Is It Worse to Get Caught with LSD Than Other Drugs?

If you fancy yourself a psychonaut, or at the very least, have higher than entry-level experience with psychedelics, you’ve probably heard about the dangers of getting arrested with acid. Most psychedelic drug dealers will tell you that they have no problem selling mushrooms, ecstasy, ketamine, or other substances, but only the brave are willing to deal in LSD. Is it worse to get caught with LSD than with other drugs? And if so, why is that? Let’s take a closer look.

Getting caught with LSD – federal regulations

There are a few different ways that people can be charged for LSD-related crimes: possession, trafficking, distribution, simple possession, or intoxication in cases where a drug test is administered. Regarding that last part, there are no mainstream drug tests that can detect LSD, however, there are specific tests that can check for LSD use about 15 to 28 hours after use. These are often used by probation officers and employers, but it’s unlikely that someone would choose to trip balls with an important engagement so soon after.  

That being said, the majority of LSD charges are for trafficking and distribution. According to the DEA, these are the following minimums for dealing LSD: 

  • First Offense: Not less than 5 years, and not more than 40 years. If death or serious injury occurs, not less than 20 years or more than life. Fine of not more than $5 million if an individual, $25 million if not an individual.  
  • Second Offense: Not less than 10 years, and not more than life. If death or serious injury occurs, life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $8 million if an individual, $50 million if not an individual.  

These mandatory minimums are the same for most harder drugs regardless of the schedule, including methamphetamine and cocaine which are a schedule II, and heroin which is a schedule I (just like LSD, but with a MUCH higher body count, quite ironic). Where the law differs, is in the amount a person is caught with.

For example, to get a federal tracking charge for heroin, you would need to be caught with 100-999 grams (mixture). With Fentanyl, which is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, you would need to have 40-399 grams (mixture) before you get slapped with a tracking charge. When it comes to LSD, a mere 1-9 grams (mixture) would result in the same charges. It’s insane to think that having as little as one gram of acid, a substance that is nearly impossible to overdose on, is treated the same as almost 1000 grams of heroin.  

As if that’s not bad enough, here’s where things get even more dicey. The key is in the word “mixture”. As per sentencing rules, the mandatory minimums dished out for drug trafficking are based on the “mixture or substance containing a detectable amount” of the drug in question. So, the more the mixture weighs, the longer the prison term will be. It’s done this way because to prevent dealers from getting shorter sentences when their drugs are diluted with cutting agents. The government likes to call this a “market approach” to the war on drugs.  

Why the “market approach” does not work in LSD cases

It makes sense in some situations, but not at all in cases involving LSD. Because LSD is dropped or sprayed on paper, sugar cubes, gelatin, and other carriers in order to be consumed, the weight of the mixture is significantly greater than the weight that the pure substance would be. It’s a much more exaggerated difference than heroin or meth that’s cut with something. But the government does not care how illogical and unjust this is, the paper and sugar cubes are considered part of the LSD “mixture”. 

A perfect example of this is the case of Stanley Marshall, a 30-year-old man from El Paso, Texas, who was arrested in June of 1988 and charged with “leading a conspiracy to distribute LSD”. The total amount of LSD he was caught with was less than half a gram, but because the carrier paper weighed 113 grams, he was charged for 113.3 grams of LSD “mixture”. Had sentencing guidelines allowed him to be charged for the weight of the pure LSD, he would have spent three years or less in prison. But since the paper weighed over 100 grams, he was sentenced to 20 years.  

On the flip side, if someone happens to get caught with liquid LSD – which is much more concentrated and almost a guarantee that the person is selling because most consumers don’t have vials of pure, liquid LSD – they benefit from the weight/mixture sentencing laws. So consumers or people who are selling small amounts of the drug will likely end up with much longer sentences than people who might actually be trafficking LSD.  

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And that’s how completely a** backwards our government is. They do acknowledge this obvious design flaw, yet more than 3 decades later they have yet to change it in any official capacity; although some judges might start to take a bit of leniency in LSD cases as we head into a second, and much more publicized, psychedelic renaissance.  

The Drug Abuse Act of 1986 

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, a series of laws passed by congress and signed by President Ronald Regan, was a fundamental part of the war on drugs. Among many other things, one of the biggest issues with this bill is that it changed the process of dealing with drug offenders and those released from prison from a rehabilitative system to a punitive system.  

H.R. 5484 also introduced new mandatory minimums, especially in cases involving crack cocaine. The bill required judges to sentence offender to at least five years’ imprisonment for the possession of only five grams of crack cocaine. However, someone would need to be caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same five-year sentence. From a scientific standpoint, crack and powder cocaine are nearly identical. There are no noted pharmacological or chemical differences, and the effects are very similar. The only difference is in the way the drugs are taken (powder is usually snorted whereas crack is smoked).  

Another difference? Powder was used mainly by white Americans, and crack was largely used by black Americans. Again, same drug… just with a different delivery method and user base. But due to sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine, black Americans faced disproportionate punishment with long, discriminatory prison sentences and stricter policing throughout their communities.  

Mandatory minimums, which started to emerge in the late 1970s, require judges to impose a prison sentence of at least the minimum amount of time specified in a statute. Interestingly, a judge can use their discretion to impose longer terms, but not to offer shorter ones. Today, mandatory minimums are commonly used in federal courts, especially in drug cases. In fact, recent studies show that mandatory minimums are used in more than half of all federal criminal cases to this day.   

Final thoughts

Although I started off thinking this acid thing was an urban drug myth that stuck around since the 70s when drug crimes were more severely penalized in general, I realized that even today, getting caught with LSD is much worse than other drugs. Perhaps this is something we should focus on as we dive into psychedelic reform and reassess the benefits of hallucinogenic drugs.

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Study Shows LSD Increases Brain Connections

A new study published last month examined the influence of LSD on brain connections, yielding some enlightening results.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that the “drug not only increases the strength of certain brain connections but weakens other connections at the same time,” according to a digest of the study in Psychedelic Spotlight

In the abstract of the study, the authors wrote that psychedelics “have emerged as promising candidate treatments for various psychiatric conditions, and given their clinical potential, there is a need to identify biomarkers that underlie their effects.”

“Here, we investigate the neural mechanisms of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) using regression dynamic causal modelling (rDCM), a novel technique that assesses whole-brain effective connectivity (EC) during resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI),” they wrote.

The study involved 45 participants who “were administered 100 μg LSD and placebo in two resting-state fMRI sessions.”

“We compared EC against whole-brain functional connectivity (FC) using classical statistics and machine learning methods. Multivariate analyses of EC parameters revealed predominantly stronger interregional connectivity and reduced self-inhibition under LSD compared to placebo, with the notable exception of weakened interregional connectivity and increased self-inhibition in occipital brain regions as well as subcortical regions,” the authors wrote. “Together, these findings suggests that LSD perturbs the Excitation/Inhibition balance of the brain. Notably, whole-brain EC did not only provide additional mechanistic insight into the effects of LSD on the Excitation/Inhibition balance of the brain, but EC also correlated with global subjective effects of LSD and discriminated experimental conditions in a machine learning-based analysis with high accuracy (91.11%), highlighting the potential of using whole-brain EC to decode or predict subjective effects of LSD in the future.”

The shifting attitudes toward psychedelics has led to a reassessment of anti-drug laws and medical treatments. As the authors of the study said, “psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) have emerged as promising new treatment candidates for a variety of psychiatric conditions including substance dependence, major depression, anxiety disorders, and adjustment disorders.” 

So, what did they learn?

Per Psychedelic Spotlight, the “study found that LSD enhances connectivity across widespread brain networks,” specifically that “LSD increased integration between the visual processing center of the brain (the lingual gyrus) and the region involved in self-awareness and introspection (the inferior frontal gyrus).” 

“By strengthening connections between these brain regions, LSD appears to allow for new creative associations and altered states of consciousness,” the article said

“However, the researchers also found there are weaker connections in certain areas of the occipital cortex, putamen, and cerebellum. The study revealed that LSD alters the brain’s connectivity, impacting the strength of communication between various regions. The intensity of these altered connections correlated with the psychological experiences reported by participants, indicating that the perceptual effects of LSD are rooted in the drug’s modulation of inter-regional brain signaling. The results suggest LSD’s psychedelic effects arise from changes in the brain’s functional organization, not localized activation. In other words, LSD affects the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other,” Psychedelic Spotlight’s write-up continued.

