“If the words 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' don't include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn't worth the hemp it was written on.”
― Terence McKenna
The second biggest news hitting the psychedelic world this week is that Denver just voted on the decriminalization of psilocybin. Initiative Ordinance 301 will decriminalize mushrooms in Denver for personal use and possession by people 21 years and older. The initiative states that the city should make personal use and possession its ‘lowest law-enforcement priority’ and ‘prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties.’ There are also efforts currently underway to allow ‘magic mushrooms’ in California and Oregon.
When I went to bed early this morning, the initiative was trailing by nearly 5,000 votes with 40,000 left to count. I woke up this morning reading media reports of its demise, but I kept my eyes peeled and hopes up. Unofficial final results just hit and it appears that the initiative squeaked by in dramatic fashion with a 50.56 percent voting for approval with 49.44 percent opposing decriminalization. Less than 2,000 votes. Well played Denver...
So what does this all mean? To me, it means that work still needs to be done to inform the public about the efficaciousness of psilocybin therapies, while breaking the stigma that has been ingrained into each one of us by the government’s war on drugs and media’s role in hysterical reporting on psychedelics. It means that each of us that support the responsible use of psychedelic plants and mushrooms need to inform ourselves adequately to respectfully and mindfully debate when baseless assumptions are made regarding the use of these substances.
Due to the mental health crises and substance abuse epidemics here in Alaska, and beyond, it is high time for a psychedelic re-awakening. To continue to ignore both the medical and social benefits derived from psilocybin mushrooms would be a lost opportunity and a potentially fatal mistake. There is hope for those unable to kick opiates. There is hope for those suffering from PTSD and unable to medicate themselves out of it. There is hope for alcoholics. And there is hope for all of us that love those who suffer from these afflictions and put our lives through hell worrying about them and their behavior. It’s time to stand up and fight for your right… to heal, to connect, and to party!
Regardless of Denver’s results, we are truly in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance. For the most part, that is a good thing. However, my inbox has recently been inundated with media hype reports about making psychedelics legal; riding on the coattails of cannabis for medical and recreational use. Reports touting these ancient wonder drugs that can cure everything from addiction to depression to sexual enhancement. These are not simply wonder drugs. They are sacred plants and mushrooms, not to be taken lightly for their abilities to alter one’s mind. They can change one’s perception in very powerful ways; positively enriching one’s life, while also having long term risks that properly need to be addressed before responsible recreational use.
I’ve been anticipating and actually looking forward to opposition regarding my writings on psychedelics. Interestingly, the only opposition that I have received is from recreational users feeling that the focus on the medical leaves out the recreational user to experiment with psychedelics as they see fit. I also have had a number of friends sharing their microdosing experiences with me, taking approximately 1/10th of a trip dose, 2-3 days a week. They explain to me that microdosing helps them much more than their adderall or ritalin experiences to gain focus and stay in their creative process.
Microdosing works. It enables us to shut off the distractions that inhibit us from focusing on getting a desired task completed. It enabled me to sort out chalkboards full of notes and scribblings to actually be able to put my words down in a readable format and helped kickstart my creative writing process. A single, one-month cycle of low dose psilocybin and the effects have lasted for months. However, there are inherent risks to microdosing, as well, for various individuals and additional research is needed in this area.
My stance all along is that we need to look at re-scheduling these substances. President Nixon unjustly threw psychedelic substances in as a Schedule I drugs, meaning it carries a high risk of abuse and no medical value. This is a ludicrous policy that needs to be addressed. Evidence-based studies from around the globe confirm psilocybin’s efficacy in treating patients with depression, addiction, PTSD, and yep, you guessed it, psilocybin use has been verified to enhance sexual activity and induce altered levels of intimate connectivity.
However, I’m not so sure that society has matured to the level of full-on open recreational use of psilocybin. A favorite quote from one of my favorite philosophers is, “You can’t factor for the moron.”
Famed ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna revealed, “The biggest danger with psychedelics is that while you are in that open state, some moron will mess with you; either lay a suggestion on you, plant an idea on you, manipulate you, or turn you in a way you wouldn’t ordinarily go. This is why psychedelic etiquette means knowing your tripping partner.”
I also have huge concerns, being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, that in the wrong hands psilocybin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and other psychedelics could be used as tools for the sick practitioner or ‘friend.’ A psychedelic session, with the wrong guide, could potentially cause irreversible damage. These are sacred drugs and it appears to me that there are a lot of people calling themselves shaman these days. If you can’t trust your sources or your partners, then you have no business experimenting with these mind-altering substances.
Alicia Danforth PhD, co-investigator on UCLA’s seminal pilot study using psilocybin for end-of-life anxiety advises, “Psilocybin was used as a sacrament for sacred rituals, with a lot of reverence, wisdom, tradition, and mentoring. I’m not sure we are grown up enough as a culture to just have widespread access.”
