hours and 35 minutes while under a reported 4-5 drops of LSD, and the dismissive spin mainstream media added to the story;
and a Rolling Stone article focusing on (and somewhat oversimplifying) the conflicts between the medicalization and decriminalization/legalization camps (can we just do both?).
The articles of course lead to much larger discussions: how cannabis has helped David overcome OCD; the need for more transparency and a review system based on abusive behavior in the psychedelic space; the idea of collectivization in therapy models; the need to agree on ethical foundations; and our general misunderstanding of IP and IP law: was all the criticism of Compass Pathways unwarranted?
In this episode of Psychedelics Weekly, Joe and Kyle are back at it, talking about news and what’s going on at Psychedelics Today (applications for Vital close this Sunday, March 26, and we’ve just announced a new neuroscience course!).
Following up on last week’s news that Field Trip Health had closed five clinics, they start with more unfortunate news: that Field Trip is laying off a lot of people, Ronan Levy has resigned as the CEO, trading has been suspended, and the company has obtained CCAA Protection (which, through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, essentially allows a struggling company a chance to restructure its finances to avoid bankruptcy, all through a formal Plan of Arrangement). And in similar news, all Ketamine Wellness Centers (an Arizona company recently acquired by Delic Holdings) would be closing immediately, with employees let go with little warning or explanation. These stories (and Synthesis Institute’s downfall) highlight the sad reality many of us in the psychedelic space forget: that just because a business is heart-centered and psychedelic-minded, it’s still a business, and businesses need to be profitable to survive.
Next, they cover Melissa Lavasani and the Psychedelic Medicine Coalition creating the Psychedelic Medicine PAC (Political Action Committee) to get more government funding behind psychedelic research. Members of PMC went to D.C. last week, presenting a psychedelic briefing to begin the process of educating legislators about the realities of plant medicines and psychedelic-assisted therapy (and Joe was there).
And they discuss more: concerns over Australia’s recent about-face on MDMA and psilocybin being used legally; a recent study where researchers used EEG and fMRI together to record what is happening in the brain while under the influence of DMT (and we should probably have Manesh Girn on again to explain it better than we could); and an interview with Eric Andre at SXSW where, in about 2 minutes, he brilliantly shines a light on drug exceptionalism, the lies of the drug war, and the need for more education on psychedelics – all to a bewildered reporter who didn’t seem prepared to talk to Eric Andre (we are- please come on the podcast!).
In this episode, Joe interviews the Co-Founder and CEO of Beckley Retreats, Neil Markey.
Markey describes Beckley Retreats as comprehensive well-being programs, and talks about the importance of holistic wellness – that, while the retreats are centered around two group psilocybin experiences, the true benefits come from complementary factors: the four weeks of online prep and community building before the retreat, the six days in Jamaica surrounding the experiences, the six weeks of integration work after, and the depth of connections people find in the new community they may not have realized they needed so badly. He breaks down the details of the retreats and what they look for in facilitators, and tells a few success stories that really highlight how trauma, opposing ideas, and an infatuation with material objects and amassing wealth can all get in the way of real relationships and meaning.
Beckley Retreats is currently working on two new projects: an observational study with Heroic Hearts and Imperial College London on using psilocybin for-traumatic brain injury, and a study with Bennet Zelner and the University of Maryland to bring executives through a retreat to see how it affects leadership and decision-making: can they prove that these types of experiences lead to more heart-centered leaders?
We are currently running a giveaway where you can win a one-on-one meditation class with Neil and a custom Beckley Retreats tote, as well as many other prizes. Click here to enter!
“The problem, a lot of times with Western medicine, is if you can’t understand the mechanics of it, then we kind of discard it, or if you can’t isolate a single variable, then we discard it. It’s like: well, some things work in tandem. If you actually peel the physics back, it looks like everything’s connected to everything, so we’ve got to think about more comprehensive approaches. I think that you can learn a lot from looking at traditional practices and some of the Indigenous wisdom that’s out there; that there’s a method to how this work has been done for quite some time and we shouldn’t disregard it.”