“Using sophisticated neuroimaging techniques, the researchers probed the inner workings of the resting brain. Functional connectivity analysis tracked the coordination of activity across brain regions, revealing how they form an integrated network even in the absence of focused thought or external stimuli. A statistical technique called partial least squares correlation analysis identified relationships between brain networks and psychological states, illuminating the neural foundations of our waking consciousness. Through these innovative analytical approaches, the study yielded fresh insights into the brain’s intrinsic dynamics.”

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Minnesota Omnibus Health Bill Includes Provisions for Psychedelic Task Force

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed an omnibus health finance bill on April 26 with a 69-58 vote. The bill, SF-2995, contains provisions to create a Psychedelic Medicine Task Force in order to proactively prepare for legalization. The task force would be “established to advise the legislature on the legal, medical, and policy issues associated with the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state.”

SF-2995 was initially introduced in the Senate in March, and was passed with a third reading on April 19, and received amendments in the House over the past few weeks.

Task force duties include surveying “existing studies in the scientific literature on the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic medicine in the treatment of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder, and any other mental health conditions and medical conditions for which a psychedelic medicine may provide an effective treatment option.”

It would also be required to apply necessary changes that apply to “legalization of psychedelic medicine,” “state and local regulation of psychedelic medicine,” and educating the public regarding legislative recommendations.

The task force would include a varied panel of experts, such as the governor and state attorney general, as well as military veterans and others who suffer from mental health conditions.

Should the omnibus bill pass, the task force would be directed to submit two reports to specific individuals who oversee health and human services. The reports would include the task force’s findings, as well as a plan of action to enforce legalization. The first report would be due by Feb. 1, 2024, and the second would need to be submitted no later than Jan. 1, 2025.

When the bill was introduced in February as a standalone bill, it included a requirement for the task force to look into a wide variety of substances. “Psychedelic medicine may include but is not limited to the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, bufotenine, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, 2C-B, ibogaine, salvinorin A, and ketamine,” the older text stated.

The task force provision would receive $338,000 for fiscal year 2024 and $171,000 in 2025.

Earlier this month, one of the authors of the task force bill, Minnesota Rep. Andy Smith, explained the importance of the bill to KIMT3. “Unfortunately, most of these drugs kind of got wrapped around the world on drugs in the 1980s and so there’s a lot of antiquated laws that are stimming both the research and allowing these drugs to be used in treatment. The goal of the taskforce is to see how we can roll back those regulations well and responsibly,” Smith said. “These drugs . . . have incredible potential to help people who are suffering from depression and at a much cheaper cost. Antidepressants are expensive . . . and these drugs you can usually take them much cheaper.”

While consideration for the omnibus bill is still underway, the Minnesota House just recently passed a cannabis legalization bill on April 25. “It’s time,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson. “Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves.”

If passed into law, House File 100 would allow adults over 21 to possess up to two ounces of cannabis flower in public, or 1.5 pounds at home in private. Concentrates would be limited to eight grams, and edibles would be maxed out at no more than 800 mg THC. Residents would also be permitted to grow no more than eight plants at home (with a maximum of four flowering plants).

According to attorney Krissy Atterholt from Vicente Sederberg, there’s high hopes for the future of cannabis in Minnesota. “Minnesota is one step closer to providing residents safe, regulated access to legalized adult-use cannabis,” Atterholt told High Times. “The state is progressing toward becoming the next great cannabis opportunity in the Midwest. Not a single state sharing a border with Minnesota has enacted adult-use cannabis opportunities, leaving the market wide open for businesses and consumers.” 

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The Age of Alchemy

Bicycle Day falls on 420 eve each year on April 19 to commemorate the pivotal 1943 discovery of the effects of the most potent hallucinogen known to humankind—lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann is the first person on record to trip on LSD, and the first scientist to note its profound effects on the mind. Hofmann eventually put together lab notes, documents and other data to publish LSD – My Problem Child in 1980. In it, he recorded the discoveries of LSD in great detail—providing some fascinating insight into a beautiful accident that eventually transformed culture as we know it. Other books Hofmann co-authored include Plants of the Gods and LSD and the Divine Scientist, which includes personal insights previously only known to his family.

The Albert Hofmann Foundation is kept online as a historical artifact, being hosted and managed by Erowid Center. The Foundation “has not been active in the last decade,” a representative from Erowid Center told High Times. Erowid Center, however, stores a database of LSD information, complete with user-provided photos of the chemical in many forms.

Originally, LSD was available from researchers as a tablet, but today, LSD is found in tiny stamps of blotter paper, geltabs, microdots or in liquid form. Its mystical effects on the mind are difficult to explain to someone else.

“Albert Hofmann himself was a mystic,” Founder and CEO of Third Wave, Paul F. Austin told High Times. “So, he had that first Bicycle Day experience in 1943, but it wasn’t just that first experience—he continued to work with it and gave it to close colleagues at his research institute. What they experienced, over the next four to five years, in 1943-1948, was significant in terms of the breakthroughs that they had.” Twenty years later, Hofmann’s focus shifted to psilocybin and other psychedelics.

Third Wave provides well-researched, high-quality information specific to the classic psychedelics with an emphasis on microdosing. It was thanks to researchers like Hofmann that the enormous potential for psychedelic-assisted therapies was revealed.

Once the effects were known, government-funded LSD studies and experiments were everywhere, with involvement from entities such as the FDA, CIA and British government. Actor Cary Grant, for instance, dropped acid an estimated 100 times, spanning the years of 1958-1961, supplied by Dr Mortimer Hartman at the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills in California. To Grant and other volunteers, lighter psychedelics such as cannabis might have seemed like a cup of tea compared to LSD.

Some people view LSD as the prime catalyst of 1960s counterculture—as much of a game-changer as cannabis. LSD couldn’t be confined to research and government-led science projects, creeping into the general consciousness. By 1966, “Turn on, tune in, drop out” was the catchphrase popularized by LSD gurus like Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg or Ken Kesey, while scores of bands such as Grateful Dead and The Beatles were inevitably inspired by the mystical chemical.

The US banned possession of LSD on October 24, 1968 while the FDA continued LSD research on volunteers until 1980.

Experts helped High Times piece together the story of Hofmann’s LSD breakthrough, and how modern-day coaches can help people navigate safely though psychedelic experiences.

Courtesy High Times

Early Research

In 1929, Hofmann left the University of Zurich to work at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, with the specific goal of developing new pharmaceuticals based on active plants and fungi. The pharmaceutical department was small, with a handful of researchers on the team with doctorates.

By 1938, Hofmann was attempting to develop a new analeptic—a drug used to treat respiratory and circulatory issues. Analeptics are used most often as a restorative drug to help people awaken and recover from anesthesia.

Hofmann’s team elected to study plant and fungi compounds of “recognized value” including woolly foxglove (Digitalis lanata), Mediterranean squill (Scilla maritima), and ergot of rye (Claviceps purpurea or Secale cornutum). All three are poisonous in natural form. At first, the team thought Mediterranean squill would be most interesting, because it contains cardioactive glycosides, which are beneficial for the heart. Mediterranean squill is a plant used in Ancient Egyptian medicine for various conditions.

Woolly foxglove contains a natural steroid, which also seemed useful. Ergot, on the other hand, is a poisonous fungus that grows into tiny black fingers on crops of rye. It’s been used occasionally to stop bleeding, but it is mostly viewed as a poisonous fungus. It was blamed in the Middle Ages for St. Anthony’s Fire—or ergotism, which can cause the loss of limbs or death centuries ago. That’s why the poisonous elements of ergot have to be processed and separated. Hofmann was interested in its properties as an ecbolic—a medicament to precipitate childbirth.

