What has everyone been talking about in the psychedelic circles?
Oh, plenty–the politics of ayahuasca, the continuing struggle for marijuana legalization, the Drug War, and sizzling newcomer magazine Double Blind.
Although Double Blind was founded recently, it already has an outsized presence. With almost 4,000 Instagram followers gained in fewer than six months and relationships with the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Science, among other organizations, awareness is growing quickly.
It’s a great time for the publication. Formerly print-only, Double Blind has just expanded into online publishing. To celebrate, they threw The Unveiling, an event hosted with the partnership with a few other prominent mainstays of L.A. culture.
Full disclosure–I work here at People’s, Inc., and have already been following the rise of Double Blind for a few months. Its interviews with famed artists like novelist Bett Williams and UConn researcher Monnica Williams are intelligently-written and informative, and its issues-focused articles on the politics of psychedelic research are always thoughtful. I don’t personally know founders Shelby Hartmann and Madison Margolin, but it’s clear that they’re dedicated to writing in-depth, conscious journalism in a field where it has historically been lacking.
Their event shows this–in addition to standard launch party mainstays like cocktails, mocktails, live music, and appetizers, they hosted a panel with prominent figures in the psychedelic movement.
My trusty photographer and I arrived just after the panel began (having once again underestimated LA traffic), grabbed some water, and settled in. The conversation that night was mainly focused on democratizing access to psychedelic chemicals, especially in service of mental health.
To that end, they invited three speakers: Dr. Cole Marta, a medical researcher with the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Science; Ryan Munevar, founder of the psilocybin policy group Decriminalize California; and Dr. Bia Labate of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines.
Dr. Cole Marta discussed his experiences administering psychedelic chemicals in his current study on MDMA and post-traumatic stress disorder. “We’re involved in a war that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon,” he explained, referring to the ongoing deployments of U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. “That creates a lot of PTSD.” He also spoke at length on the wide benefits of medical ketamine, which he has been studying for years. Although ketamine is a Schedule III drug, it can be taken legally with medical supervision in several states, including California. It is largely prescribed for depression, the “number one disabling illness in the world”. Results have been promising, with many of those who participated in the studies attesting that their lives have been changed–radically–for the better.
Ryan Munevar spoke about the importance of making sure the wider population is able to find psilocybin and other helpful psychedelic compounds at affordable prices. His organization holds regular “Grow Your Own” workshops to teach the public how to farm mushrooms at home for personal use. Other movements, including the cannabis legalization movement, have seen overpriced pharmaceutical analogues developed by drug companies to be prescribed in lieu of the original substance, and he hopes to avoid a repeat scenario.
A great example of this is Marinol, a synthetic THC drug developed by AbbVie Inc. A month’s supply of the pill (5 mg of THC per day) costs almost $700. Compared to dispensary prices for THC capsules and similar products, this is a staggering increase. The price difference in that case (and many others) can be the difference between bankruptcy and solvency. At that cost, it’s no longer worth it.
Dr. Bia Labate, the Brazilian anthropologist who founded Chacruna, also had a lot to say about fostering public access to what Munevar called “one of the most magic, awe-inspiring events in your life”. While agents of the drug war say that only the sober mind is the legitimate state of mind, she argued, it’s untrue. “This state of mind is central to who we are.” The American continents have the most psychedelic substances in the world, and they have built our culture, borders, and history.
“We are in the native land of psychedelics,” she continued. Indigenous people should be involved in discussions around the plants that are sacred to them, but as Californians, “it’s part of our culture as well, and we shouldn’t be shy about it. We should own it.”
Dr. Labate went on to acknowledge that there have been many discussions lately about cultural appropriation in the psychedelic community, but opined that there is nothing helpful about a debate on who is allowed to take drugs like ayahuasca. With the benefits that mind-altering substances that impart, arguments on appropriation shouldn’t even come into play. Plants like ayahuasca “don’t belong to any one person,” especially if people are using sacred plants “solemnly and respectfully”.
The Double Blind panel moderators wrapped up the discussion promptly at 9:00 to give everyone the opportunity to take advantage of the amenities–including a tea ceremony room and an open bar of marijuana flower from a few California-based cannabis companies. It also gave everyone time to mingle and enjoy the spread, which was very much my scene. Between mouthfuls of hummus, I got to meet a variety of people in the cannabis and psychedelic industry, including some very friendly Weedmaps employees and three people who were all from the same Burning Man camp.
Moral of the story–if you have the opportunity to go to a psychedelic science event, do it. For anyone interested in ending the drug war, improving mental health care, and helping veterans with PTSD re-integrate into civilian life, Double Blind Magazine is a great read.
When there are so many developments happening around cannabis, psilocybin, legalization, and healthcare, it can be hard to keep up. You can catch up by subscribing to the M.A.P.S. email newsletter, reading Dr. Labate’s research results at Chacruna, or by reading through the People’s, Inc. blog. Getting involved in the movement is as easy as signing up to volunteer at Decriminalize California or participating in a project at M.A.P.S.
If you want to try and recapture the launch party mood at your own gathering, pick up some of the refreshments on offer from People’s OC, especially the Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops–those ran out quickly at the Double Blind event.
At the largest independent cannabis store in California, we’ll do our best to keep them in stock long enough for you to grab a few. We look forward to seeing you soon.