“If we can help people in a clinic model, let’s do that. But [with a] clinic, again: when you take someone, you give them a mystical experience, and then they go right back home or right back to work and right back into life, are you creating enough space for there to be optimal change? I think we need to keep studying it and asking those questions.”
“[Amanda Feilding] never saw a rule that she didn’t want to break. She’s [this] lifelong badass that has just gone against the grain for her entire career. But it was never about money for her, it was all because she thought she could help people. It’s so inspiring. We need more of those stories; less stories about people that made a billion dollars or whatever and more material things, and [more of] these stories about folks that are just out there trying to help others. It fires me up.”
In this episode of Psychedelics Weekly, Joe and Kyle join up once again to discuss the news and articles they found the most interesting this week.
They start with the business news everyone is talking about: Field Trip Health & Wellness closing 5 of their clinics due to financial struggles (a deficit of $48.7 million since their inception and a net loss of $6.9 million reported for the last quarter), little confidence they’d be able to receive more funding, and the changing landscape of ketamine telehealth now that the Covid Public Health Emergency should finally come to an end in May. They also highlight an article dissecting the collapse of Synthesis Institute and the lessons to be learned, with both stories really showing just how new and unstable psychedelic business still is, and how the allure of first-mover advantage can be a dangerous gamble.
They also discuss four drug reform bills introduced in Vermont: two of which would decriminalize simple possession of all drugs, making a “personal use supply of drugs” a civil offense with a $50 fine; one removing penalties for using or selling psilocybin; and the last decriminalizing certain psychedelic plants and fungi.
And they look at a research study aiming to learn more about people’s lives after they’ve been involved in a clinical trial, Time Magazine’s article about psychedelics and couples therapy, and a study that found that while 64% of survey respondents said at-home ketamine helped their symptoms, 55% (and 58% of Millennials) said they used more than the recommended dose – either by accident or on purpose.
Twitter: @Eddietalksdrugs(Have you participated in a clinical trial involving #psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy? How has life been after the trial? Contact email@example.com for more information.)
In this episode, David hosts another Vital Psychedelic Conversation, this time with Bennet Zelner, Ph.D.: Vital instructor who teaches economics at the University of Maryland Smith School of Business; and Giles Hayward: Vital student and Co-Founder of Woven Science (a company backing and building psychedelic and wellness tech companies) and El Puente, which focuses on Indigenous biocultural preservation.
Zelner believes that the traditional capitalist system we’ve grown accustomed to is an extractive and predatory one directly in opposition to a natural system we should be striving to emulate – one that circulates resources and exits largely in equilibrium with its different parts. His concept of the Pollination Approach (or regenerative economics) is about developing economic structures that are capable of balance: where communities are built to directly benefit each other and where businesses are structured to share resources and capital to all involved. In a hyper-individualistic system where loneliness and never feeling good enough are key drivers of depression, anxiety, and trauma, how could we not benefit from feeling more connected to each other, our communities, and the businesses that exist within them?
They talk about different ways the pollination approach could be applied; how psychedelics disrupt these broken systems; how we can make these treatments affordable; and why we should be focusing on the delivery and integration of substances rather than creating new ones. And since Hayward is about to graduate from Vital’s inaugural run, he shares his feelings on the program and how it fell into this concept of regenerative economics.
The application deadline for this year’s Vital has been extended to March 26, but this will be the last extension. So if you’re interested, now is the time to apply!