Neither Hofmann nor anyone else knew about its psychedelic properties. Hofmann extracted LSD-25 from a sample of ergot on November 16, 1938. To do this, he chemically linked two components of ergobasine, lysergic acid and propanolamine, using a relatively complex lab process. Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD-25, was the 25th substance that Hofmann synthesized from ergot, and at first, it was “relatively uninteresting.”

Hofmann’s new “analeptic” just wasn’t panning out how he planned. When he administered it to lab animals, they just sat there for hours—so Hoffman set the LSD aside for five years and forgot about it. On April 16,1943, Hofmann took one last stab, synthesizing a new batch of LSD from ergot. During synthesis, a droplet of acid touched his skin.

Founded in 1986 by Rick Doblin, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization specializing in research and education covering the medical, legal and cultural shifts of “the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana for mental and spiritual healing.”

Since 1986, MAPS has distributed over $20 million to fund psychedelics and medical cannabis research and education. Doblin’s work was covered in former Washington Post Magazine editor Tom Shroder’s book Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal.

“Back in 1938, Albert first synthesized LSD, but he had no idea about the potential of LSD in therapy,” says MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin. “Sandoz gave it to animals and found nothing of interest. Albert didn’t learn about the psychedelic properties of LSD until five years later in 1943 when he re-synthesized it on April 16, 1943, and inadvertently absorbed some and had an unusual experience […]”

Doblin received his master’s and PhD in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and was in the first group to be certified by Dr. Stanislav Grof as a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner. One of Doblin’s projects is working to form a database for Albert Hofmann Foundation’s LSD and Psilocybin Library. Doblin asked, “How Can We Use Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy To Treat Trauma?” including LSD in a 2019 TED Talk that was shared in 2021 by NPR.

The First Trip

Within an hour of first contact, Hofmann experienced an intense rush of profound inner feelings and geometric hallucinations of color. He found it difficult to put his experience into words. The five senses just didn’t really seem to be sufficient to explain its powers.

He sent a report to Professor Stoll about his experiences. He was overcome by a “remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness.” He made it home and sank into a dreamlike state, with eyes closed. He perceived an uninterrupted stream of “fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” After about two hours more, the effects faded away.

Hofmann couldn’t stop thinking about it, as evident in his notes. Three days later, on April 19, 1943, Hofmann set out to experience LSD intentionally. He guessed that 250pg (micrograms) would be a good starting point, and he swallowed a drop of it at 4:20 pm, according to his meticulous records. Hofmann poured the LSD into 10cc of water to dilute it, and drank it.

Within minutes, Hofmann realized with horror that he had screwed up: the rush of hallucinations and effects was way too strong and getting stronger.

He was only able to write the last words “with great effort.” It was already clear to Hofmann that LSD had been the culprit for the remarkable experience the previous Friday, which altered perceptions, only much more intensely. He struggled to speak intelligibly, asking his laboratory assistant to escort him home and she was aware of his experiment. They were forced to travel by bicycle, as no automobiles were available because of wartime restrictions. On the way home, Hofmann’s condition worsened.

Hofmann called his assistant to help him ride the bike home. But Hofmann explained that his assistant transformed into “a malevolent, insidious witch with a colored mask.” Hofmann explains a demonic transformation in himself as well. His ego was completely dissolved, and he felt as though a demon or something else was controlling his body. Hofmann chugged two liters of milk—thinking that it would reduce the effects of LSD. Eventually however, Hofmann’s bad trip gave way to a euphoric high with pleasant visions.

Hofmann’s wife had heard that he was going through some sort of breakdown, and rushed to Basel from Lucerne to check on him. By the time she arrived in Basel, the effects had worn down, and Hofmann could not stop talking about this experience. His doctor came over to check his vitals, and found nothing to be concerned about, other than his dilated eyes.

He was shocked how “real” the new reality under LSD seemed compared to normal consciousness. He said he felt as though LSD itself summoned him to discover it.

“Albert’s experience on April 19 was frightening—but it also had spiritual elements,” said Doblin. “He and others at Sandoz initially thought LSD could be good for training therapists and psychiatrists so that they could get an experiential perspective on what some of their mentally ill patients were experiencing. One of the first words for this class of drugs was ‘psychotomimetic’ meaning that the experience was similar to psychosis. It was only over time as more researchers tried it that the therapeutic and spiritual potential became better understood and it was clearer that much more was going on than just mimicking psychosis.”

Hofmann wrote that he was convinced LSD would be used in pharmacology, neurology and “especially in psychiatry.” He never envisioned that LSD would be taken over by hippies and musical artists.

“So, Hofmann really came to the conclusion [that LSD has potential in pharmacology] [not only] based on his own experiences, but because he slowly started to ship it out for free,” Austin said. “And those were the reports that kept coming back: ‘Wow. We’ve never encountered something like this before.’ As helpful as this has been for dealing with mental issues.”

LSD in Pharmacology

Austin explained that psychedelics were panned as useless in previous eras. “Before acid and mushrooms were called psychedelics, they were called psychotomimetics, because they mimicked what people [at first] thought was a state of psychosis. Through that mimicking of a state of psychosis—which is this classic mystical experience—what a shaman might facilitate—that minds were open to this conditional love.”

Austin went on to say that at research facilities including locations at Johns Hopkins, researchers are learning that dealing with unconditional love is why psychedelics precipitate healing from depression, addiction, anxiety and so on.

But people need to be aware of the sheer power they are dealing with, especially when it comes to LSD. “In terms of all the well-known psychedelics, it’s the most potent at 10 micrograms. 100 micrograms is still a tiny amount, which is a full-blown dose.”

Dose-for-dose—LSD tops all other hallucinogens in potency, as other hallucinogens require a much larger dose.

“That’s why the ’60s went so sideways,” said Austin. “It was because acid was such a potent psychedelic, and you had figures like Timothy Leary […] and Ken Kesey, who just passed it out far and wide to anyone and everyone. Even though it was a tiny amount, it was blowing people out of their minds. It’s a major reason why you don’t see as much research on it versus other psychedelics like psilocybin.”

Hofmann passed away in Switzerland on April 29, 2008. One of the ways Hofmann’s chemicals are kept alive is through companies such as Third Wave. Psychedelic experiences are not to be trifled with, so there is a lot of preparation and know-how required.

“We do what I would call education and training,” said Austin. “So, a lot of my focus is on history. I recognize a lot of the mistakes that were committed in the 1950s and ’60s, particularly in the ’60s. We had—even in the ’50s and ’60s—over 1,000 clinical papers published on the efficacy of LSD. So, we had all the research—but when psychedelics made the leap from clinical studies to culture, things went sideways.”

Austin continued, “We focus instead on microdosing and the clinical benefits of microdosing, because it helps. Even at very, very low doses, psychedelics can be potent. And so we have a course on how to work with microdosing. We do a training program for coaches, so if you’re a coach, or if you want to be a coach in the psychedelic space, we train on what we can ‘the skill of psychedelics’ to be able to help other people as well.”

Third Wave just rolled out a mushroom grow kit, with a course on how to grow your own mushrooms, given the current momentum around psychedelics. (Psilocybin is still illegal almost everywhere.) Third Wave works within a legal framework to make these substances a bit more accessible.

High Times Magazine, April 2022

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Strange Times in the Triangle: The Woman Walking in the Snow

The Emerald Triangle is my favorite place on Earth. It’s a mecca of luscious green redwood forests teeming with psychedelic mushrooms and dark green ferns that spread all the way to the ocean shoreline with no crowds, no traffic, and some of the finest cannabis in the world. I crash-landed there when I was a young man and spent the better part of a decade drifting from farm to farm, attending school occasionally, and eating [really really really good] acid with hill people of yesteryear. 

Some of them were penniless vagabonds who owned, in totality, one pair of overalls and two pairs of Chikamasa scissors. Some of them were real-life millionaires who had barrels of cash buried all around their properties. Some of them were immigrants, from every country all around the world. My roommate at the time used to love having sex with foreigners and musicians and foreign musicians so she’d invite entire groups of them to stay at our apartment, rent-free I might add. I remember one night I came home late, super drunk and tripped over a Bulgarian man sleeping on my living room floor who very politely offered me some ketamine as an apology for tripping me but that did not make up for finding his other two companions asleep in my bed.