For me, beyond the sacred and therapeutic values is that we have a basic human right to explore our own consciousness. The U.S. Government’s War on Drugs has undeniably been a lie shoved down our collective throat as influence quickly spread and shut down research in psychedelics for years, all around the globe.
Terence McKenna adds, “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
President Nixon’s advisor on domestic affairs, John Ehrlichman, revealed in an interview regarding the War on Drugs, “You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily; we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
President Nixon temporarily placed marijuana and other psychedelic substances in Schedule I, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending a review by a commission led by Nixon appointee Pennsylvania Governor, Raymond Shafer. Shafer’s commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the findings and the plant remains on Schedule I today.
In the early-1980’s, President Reagan doubled down on the war on drugs as First Lady Nancy Reagan led a tireless effort to thwart drug use with her ‘Just Say No’ to drugs campaign. What it truly succeeded in doing was to make children fearful of drug users and reinforce the conception that drug users are bad people. But it failed epically as the number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997. History again repeated itself by imposing lopsided sentencing legislation distinguishing between powder cocaine and crack cocaine. Same drug - different demographic.
In Jay Z’s short film documentary, “The War on Drugs: From Prohibition to Gold Rush”, Jay Z informs, “Judges hands were tied by ‘tough on crime’ laws and they were forced to hand out mandatory life sentences for simple possession and low-level drug sales.”
“Even though it was white people that used and sold crack more than black people, somehow it was black people that went to prison.” Crack is still identified as a ‘black problem.’ Jay Z continues, “NYPD raided our Brooklyn neighborhoods while Manhattan bankers openly used coke with impunity.”
In 1987, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America sponsored the production of their very memorable 30-second attention-getting public service announcement showing an egg frying in a hot skillet stating, "This is your brain on drugs."
The scientific evidence reveals a vastly differing perspective. Researchers at the Imperial College in London utilizing fMRI imaging from healthy participants who ingested psilocybin, found that it caused brain regions that are typically disconnected to start to communicate with each other. In a normal ‘sober’ state, there’s little cross-linking between different networks within the brain. Researchers found that when psilocybin was introduced, the networks begin cross-linking throughout the brain. These new connections aren’t random.
Yet the war on drugs and its effective assault on American citizens continue today with 700,000 people arrested for marijuana offenses each year and almost 500,000 people still behind bars for nothing more than a drug law violation. In a 2017 speech addressing law enforcement officers, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated, "Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life." Sessions made it very clear that he does not support the sovereignty of states to legalize marijuana and believes “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
The legal cannabis industry has now proven to be a multi-billion dollar industry. There are wealthy opportunists standing in line to take that dollar, while burdening the smaller, local growers and dispensaries with red tape, regulations and less opportunity to profit. Business as usual.
“It’s just bonkers,” Dr. Danforth warns. “With cannabis they’re just going too far in the other direction in minimizing the risks. They’ve hybridized it so much and it is so strong; really mind-altering. We have a long way to go, at least in the U.S., to be able to use cannabis really wisely. It’s just really fallen into the hands of greedy opportunistic people and they want to make as much money as they can.”
There’s another reason that lies behind the ongoing resistance to decriminalize psychedelics. Big Pharma cannot patent psilocybin. However, there are pharmaceutical companies scrambling to find ways to capitalize, but it is not the interest of Big Pharma to invest in a drug that is non-addictive and can potentially help a patient with only a single dose. It doesn’t fit into our current medication model. It doesn’t make economic sense to invest in a mushroom that thrifty, adventure-seekers can find in a good decomposing pile of dung or easily grow in your Mom’s crawlspace.
However, it should be noted that in the 1960’s Sandoz Laboratories marketed psilocybin in many countries, including the United States, under the trade name, Indocybin. Indocybin was offered free of charge to practitioners as long as they would report findings back to Sandoz. Indocybin was used safely as an adjunct to psychotherapy, until prohibition effectively halted research of these substances.
Terence McKenna adds, “The government not only restricts research on psychedelics that could conceivably yield valuable psychological and medical insights, it presumes to prevent their religious and spiritual use, as well. Religious use of psychedelic plants is a civil rights issue.”
Psychedelic plants and mushrooms have been basic elements of life within indigenous societies, since time immemorial, for the healing of physical and spiritual affliction. Cave paintings in Spain carbon dated between 6,000 to 8,000 years ago depict our reverence to mushrooms.
María Sabina, a Mazatec curandera/shaman who lived in the Sierra Mazateca of southern Mexico. Sabina introduced the Western world toteonanácatl; the Psilocybe mushroom through international banker R. Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina. These sacred mushrooms are called ‘nti-ši-tho in Mazatec, meaning the ‘Little-One-Who-Springs-Forth’. María Sabina referred to them as her saint children.
