I recently had the opportunity to ask Rick Doblin, the founder of MAPS, what we could do to accelerate the legalization of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for trauma. What could we do, that is, besides pray, and visualize—“and donate,” muttered the guy sitting behind me.
“Share your experiences,” is what Rick said. “Make it public.” So many people have benefited from psychedelic use, he went on, and yet there’s still a stigma around speaking publicly about it. Broad-based popular support is what can change this, and change laws in the process. Entheogenic use is a social movement, just like gay marriage, and just like gay marriage, it blossoms when many, many people come out of the closet—the psychedelic closet, in this case.
In this vein #ThankYouPlantMedicine is launching. It’s a global grassroots movement to raise public awareness by sharing individual stories of gratitude for ayahuasca, psilocybin, cannabis, San Pedro, peyote, iboga, all the marvelous mind-manifesters gifted to us by Nature.
February 20, 2020 is the launch date for #TYPM—that’s today—and it will continue open-ended beyond. If you want to come out of the closet and contribute your own story (even anonymously) of how plant medicine has benefited you, check out their website: https://thankyouplantmedicine.com.
Psychedelic Revolution, Part II
We’re clearly in the throes of a psychedelic revolution, with a new wave of research emerging to build on the already robust science of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Psychedelic science is set to transform our value systems, our relationship with material reality, and our deeply entrenched material worldview.
Working as a psychotherapist, I was struck by how many clients at some point during the course of our work together would say something like, “You know, I did LSD a few times when I was younger, and it opened up my mind. After that, I always knew there was more.” As Steve Jobs said:
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”
I often wonder what place ayahuasca might have in the new, post-prohibition psychedelic paradigm. It’s not easy to imagine how it could be distributed on a mass scale. Each brew is handcrafted and therefore different, so it’s not as straightforward as taking a pill. (Sure, you can produce capsules of freeze-dried ayahuasca—at least one clinical study has done this— but I wonder how this impacts the experience? It certainly severs it from its traditional roots.)
The setting for an ayahuasca ceremony is an even bigger variable than the chemistry. Ayahuasca isn’t easy to navigate. It’s best done with experienced, grounded guidance, and this generally happens in a group context, with all the many variables that this presents. All in all, ayahuasca is a far cry from the mass-marketed pharmaceutical medications that science currently offers us.
To my mind, post-prohibition ayahuasca would be best served by community-based spiritual groups, somewhat like what Santo Daime has done in urban Brazil. These would be groups of people drawn together by a desire to work with the plant, grounded within a spiritual context—not necessarily Daime, but one with a clear understanding of the nuances of ayahuasca’s transformational power.
Let’s add to the wish list that these groups would respect ayahuasca’s traditional indigenous roots and practices, and would be psychologically astute, spiritually evolved, ethically conscious and energetically clean. Being community-based, they could offer the kind of human support that’s important in integration.
I have one more wish: that every group would have access to professionals trained in trauma healing (not just “trauma-informed”), because ayahuasca work can trigger old trauma, and skillful guidance can help clear it more easily and quickly.
To some extent, this is already happening with the many underground groups serving ayahuasca around the world. I’d like to see this model expand and flourish in the light of day, through decriminalization.
Ayahuasca Decriminalization vs. Legalization
What I’d like to see is a world where people can thoughtfully partake in plant medicine without fear of prosecution or stigma. Obviously the current legal prohibitions against psychedelics are way out of line. It’s ridiculous to categorise DMT (the active substance in ayahuasca) as a Schedule I drug, a category it shares with marijuana, peyote, LSD and MDMA as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
But seeing the results of marijuana legalization in nearly a dozen U.S. states gives me pause. Having been arrested twice for possession of weed in my distant past, I’ve had every reason to want it decriminalized. Still, I never imagined the crazy degree of commodification that’s resulted.
The dozen or so dispensaries within a mile of my Portland home marketing cannabis edibles, vapes, drops, and skin care products (along with all the standard smokables) leave a bad taste in my mouth. It’s disturbing for me to see cannabis marketed as a recreational product rather than the symbol of rebellion I was seeking as a teenager—or as I view it nowadays, a powerful sacred plant to be used with full consciousness.
With ayahuasca, I might like to see things stop before full-on legalization. This is already happening with the “Decriminalise Nature” movement that’s seen Oakland, Denver and Santa Cruz pass resolutions to decriminalize the possession and use of entheogenic plants. Activists are targeting nearly 100 more cities with similar legislation. Depending on how you look at it, it’s an interim step—or maybe an ultimate solution.
In some ways we’re fortunate to be participating in the Wild West years of the plant medicine revolution, where there are no restrictions beyond the Big Prohibition that’s generated a flourishing underground scene, and we’re all figuring it out as it arises. Thirty years from now, I expect things will be significantly different. Perhaps we’ll be looking back at these “good old days”?
Anyway—#Thank You, Plant Medicine.
Love to hear your thoughts?