I had so many good times in that apartment. I met so many random beautiful people who all came through Arcata to spend their hard-earned money when they got off “the hill” at the end of harvest season. The money was still decent for the trimmers and cultivators back then. Almost everyone I knew worked three or four months nonstop out of the year and spent the rest of the year in either Hawaii, Tulum or Costa Rica. All the businesses in the small rural towns littering the triangle thrived with cash infusions from their owners’ respective grow ops, not to mention the trimmers needed somewhere to drink after a hard day’s work. 

Those fuckers partied like no one else I’ve ever met. I once attended a 200-person full-moon rave party in the absolute middle of nowhere on top of an actual mountain. When I say the middle of nowhere I mean we were 45 minutes up a dirt road that originated from a death trap two-lane highway two hours away from anything resembling a city. To this day I’ve never experienced anything quite that fun. I fried on LSD and MDMA all night long until morning came and everyone howled at the blood-red rising sun at the top of their lungs. A nearby wook offered me a “chip shot” and I wasn’t sure what that even meant when I agreed but he poured a shot of Fireball into one of those tortilla chips shaped like little bowls for dipping into beans. He assured me it tasted great only to cackle hysterically when he saw the look of disgust on my face when I realized it was a cruel ploy to get people to chew shitty liquor. He also gave me a line of ketamine as an apology. 

I could tell another 100 stories like that but modern attention spans and statutes of limitations being what they are, I’ll just assure everybody that you’ve never been to a more wonderfully weird place than the Emerald Triangle. To this day it’s almost entirely populated by weirdos, hippie freaks, hill wooks and gun-toting weed growers. All of the above are generally some of the kindest and most generous folk you’ll ever come across. That said, I’m not here to tell stories of sunshine and shroom rainbows. There are enough legends about the triangle floating around that all sound the same. I don’t need to add to them. There’s another side to the triangle that doesn’t get talked about as often, a darker more sinister side that lurks behind the towering redwood trees, miles and miles away from anyone who would ever say a word about it.

I’ve worked in a lot of different areas around the triangle, mostly in Trinity and Humboldt County. I worked one or two farms in Mendocino but I didn’t get down that way as much. The bulk of jobs I worked were in Southern Humboldt County, which is essentially a dense jungle of redwood trees littered with a few small towns here and there (and we’re using the word “town” super loosely here because sometimes that word refers to a singular building). One job in particular I worked was essentially one or two hills over from “Murder Mountain” which is not the most dangerous area of the triangle in my opinion but it’s also kind of a moot point because you don’t earn a name like Murder Mountain without racking up a few…murders. There are definitely plenty of good people living up there too but I have heard that some of the more wild inhabitants of the area smoke these cartridges made of a hellish mixture of meth and live resin called “Twax” pens. I’ve never tried one but they come in different flavors and I’ve heard blueberry is a pretty dank option as far as meth cartridges go. 

I won’t say exactly where I was or even the nearest town for reasons that will become clear but for all intents and purposes I was even more in the middle of nowhere than ever before. I accepted an invitation to go trim on a farm roughly 3-5 hours from civilization up a dirt road blocked by river floods half the damn time, not to mention any street signs that might indicate where we were headed were rendered unreadable by bullet holes. I was young, I was super naive and I had been kicked out of school for not showing up so I had nothing better to do than convince my girlfriend at the time to load up her 1989 baby blue Ford Econoline camper van with propane and propane accessories and go trim until we developed arthritis. 

For a while, it was all fun and games out there. We showed up on the back end of Fall and it was breathtaking. We woke up underneath 100-foot redwood trees every day and opened the van doors to an ocean of clouds beneath us while we fried bacon and smoked big blunts of fresh OG. We trimmed all day with folks from every walk of life you can imagine. Everybody swapped stories until it was time to go back to the cabin and drink to keep warm. We played cards, ate mushrooms, I even got my Playstation up there for a while until I killed the van battery and had to stop.

The van’s name was Francis.

As with most good things, the fun didn’t last very long. The winter came and it was harsher than expected. We were camping in the snow and rats kept wiggling their way into the communal fridge to eat our food. Meanwhile, one of the main employees was stealing all the good weed so we were trimming a bunch of powder mold and garbage, making piss-poor money and getting interrogated by the owners who were beginning to notice their returns dwindling. We never took anything other than some personal smoke but it’s still pretty scary being a million miles from anything and trying to convince a heavily armed hair-brained hill creature that you aren’t trying to rip him off. 

We also started noticing odd shit around the mountain. Everyone had heard rumors about some of the neighboring properties and what they’d get up to. There were also rumors about the couple we worked for, but other than [both of them] fraternizing with the employees I don’t think they got up to much. They appeared to be good people at the end of the day. I can’t say the same for the neighbors though. 

Now, admittedly, I used to take a lot of Xanax so I’m not exactly sure when this next part happened but I’m pretty sure it was around the same time I was living there in the van. Doesn’t matter. One day, we were heading to town for a supply run and the road down the mountain was super curvy so you had to go 15 mph the whole damn way down and pray the Eel River hadn’t flooded the road at the bottom or you’d have to go all the damn way back up. We were about halfway down the mountain listening to some scratched-up Ween CDs and smoking poorly-rolled Backwoods when we saw her. 

A woman was walking barefoot on the road, with a glazed look in her eyes like she was not there at all. She looked and walked like a zombie and I can’t remember what she was wearing but I remember it wasn’t much and it was snowing outside so we tried to flag her down and see if she needed help. I’m not exaggerating when I say I shouted at her from five or six feet away and she didn’t even look at me. She just kept walking so we just kept driving. About a mile down the road a man in an honest-to-god tuxedo waved our car down and asked if we had seen the woman in question. We pointed sheepishly in the direction we had come from and he took off running without another word. 

It dawned on us at that point what we had just witnessed and to this day I’m still not 100 percent sure but we had heard enough rumors about human trafficking operations in the area to have a pretty good idea that the woman had escaped from one of the houses we’d heard about, only to presumably be recaptured by the man in the tuxedo. When I say human trafficking I’m talking high-end sex slavery trade like some real-life Taken shit, only no one gets rescued by Liam Neeson. This is just what I’m assuming based on what I’ve been told by people who have spent their lives up there and that’s all I could think about the entire rest of the way down the mountain that day.

I tried to put the woman out of my head but a few months later we were having drinks at the bar in town and an adorable old man petting a cat bought me a couple whiskeys. He told me he believed in me and it really felt like he meant it. As we were leaving, a friend pulled me aside and said “Don’t talk to *****, ***** sells people.” Apparently, he was an actual lunatic who hired speed freaks to steal equipment from one farmer so he could sell it to another and such. The guy’s dead now anyway so fuck him. One of these days I’d like to find his grave so I can piss on it. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in the triangle. There are members of every organized crime group in the world operating out there. There are properties that can only be reached by helicopter. There’s a goddamn Scientology headquarters made out of stone that has three zebras living in the front yard. It used to be four but one of them got shot in cold blood for reasons that were never publicly released. When I say some of those men and women living in complete solitude are richer than God himself I am not lying or exaggerating even a little bit. They have the power to do anything they want to and no one is there to tell them no.

A dear friend of mine posing for a picture with the zebras, which was a terrible idea considering he was trespassing and there were two fully grown bulls sitting just to the left of the picture.

Serial killers have been caught in the triangle and not just one. So many murders and missing persons cases go unreported or unsolved, especially on the Native American reservations. I’ve heard rumors of LSD labs, poppy fields, farms that operate using forced labor, farms that kill their workers at the end of the season, and not that this is all that sinister in comparison but farms that pay women twice the money to trim naked. There’s even a small town supposedly populated entirely by Nazi families who hid out there after the war, fucked, and made a bunch of little Nazi children who grow thousands of pounds of mids every year. 

I’m not trying to paint an image of the triangle as this super dark and dangerous place, it’s just a place people go to be left alone and people opt to be left alone for a lot of different reasons, some sinister some not. The grim reality, however, is that most of the sinister activity I’m describing was financed or at the very least overshadowed by illegal cannabis farms at the end of the day. 