“Our connection to each other and to the natural world, I think, is undeniable. To argue that our individual well-being does not depend on the health of the natural systems that we depend on for food, for air, [and] for water is just folly. …I think that deep down, everybody actually knows that we’re connected, and we’ve just been taught to forget that by many cultural forces. I think psychedelics can help us remember this innate wisdom.” -Bennet
“If we go back thousands of years, our pagan ancestors believed in animism. We believed and saw that there was a spirit and an essence in everything. And yet today, through this reductionist mindset (ever since Descartes said, ‘I think, therefore I am’), we have gone on this odyssey which has fortified this belief that we live in a separate existence, a separate world where there’s no room to see the world around us as being alive [and] full of spirit. …If we’re able to see the world as alive, [and] we’re able to develop an intimate relationship with all things around us, one might think that these feelings of loneliness could dissipate somewhat.” -Giles
“The principles of nature are sacred. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world of natural systems, and if we’re unwilling to behave in a way according to the principles of natural systems, then the natural systems will survive. We’re the ones who will not.” -Bennet
In this episode of Psychedelics Weekly, David is joined by Kyle, who is finally home after a lot of traveling, to talk shop and dig into the articles they found the most interesting this week.
They begin with the news that Paul Stamets now has a species of mushroom named after him (Psilocybe stametsii), then take a look at a recent self-report study called “Prevalence and associations of challenging, difficult or distressing experiences using classic psychedelics,” which aimed to collect data on just how many psychedelic users (in this study, anyone who had ever tried a psychedelic) felt that they had had a challenging or difficult experience. They discuss the results and highlight some interesting data: that LSD was the most commonly associated substance, that smoking cannabis was one of the most commonly reported interventions, and of course, the question of whether or not these experiences were beneficial.
They then talk about Synthesis Institute closing its doors, the possible hope Synthesis could have, and the sadness in this – when businesses fail, it’s easy to look at numbers and profit margins and be dismissive, but we forget the people involved; not just at Synthesis, but the hundreds of would-be students.
And lastly, they look at an article about a California-based startup called the Reality Center, which uses a combination of pulsing lights, sounds, and vibrations to create a drug-free but seemingly very psychedelic experience, reminding us yet again that you do not need a substance to achieve non-ordinary states of consciousness.
In this episode, David interviews Kevin Cannella, LPC: MAPS-trained psychedelic psychotherapist and Co-Founder and Executive Director of Thank You Life, a nonprofit organization working to provide access to psychedelic therapy by eliminating its financial barriers.
Co-Founded by Dr. Dan Engle, Thank You Life is very new and still in the process of officially launching, having just obtained 501(c)(3) status in December and recently gaining its first corporate sponsor in Dr. Bronner’s. The nonprofit came from the realization of just how expensive psychedelic-assisted therapy can be, and Cannella wondering: what if there was a fund practitioners could plug into when a patient couldn’t pay? While access for the patient is obvious, this model benefits the practitioner as well, which is something not often discussed in the psychedelic space – we focus a lot on how much these services will cost the patient, but rarely on the practitioner deserving to be paid fairly for their time and expertise.
Cannella tells his story of immersion into a world of ayahuasca, yoga, and vipassana meditation; volunteering at the Temple of the Way of Light, living in Hawaii, then Brazil, and finally, landing at Naropa University, where his passions were finally validated. He discusses looking for signs and learning to trust intuition, ways to increase accessibility outside of a 501(c)(3) model, how it feels to be paid well for your work, and why he only wants to work with practitioners who offer therapy alongside their chosen substance.
Head to their website to donate to the Thank You Life fund, and follow them on socials for details on upcoming launch/fundraising events in April and May, including a public event at the also-new California Center for Psychedelic Therapy. For larger donations or partnership inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If the client couldn’t pay, the financial burden was falling on the therapist or the clinic, although a lot of what was in my field was just therapists in private practice. Therapists can take some sliding scale people, maybe they even do some pro bono, but they still need to make a living and they can’t just be giving away their hours and their time. So this sort of Utopian thought was like: wouldn’t it be great if there was just a fund that we could all plug into, and then that fund could take the financial burden, and we could just be saying yes to the people that we want to be saying yes to?”
“What it feels like in my body when I would do a session for $70 compared to $150: it’s different. It’s different to get paid well. It’s a different energetic experience to get paid well. And I have so much more to give when I’m getting paid well, because I’m not burdened by feeling undervalued and feeling like I’m in this uphill battle with making a good financial living for myself and my family.”