Wasson famously chronicled his magic mushroom experience with Sabina in Life magazine, while Sabina went on to regret sharing this medicine with Wasson stating, “It was difficult for me to explain to them that the vigils weren’t done from the simple desire to find God, but were done with the sole purpose of curing the sicknesses that our people suffer from.” She laments, “From the moment the foreigners arrived to search for God, the saint children lost their purity. They lost their force; the foreigners spoiled them. From now on they won’t be any good.”
“Ancient high civilizations had no problem with visionary plants” exclaims Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods and noted pseudoscientific theorist involving ancient civilizations, stone monoliths, myths and altered states of consciousness. “Ancient cultures did not despise and hate and fear these substances. They gave them an honored place in their society and they understood what they were dealing with.”
Hancock, when speaking of the Mayan people said, “We are looking at a culture that recorded tremendous achievements in architecture and the arts and their embracing of visionary experience seems to have enhanced rather than limited that.”
Sorry Denver, but the biggest news hitting the psychedelic community this week was a report in the journal PNAS published by the National Academy of Sciences. Archaeologists presented the results of the chemical analyses of organic residues found in a one thousand-year-old ritual bundle. The fox snout bundle was recovered from the highland Andes during a 2010 archaeological dig in a rock shelter that shows signs of human activity, dating back 4,000 years.
The pouch most likely was used by a shaman in what is now southwestern Bolivia. The bundle also contained a decorated headband, tiny scrapers made from llama bone, and various implements for inhaling substances. Radiocarbon dating of the bag surface indicated it was used between around 900 to 1170 A.D.
Further investigation showed that the pouch also once contained a number of plants capable of inducing psychedelic experiences, including cocaine, dimethyltryptamine (DMT/Ayahuasca), and possibly psilocin, found in psilocybin mushrooms.
These plants are also recognized as coming from very far reaching areas of South America, indicating that either the shaman was very well traveled or there was an extensive trade network in place for these highly-prized plants. The sophistication and mix of the substances within the medicine bag confirm the importance of set, setting, and dose when considering experimenting with these powerful mind-altering substances.
Hancock consulted with modern-day Amazonian shamans and their diagnosis of the sickness of the ‘advanced’ urban societies is that “you have severed your connection to spirit.” They propose ayahuasca (DMT), also a Schedule I prohibited substance. DMT actually occurs endogenously within the human brain. For this reason, DMT should not be thought of as a drug at all. Interestingly, we also have an endocannabinoid system within us. My theory is that this is why cannabis is such an effective therapy for many of us. Somehow we are interconnected with these naturally occurring substances and they seem to know how to heal us better than we do. Prohibition of these substances is a direct violation of our basic human right to explore one’s self and well being.
Hancock states, “Why should it be the case that a sovereign adult who makes a choice to explore the mystery of his or her consciousness, using visionary agents, while doing no harm to others; why should that person serve a jail term for that? Where is the logic of this? (This society) claims to be freest society that’s ever existed in the world. What complete rubbish. It’s a society that actively seeks to control and limit the conscious experiences of its’ members. And that is a gigantic invasion of a fundamental human right, which is our right to make choices about our own bodies and our own consciousness; so long as we do no harm to others.”
Hancock explains, “This is a society that is quite happy with altered states of consciousness and we licence big pharmaceutical companies to make billions of dollars every year producing conscious-altering agents. So there’s this unholy alliance between big pharma and psychiatry; with new mental illnesses being invented every year so that new pills can be prescribed for them.”
“We glorify the most boring drug on the planet, alcohol, which is probably the most dangerous drug on this planet. If the argument is, our society to protect us from the dangers of drug abuse then why is this stuff out there in such profusion. It’s responsible for tens of thousands of deaths per year.” Hancock continues, “Consider all the problems with alcohol and ask yourself, ‘Is society really honest in its view about altered states of consciousness, since it embraces this kind of altered states of consciousness.”
“We live in a society that will send us to prison for making use of these time-honored sacred plants to explore our own consciousness. Yet surely the exploration and expansion of the miracle of our consciousness is the essence of what it is to be human. By demonizing and persecuting altered states of consciousness today, we could be denying ourselves the next step in our own evolution…. If we are to heal the planet we must re-establish contact with our spirit, but we can only do so if we first regain sovereignty over our own consciousness. Otherwise - Who knows? Ours may become the next lost civilization.”
Fungi was here long before modern man walked this earth. I figure it will also clean up our mess when we are done here and kickstart the next wave that inhabits this glorious planet.
But while we still have time — all together now...
‘You gotta fight... For your right…’ well, you know the rest.