Before anyone crucifies me for saying that, I’m bringing it up for a good reason. I’m not anti-black market, I actively root for the black market but I know deep down in my soul that the only way forward is the direction we’re already heading in. Legal weed ruined a lot of things for a lot of people and I want to acknowledge that before I continue advocating for it. A lot of good people lost their life savings because of legal weed. A lot of good people were murdered when the prices dropped and the bottom feeders started getting desperate. The triangle became a different place virtually overnight when Prop 64 passed and so began a long, painful process of death and extinction.

I say extinction because an entire way of life is indeed extinct. The trimmigrants don’t come to the triangle anymore because there are no jobs for them to work. The small businesses in the hill towns that thrived under prohibition have once again become struggling small businesses in rural America. In my last Weirdos piece, I chose to blame this on corporate Chads profiting off the hard work of the legacy market and I still do in a way. But for this piece I wanted to illustrate that as much as I lament the way legal cannabis was structured, as much as it makes me sick to my stomach to reduce a plant I love so much to numbers on a spreadsheet, if cannabis legalization prevented even one single person from getting trafficked into sexual slavery, that means we did the right thing. 

Now I want to be clear. All the good people who just want to grow weed and be left alone without all the regulations and bullshit have a fair bone to pick and I respect their side of things when they refuse to play ball with the legal market but I also want to make the argument that as the spotlight on the triangle becomes brighter and as the obscene amounts of cash begin to dwindle, it gives us an opportunity to put actual resources behind law enforcement efforts to combat true evil lurking behind the redwood curtain. Up until now, no matter whose fault it is, law enforcement in that area has been inundated and entirely too preoccupied with chopping down plant canopies when the properties right next door are up to way sheistier shit. 

As far as the rollout goes, no one can deny legal weed has been a mess. All the legacy growers got bent over the barrel and shown the 50 states (very heady reference). Everyone got fucked, it happened, I acknowledge that. But in twenty or thirty years, cannabis will be another boring-ass regulated and mature market and the triangle will have evolved into a much cooler version of Napa Valley. Whatever scum is left lurking in those hills won’t be able to operate with the level of impunity they have thus far and they will stand a much better chance of rotting in prison when law enforcement manages to get it through their heads that chasing their tails chopping down plants is nothing more than a silly distraction from crimes against humanity. 

If I had concrete proof of any of this, I’d offer it but these are the rules of cribbage. Lord knows I’ve tried in my capacity as a journalist. I reported the woman to the sheriff years later and interviewed him asking if anything like this had been reported in the area and I got a whole bunch of non-answers and buck-passing. Essentially he told me nothing like that ever gets reported so they’d have no way of knowing. I also pestered the local FBI offices and human trafficking groups for months and never got a single response. All I know is there are far too many rumors and far too many bodies floating around those hills for the sheriff to tell me it’s all gravy. It’s not fucking Bigfoot, it’s human beings.

All of this being said, I would like to challenge two very distinct groups to two very distinct things. 

  1. To my fellow cannabis industry professionals: we, myself painfully included, need to stop being so nostalgic about the “good old days” because at the end of the day that comes from greed. I would love nothing more than to make money hand over fist again but in doing so, we were allowing a much greater evil to grow right under our noses. We cannot abide this any longer and we must intentionally move forward into the legal market together. We need a much more even playing field before that can happen, but our hearts need to remain in the right place here. We owe it to every nameless person buried in those hills to maintain a better perspective at the very least.
  2. To the federal and local law enforcement agencies operating in the Emerald Triangle: you are doing a piss poor job and my proof of that is the poster at the Willow Creek rest stop filled with pictures of all the unsolved missing persons cases. My proof of that is the former Trinity County Sheriff walking off the job for months and still collecting a salary. My proof of that is the woman I saw that fateful day and everything I’ve heard and seen during my decade in and around the triangle. We need actual law enforcement presence that isn’t paid to look the other way. We need effective undercovers to go in with the sole intention of flushing out only the worst of the worst with orders to leave the people alone who are just growing pot and trying to make a living. Do your fucking jobs, because by all indications you’ve allowed egregious human rights violations to happen on American soil for decades, period. 

I will always look back on the wonderfully wild times I had pre-legalization with a tender fondness that I know deep down will never fully go away. It was a special place because of what it was, and that’s what makes writing this so difficult because I know that the beautiful place I experienced had to die for progress to be made. As much as I know I’ll roll my eyes when I drive through Humboldt in twenty years and see all the stupid touristy weed shit, I’ll feel much better telling my kids there’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. I’m not sure I could honestly say that to them even today. We’re on the right track, but we need to keep going. 

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Legalizing Psychedelics: California & the United States

California is one step closer to legalizing psychedelics. A State Senate committee approved a bill that legalizes possessing certain psychedelic substances. The bill looks to legalize the “possession, preparation, obtaining, transfer, as specified, or transportation” of small amounts of psilocybin, psilocin, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline for personal use. LSD and MDMA will remain illegal due to an appeal to nature. While earlier versions of the bill included them, some felt LSD and MDMA are synthetic and thus not genuine plant-based […]

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Love & LSD: A Guide to a Romantic Acid Trip

There’s that thing, isn’t there? That all encompassing feeling. Where you feel warm inside, whilst also feeling complete. All your questions are answered, whilst more are beautifully asked. Sometimes it can be exactly what you’ve always dreamt of, and other times it can feel like the end of the world. Are we talking about love or LSD? Who knows. Well, let’s combine both of them. Today we’re going to guide you through the perfect romantic acid trip and discuss why these two things have such an intrinsic connection. 

1960s USA

The 1960s in the US is often referred to as the summer of love and the flower power years. However, it was also a time of political and social unrest. But why? Well this decade was a time of great change and experimentation, particularly in the realm of art, music, and culture. There was much that birthed a powerful counterculture. The Civil Rights movement was gaining in strength but receiving much aggressive and violent backlash from the white establishment.

The Vietnam war was also in full force – a conflict that many could not understand the purpose of. Not only that, but the disparity between rich and poor, and the disconnection between old and young was a sign of the divide in society. From the ashes of unrest came many social and cultural movements that emerged during this time. They were characterized by a rejection of traditional values and an embrace of alternative lifestyles and modes of expression. The Collector writes:

“A new identity was born at the start of the counterculture movement in the late 1960s. This youth movement criticized consumerism, promoted peace, and yearned for individualism. The 1960s and ‘70s revolutionized pop culture and encouraged social reform. This 20-year period was a turning point in history that influenced future decades, and still has an impact on the present day.”

This movement brought about an influx of rock music, like the likes of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. But the youth counterculture also began exploring drugs in a new way. Cannabis was flowing freely and, of course, LSD was a new ointment. What could be a better way to break out of the mold and experience life in a new way than taking acid

LSD & Love

At the center of this movement was the use of psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), which was seen as a means of expanding consciousness and exploring new realms of experience. LSD was first synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became widely known and used as a tool for spiritual exploration and personal transformation. Origins writes:

“The CIA experimented with LSD in the 1950s for its potential use in psychological warfare… By the early 1960s, several leading universities had begun to investigate the psychological effects and health benefits of LSD. Most famously, between 1961 and 1963, Harvard professors Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert… tested Acid for its therapeutic use.”

As more of the world became aware of the substance, people began to realize its potential for other purposes. The connection between love and LSD was a central theme of the counterculture movement. Many people who experimented with acid reported experiencing profound feelings of love and interconnectedness, and saw the drug as a means of breaking down the barriers that separated individuals from one another and from the natural world.

The use of LSD as a means of exploring love and consciousness was reflected in the art and music of the era, particularly in the psychedelic rock music that emerged during the mid to late 1960s. Bands like The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix used the substance as a means of expanding their creativity and exploring new musical horizons, while their lyrics often reflected themes of love, peace, and interconnectedness.


Now of course we’re no longer in the 60s, instead we’re existing in the 2020s, which has its own identity. Today, the use of LSD and other psychedelics is being revisited by researchers and medical professionals as a potential tool for treating a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and addiction. Nonetheless, that feeling that makes us feel love and unity with another person is still there. That is why the idea of taking hallucinogens with your loved one can be an incredible experience. Like with any substance, acid needs to be utilized in the right way, to risk any problems arising. So let’s go through the well-required steps of how to have the perfect romantic acid trip. 