“I think it can be one big shift in the whole way our culture looks at mental health if it becomes a standard that employers offer psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for trauma healing. I mean, what a shift that that would bring, just on its own. …How different would it be if not only could you share with your boss that you got a ketamine treatment, but that the company was actually paying for it and saying, ‘Yes, go get your healing.’?”
In this episode of Psychedelics Weekly, Kyle is joined by another new voice from the PT team: one of the main instructors and facilitators from our Vital program, Diego Pinzon.
Originally from Colombia, Diego has been living in Australia since 2008 and has been involved in the Australian psychedelic scene, playing roles in the charity sector, research with Psychae Institute, and is one of the researchers in the St. Vincent’s Melbourne trial, Australia’s first trial using psilocybin for end-of-life depression and anxiety. Diego gives his insight into the recent TGA re-scheduling of psilocybin and MDMA for treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, respectively.
They cover the details, unknowns, and concerns: Is there enough time to train enough people? Do they have the infrastructure for this? What are the substances actually going to be? What percentage of people who apply will be granted access? What will it cost? And while psychiatrists will be able to prescribe, how much will the program really focus on therapy?
And they discuss Vancouver’s Filament Health creating the world’s first ayahuasca pill, which is close to FDA authorization to begin a Phase 1 trial. Of course this news begs some questions as well, mainly: with psychedelic use being such an active experience, how much does something like this change our relationship to ayahuasca? And with a consistent, more predictable experience, does that kill the magic?
In this episode, Joe interviews Jessica “Jaz” Cadoch: anthropologist, Co-Director of the Global Psychedelic Society, and Prop 122 steering committee member; and Sovereign Oshumare: Founder of XRYSALIS, an online community and retreat for queer, transgender, and intersex people of color, and Founder of Shelterwood Collective, a 900-acre eco-village and retreat center led by LGBTQ Black and Indigenous people.
Together, they are Co-Founders of ALKEMI, a consulting firm for psychedelic ethics and accountability, created due to the amount of businesses coming into this space who likely have very little understanding of the values that were established while they weren’t paying attention. They’re asking businesses questions many don’t consider: Is there a true need for them? Do they know their community and does the community want them there? Are their internal operations hierarchal or decentralized? Do employees feel heard and seen? And most importantly, have they taken any of the lessons from psychedelics and applied them towards the way they handle business and treat each other?
As Cadoch was a member of the steering committee for Colorado’s Natural Medicine Act (AKA Prop 122), she discusses what it was like from the inside: the problems (complaints about who was involved, if the voices from the community were a true representation, language in the bill); how the conflict showed how easily money and power could embody people; the problems with fighting over perfection while people are being sentenced to prison; and, where everyone is now: together in the aftermath, trying to figure out how to work together, unite missions, and build bridges between seemingly disparate parties.
They also discuss the problems with binary thinking, the concept of a business recalibrating its relationship to profit and ROI, what true access means, why it’s ok to go slow and not rush through the uncomfortable, and more.
“How are you really taking the lessons that the medicines are teaching us and applying them to the way you’re building your company? …Are you doing psychedelic business or are you doing business psychedelically?” -Jaz
“Each time that I’m broken, I’m rebuilt stronger. And that, to me, is such a journey. And committing to that journey is what I hope we as ALKEMI bestow upon people; giving them the endurance and stamina to be broken and be rebuilt, because we all need that. This system needs that. This world needs that. And we live in a system where we’re rewarded for not doing it.” -Sovereign
“At the end of the day, we are all we got. And the more we know who we are, the more we find alignment, the more we find each other, the more we mend our differences, the stronger we’ll be.” -Sovereign
“When we talk about access, it’s not only like financial access, but it’s also cultural access – to make it make sense for people who don’t speak this language, make it make sense for people who have survivor’s guilt from growing up in the hood in D.C., make it make sense for Hispanic rural communities, make it make sense for my Grandmother that needs a doctor in a white coat to tell her that this is safe. That’s what access means. It’s all of that.” -Jaz