The Romantic Acid Trip

Before we can begin any LSD trip, we must first understand how the substance works on the body. It is this that will inform how we go about creating the perfect environment for our romantic acid trip. 

How it Works

LSD is a powerful psychedelic drug that has the ability to profoundly alter perception, mood, and cognition. LSD works by affecting the serotonin system in the brain, which is responsible for regulating mood, appetite, and sleep, among other functions. When LSD is ingested, it binds to serotonin receptors in the brain, particularly the 5-HT2A receptor, which is thought to be the primary target for its effects. This binding leads to an increase in serotonin activity, which results in a range of altered perceptions and sensations.

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The effects of acid can vary widely, depending on the dosage, the individual’s mood and mindset, and the environment in which the drug is taken. The effects of the drug typically last for 6-12 hours, with the peak of the experience occurring between 2-4 hours after ingestion. However, the drug can have longer-lasting effects on mood and cognition, which can persist for several days or even weeks after use. Common effects of LSD include:

1 – Altered Perception

It can cause a profound distortion of the sense of time and space, leading to a feeling of timelessness or a sense of the dissolution of boundaries between oneself and the world.

2 – Hallucinations

it can cause the perception of colours, shapes, and patterns that are not actually present, as well as alterations in sound and music perception.

3 – Heightened Emotions

The substance can lead to intense feelings of joy, love, and interconnectedness, as well as fear, anxiety, and paranoia.

4 – Changes in Thought Patterns

Acid can lead to a loosening of normal cognitive constraints, allowing for more fluid and creative thinking, as well as a tendency towards associative and non-linear thought.

5 – Physiological Effects

LSD can cause a range of physical effects, including dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, and tremors.

The Guide

So we’ve established how acid works on the body, and for how long, now we can start planning our romantic acid trip. Love and acid are both powerful forces but, when combined, they can move to a whole other level. Or, of course, if done incorrectly, they can open a world of despair. But don’t worry, that shouldn’t happen if you follow these steps. 

1 – Research 

In a sense, you’ve already done this part. But it’s always vital to educate yourself about the effects of LSD, potential risks and benefits, and how to minimise harm. Read up on harm reduction techniques and best practices for safe psychedelic use. No one wants to sound like Talk to Frank, but the aim here is to really enhance the benefits of this wonderful substance. It will also give you confidence in your experience. 

2 – Partner

Next thing to do is to ask yourself the ultimate question: is this experience right for my partner and myself? This isn’t to give you doubts, it’s simply to highlight that acid is not for everyone. Worst case scenario you have a slightly unpleasant experience, it’s not the end of the world, but that isn’t always nice to add to the memories of a relationship. Ensure you feel comfortable, familiar, trusting and warmth from your partner before engaging in something as intimate as this. This doesn’t mean you both need to have tried it before, but it means you both need to rely on one another. You most likely won’t have a trip-sitter for this experience, so you’ll need to act as one for each other at different points in the journey. 

3 – Set

The next step is to consider you and your partner’s mindset. This means both as a couple and individually. When taking acid, your subconscious can quite easily become your conscious, so any negative thoughts, worries or concerns you may have can materialise themselves. This can be very therapeutic in one way, but it can also be quite unpleasant. Make sure that you’re not overly angry, sad or stressed before the experience – or at least not in a way that you don’t want to face during the trip. As said, many people use LSD to face and tackle these thoughts head on and it can work a treat. But this doesn’t mean that the trip won’t be tough. This is the same when thinking about your shared mindset. Ideally taking acid should boost your love between each other, but it can also help resolve issues too. But, again, that will only work if both of you are willing. 

4 – Setting

Then there’s the setting: where this is all taking place. For a romantic trip you’re going to want somewhere that oozes love and warmth for you both. This may be a beach somewhere, it could be a forest, it could simply be your living room. Don’t judge yourself – wherever you feel the most comfortable and safe with your partner is the place for you. Ambience is also crucial – choose the right music, the right candles or lighting state and even some incense.

romantic acid trip

All of your senses will be heightened. Also make sure that you have easy access to food, water and even a toilet and a bath, you never know when you might need them. Whilst many people love being amongst nature when on a trip, others prefer the comfort of a sofa and a bed. Don’t judge yourselves, simply find the place that you both feel snug. 

5 – Dosage

If you’re somewhat new to tripping – or you’ve only done it once or twice – start with a low dose. This allows you to test your sensitivity to the drug and assess its effects on your body and mind. Not only that, but it gives you both the time to edge yourselves into it and not completely lose yourself. Remember that LSD is a potent substance and its effects can vary widely from person to person. If you’re a bunch of psychonauts then, of course, take as much as you feel works for you. 

6 – Have Fun

Last but by no means least, enjoy yourself! Love and acid is a powerful combination and it can be made even more exciting by having things to do during a romantic acid trip. Play games, watch movies, run around, make love, maybe even discuss things on your mind – whatever works for you. This is a no judgement zone and maintaining that is crucial. If you both want to sit around wearing no clothes and pretending to be pirates then so be it. When the trip comes to an end, and you’re lying in each other’s arms, you should have a sense that you’re closer than you were before the trip started. That is the beauty of LSD and love.

Thanks for joining us! Welcome to; where we work daily to bring you the very best in cannabis and psychedelics news reporting. Head our way frequently to stay in-the-loop, and sign up for the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, so you’re never late to get a story.

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Study: More Mystical Psychedelic Experiences Linked to Mental Health Improvements

A new study from researchers at The Ohio State University found that, when it comes to a psychedelic experience, the more mystical the better. 

The analysis, based on “a machine learning analysis of data from nearly 1,000 respondents to a survey about their previous non-clinical experiences with psychedelic drugs,” indicated that “individuals who scored the highest on questionnaires assessing the mystical and insightful nature of their experiences consistently reported improvements in their anxiety and depression symptoms,” and that “a challenging experience while on these substances, one that feels frightening or destabilizing, can have beneficial results, especially in the context of mystical and insightful experiences,” according to Neuroscience News.

“Sometimes the challenge arises because it’s an intensely mystical and insightful experience that can, in and of itself, be challenging,” said Alan Davis, assistant professor and director of the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education in The Ohio State University College of Social Work, and the lead author on the study.

“In the clinical research setting, folks are doing everything they can to create a safe and supportive environment. But when challenges do come up, it’s important to better understand that challenging experiences can actually be related to positive outcomes.”

The world of psychedelic research has flowered in recent years, as academia has unearthed compelling new findings about how such drugs could treat mental health and other disorders. 

Earlier this month, the University of California, Davis announced the launch of the Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics, which will be dedicated to advancing “basic knowledge about the mechanisms of psychedelics and translate it into safe and effective treatments for diseases such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, among others.”

The university said that while “other psychedelic science centers have been formed across the country with gifts from philanthropists, the UC Davis institute is notable for also being supported by substantial university funds.”

“Psychedelics have a lot of therapeutic potential, but we can do better,” said David E. Olson, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at UC Davis, who will serve as the founding director of the new institute.

“Psychedelics have a unique ability to produce long-lasting changes in the brain that are relevant to treating numerous conditions,” added Olson. “If we can harness those beneficial properties while engineering molecules that are safer and more scalable, we can help a lot of people.”

Last week, Olson’s team at UC Davis published a paper that said “location is the key for psychedelic drugs that could treat mental illness by rapidly rebuilding connections between nerve cells.”

The school said that “researchers at the [university] show that engaging serotonin 2A receptors inside neurons promotes growth of new connections but engaging the same receptor on the surface of nerve cells does not.”

“The findings will help guide efforts to discover new drugs for depression, PTSD and other disorders,” said Olson. “Drugs such as LSD, MDMA and psilocybin show great promise for treating a wide range of mental disorders that are characterized by a loss of neural connections. In laboratory studies, a single dose of these drugs can cause rapid growth of new dendrites — branches — from nerve cells, and formation of new spines on those dendrites.”

The study from the researchers at The Ohio State University “is the first to characterize subtypes of the subjective psychedelic experience and link them to mental health outcomes,” according to Neuroscience News

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Location of Receptor Key to Psychedelic Drug Effects

It turns out that real estate and psychedelic treatments hinge on the same factor.

That is the chief takeaway from a new paper published by researchers at the University of California, Davis.

“Location, location, location is the key for psychedelic drugs that could treat mental illness by rapidly rebuilding connections between nerve cells,” read a release from the university.

In the paper, which was published last Friday, “researchers at the [university] show that engaging serotonin 2A receptors inside neurons promotes growth of new connections but engaging the same receptor on the surface of nerve cells does not,” the news release said. 

“The findings will help guide efforts to discover new drugs for depression, PTSD and other disorders, said senior author David E. Olson, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine, and director of the Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics at UC Davis,” said the release. “Drugs such as LSD, MDMA and psilocybin show great promise for treating a wide range of mental disorders that are characterized by a loss of neural connections. In laboratory studies, a single dose of these drugs can cause rapid growth of new dendrites — branches — from nerve cells, and formation of new spines on those dendrites.”

The Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics was launched at the university earlier this month, which the school said would “bring together scientists across a range of disciplines and partner with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that key discoveries lead to new medicines for patients.”

The university said that the institute “will be funded in part by a contribution of approximately $5 million from the deans of the College of Letters and Science and the School of Medicine, the vice chancellor for Research, and the Office of the Provost,” which makes it different from other comparable institutions.

“While other psychedelic science centers have been formed across the country with gifts from philanthropists, the UC Davis institute is notable for also being supported by substantial university funds,” the university said in the announcement earlier this month.

Olson, the author of the paper that was published on Friday, is serving as founding director of the new institute.

“Psychedelics have a lot of therapeutic potential, but we can do better,”  Olson said in the announcement of the institute. 

“Psychedelics have a unique ability to produce long-lasting changes in the brain that are relevant to treating numerous conditions,” added Olson. “If we can harness those beneficial properties while engineering molecules that are safer and more scalable, we can help a lot of people.”

The news release accompanying his paper on Friday said that “Olson calls this group of drugs ‘psychoplastogens’ because of their ability to regrow and remodel connections in the brain.”

Olson and his team of researchers “found that the growth-promoting ability of compounds was correlated with the ability to cross cell membranes.”

“Drug receptors are usually thought of as being on the cell membrane, facing out. But the researchers found that in nerve cells, serotonin 2A receptors were concentrated inside cells, mostly around a structure called the Golgi body, with some receptors on the cell surface. Other types of signaling receptors in the same class were on the surface,” the release explained. “The results show that there is a location bias in how these drugs work,” Olson said. Engaging the serotonin 2A receptor when it is inside a cell produces a different effect from triggering it when it is on the outside.”

Olson said that the research “gives us deeper mechanistic insight into how the receptor promotes plasticity, and allows us to design better drugs.” 

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Phil Hanley Is Taking It Easy

Phil Hanley has a laid back approach to his material, which is more self-deprecating than punching up or down at anyone.

Most recently, Hanley financed and produced his latest special, “Ooh La La.” He betted on himself. It paid off and resulted in a brisk, tightly constructed 45 minutes of consistent laughs, both big and small. Hanley, who has plenty of nostalgia for his high school days of dropping acid and skateboarding in Canada, talked to us about his earliest experiences in comedy, the Grateful Dead, and dyslexia.

What work went into self-financing and producing your special?

Well, I did have a producer and my friend directed it. Russell Marcus Price directed it, but just coming up with the design for the backdrop, I taped it in one of the Comedy Cellar venues and other people had taped specials there before because they’re really generous with letting us use the venue and stuff. I wanted it to look different. I had to design, come up with the backdrop, and then hire people to build it all out. There are five cameras. I can write the jokes and perform them, but all the other stuff is just really not anything that I have a strong grasp of. It was a lot of work and then you tape two shows and edit it together, and it’s just a whole thing. It’s all new. I had done a special in Canada when I first started and I did a Comedy Central special and you just show up when you’re not doing it yourself. This way, there’s just so much going on.

What clubs did you play at in Vancouver?

Yeah, I started in Vancouver. There were tons of open mics and stuff that I did, and then there was a great club here called the Comedy Mix that now is no longer. It unfortunately shut down. But yeah, I was lucky. When I started comedy, I moved back in with my parents and the club was an eight minute walk. It was so close.

This is one of the rare specials in which the comedian doesn’t mock their parents. They sound great.

Yeah, it’s funny. My parents, my dad, was a huge comedy fan and particularly a standup fan. They were onboard right away. Even now when I’m home, I’ll be talking about my friend Sam Morale at dinner, and then I’m going out to do a show in Vancouver and I’ll hear my dad watching a special or I’ll mention a comic. They’re older, they’re retired and stuff like that, but they’re pretty hip to the current standup scene.

How do you decide when you know an hour of material is ready to go for a special?

Well, I’m not a perfectionist in any other area of my life, but I could just work material over and over again and I kind of set a date. Because what I needed to do was to set a date and then just get on your agent to fill out the weekends. You can overthink these things. I knew that I had three months [before filing] on the road then to really tighten stuff.

Of course, as you’re about to tape, all of a sudden you have all these new bits and stuff and have to decide, do I just love this bit because it’s brand new and I haven’t done it a million times? Or is it actually up to par with the other jokes in the special? With comics, your mind tends to play tricks on you. You’ll have a brand new bit where you think it’s the best thing in the world, but it’s really just fresh for you to tell so you got to kind of figure that out.

What were some of the brand new bits in the special that stayed?

I think there’s a bit that was really new. It sucks now. I was able to do it up until I just played San Francisco and I was able to do a lot of the material from my special because it hadn’t come out yet. But the joke about a scientific study that said that unstable women were better in bed. That was a real thing. I didn’t read the whole study, but I did read that headline and then I just had that bit for so long and I was trying to figure it out. I was trying to figure it out and there were so many angles. In my head initially I was like, “Well, unstable women, I guess I’m sure to some I would be considered an unstable man. Does that make me better?”

I just couldn’t figure out the right thing. And then you just get it and something just clicks. Some jokes come to you and are so easy right away. You try them that night and they’re kind of there. And then other things you’re just like, no, something’s funny and you just can’t quite get at the right angle. That was one that I had had for probably a year and a half and tried different things and then would drop it for a month and forget about it. And then a comic would be like, “Oh, I love that premise you had.” I was like, “Oh, yeah. Okay, I’ll try that again.”

What would you say are some of your favorite clubs that you go to test out material?

There are some clubs that you just trust. Some clubs are just easy, because the crowds are just pumped. For me, working at the Comedy Cellar is ideal because it’s a mixed crowd. It’s now basically a landmark so there are tourists, they’re from another state, but they’re kind of hardcore comedy fans. And then there’s just local New Yorkers that have been going there forever. I’m really lucky to get to play there every night because it is a good mix of people. If stuff works there, you’re pretty sure that it’s going to work.

Sometimes you’ll go and it’ll work on the road, a joke will work in a 45-minute set because they really get to know you and then you’ll come back and it won’t be hitting the same way at the Cellar and you’re like, “Oh, no. It’s not as strong as I thought it was.” But to me, the Cellar is a great place to get a read on a joke. I feel like if something hits there, unless it’s New York-centric, which I tend to try to steer away from, you know it’s going to kind of work everywhere.

I like that the Cellar actually keeps an eye out on the crowd, making sure they’re respectful.

Oh, yeah. Totally. I feel like people are well behaved there compared to other places. Sometimes on the road you’re like, nevermind in a comedy club, I can’t believe an adult would behave this way, just indoors. You’re like, “What are you doing?” They police those rooms and they make people lock up their phones and stuff like that, which is nice because then you feel like you can maybe take a risk or try something knowing that no one’s going to be videotaping it or whatever.

It’s funny watching the special, there wasn’t too much material where like, oh, this is stepping or dancing over a line. It was all good fun, even if something was teetering on the line. You know what I mean?

Oh, yeah. I want people to laugh and have fun and obviously, not take themselves so seriously. If people are offended or whatever, that’s not my goal. I don’t feel I’m being rebellious if someone gets offended or anything like that. I really want a room of strangers to all laugh, not to say that I still can make fun of things, but as long as any group doesn’t take themselves too seriously, they’re not going to be offended.

You have an easygoing presence on stage.

It feels easygoing, but putting it all together and all that stuff isn’t easy. It’s funny, I’m severely dyslexic to the point where people didn’t even realize. Now I’ve started working with dyslexic organizations and I’m on the board of a big one called Eye to Eye in the States and I had the opportunity to go and talk to kids that are dyslexic, and I’m learning more and more, but part of it is organization and getting out the door and getting to a place on time is challenging.

Coming up with material is always hard. It can be challenging, but once I’m actually on stage, I know I’m not late, I’m not running back because I forgot something, that part is easy. I think part of that is just because having a learning difference makes everything else so challenging that once I’m on stage, it is fun and it is kind of, for me, the easiest part of the day. But with that, memorizing material and all that stuff can be more challenging.

Do you tape your material to practice?

Even though I have so much difficulty reading and writing, for some reason I still like to write out jokes. I feel they’re their best when they’re written out. I always have a legal pad. I print them out in big grade three lettering and my spelling is always mocked by my colleagues and my printing. My friends always say it looks like a ransom note, but that’s just the way I do it. 

What are some crowd reactions you get for speaking about dyslexia? Do you ever meet people who relate or feel better to have a laugh about it?

Jack, it’s so crazy. I’ll say, I’ll play the late show. I was in San Francisco a week ago and your openers … you play Denver, wherever, you go on stage and it’s late and the people before you might have just talked about sex. Really sensational things and these graphic sex stories. I go up and I’m talking about being dyslexic. It’s so common and it’s affected so many people, that people are like, it’s hitting. It makes no sense that I can talk about an experience I had in the first grade, not being able to read, and it’s hitting hard at 11:15 on a Friday night where people got up, went to work, went for dinner, went for drinks, then came to the late show.

Or at the Comedy Cellar, sometimes I’ll go on at 1:00 a.m. and I’m talking about being a kid in special ed and it’s hitting. I think it’s really common. I do meet people afterwards, and that’s generally what they want to talk about. It’ll be someone whose kid’s dyslexic or someone who is dyslexic themselves or had some type of learning difference.

Must feel nice turning those experiences into feel-good comedy, right?

My favorite part of comedy is that you have a bad experience, you have a heartbreak or something tragic happens to you, when you’re a comic and especially with your friends, you’re surrounded by comics. You’re immediately like, “Oh, that’s going to be a great bit.” It’s almost the worse something happens, the better. You’re going to get something out of it. Even though obviously it sucks and is painful at the time, heartbreak or whatever, you do know in your head, you’re like, “I will get something out of it.” 

You take a shitty experience and then if you get five minutes of jokes out of it, you can tour that for a year and a half and kill doing those jokes. It feels almost worthwhile when going through a bad experience. That is like 100 percent the beauty of comedy. You do get something out of it when you go through something shitty.

When did you start talking more about dyslexia in your stand up?

Some of my first jokes were about being dyslexic. I had a therapist here in Vancouver and he observed that. I didn’t even realize what the hell I was doing, but he was really interested in comedy and he’d ask me about it at the end of our sessions and I would tell him and he’d be like, “You’re taking these negative experiences and making something positive out of them.” That is the best part.

As far as being empowering for dyslexics, I think it does help. It certainly helps me. Currently, I’m in Vancouver. I’m writing a book about being dyslexic and as I was doing the research, my jaw would drop, because when you have a learning disability, you all experience the same things, but you really suffer in silence because when you’re a kid, you’re not going to like… I was in special ed, but you don’t really connect about it. You’re just so bummed that you’re being forced to do this thing that you have so much trouble doing or whatever. Yeah, I think it is empowering just to also know that people go through similar things.

So many great comedians have come out of Canada. What material is really specific to there? 

Well, that’s interesting. In certain cities, there’s always local jokes or whatever, and sometimes you’ll see it on the road. I think part of the reason is that there’s a long line of Canadians that were funny; we are in, like it or not, and some would dispute, but we’re still in the shadows of the States. 

For example, if there’s an American election, it’s a huge story in Canada. Where if there’s a Canadian election, you guys have your own stuff. We’re really still in the shadows. I feel like that’s just the best place to be. Even in the sense, I’m sure in families, the younger siblings might be, I think in my family, I’m the youngest, but the younger siblings might be the funniest just because we’re, I don’t know, just observing. We’re just observing a lot. I feel like in Canada we have our own culture and our own stuff going on, but they’re also, every day, we turn on the news or CNN or whatever there, we do spend time observing what’s going on in the States.

How’s the book going?

The book, it’s going well. Yeah, it’s quite an endeavor and I have been really enjoying it. I’m a huge Grateful Dead fan. I put on a show and then I try to write, stay at my desk and write for the full show. If you know the Dead, that’s a pretty good writing session. They play for three hours.

I do that sometimes as well.

It’s the best. I did that when I started comedy. Before I even started comedy, I used to write screenplays for kids movies and stuff. I would do that and I put on a Dead show. I have this huge encyclopedia of every show, and I would look, I’d pick a show, and then I would read a little bit about it. As I was writing and I was also going, “Oh, wow. Brent really is going off in this ‘Turn On Your Lovelight.’”

Also, I can only listen to shows from the late ’80s and early ’90s if I can’t write with some blistering show from ’77 or something like that or the earlier stuff. The book has been going good, though. It’s long because I write slowly, but it’s pretty trippy. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but if you’re trying to write about things that happened years and years ago, if you really, day after day, if you’re thinking about these events, you start coming up with dialogue and there are times you can be pretty accurate.

Let’s journey back in time. How were your acid experiences in high school?

I took acid in high school. Part of my motivation was I couldn’t read. I was forced to go to school. It was stressful, and I took acid, and I knew that even there were dudes that were considered partiers that considered acid dirty or too much of a drug, whatever. I always felt a little bit weird about it. And then years later, I’m in a therapist’s office and my therapist’s like, “Yeah, you were so stressed and unhappy with basically your nine to five job, which was school, that you needed a release that took you to another dimension type thing.” It agreed with me. Although I don’t take it now, I do look back at those experiences so positively. I had a blast, but I realize it doesn’t agree with everybody. It certainly agreed with me at the time being in high school and taking acid and skateboarding on a summer night.

Sounds pretty great.

Yeah, absolutely. And then I love the Grateful Dead while I’m drinking chamomile tea, but the Dead while on LSD, especially those wild shows where they were most likely taking it themselves is wow, that’s really the ultimate, you got chocolate bar in my peanut butter. LSD and a skateboard and a Dead show is, when I was a teenager, that was about as great as it got.

Did you ever go to any Grateful Dead shows?

I’ve been to different carnations of the Dead, I’ve probably been to close to 100 every chance I got. Tons of Bob Weir and RatDog shows. I play San Francisco, they always booked me the weekend before the Dead played Shoreline, so I’d always get to see the Shoreline shows, and I always go to City Fields in New York, and I saw Phil Lesh and Friends and the Dead. Anything Bob Weir does, I’ll support. Another dyslexic.

Oh, really?

My favorite dyslexic, Bob Weir.

I didn’t know that.

Oh, dude. He is so dyslexic. He plays guitar like only a dyslexic can. He’s such a unique guitar player. I love bringing a friend to a Dead show and a musician or whatever and they’re smoking. They get a little fucked up and then all of a sudden they just start saying to me, “What the hell?” He just plays his chord so uniquely and he’s such a unique player. As a dyslexic, I’m like, “Yeah, you would approach it that way only if you were dyslexic.”

Did you ever get to see Jerry Garcia?

I did get to see Jerry, yeah, when I was really young. You can’t put into words what it’s like. I get goosebumps. I remember once I was at a show and I had looked away for a second and the crowd cheered, and I turned to my friend, and I’m like, “What happened?” He goes, “Oh, Jerry lifted his leg.” Everyone was so focused on him, and he would solo, and then the whole arena would exhale at the same time.

Nothing really touches that. I guess maybe John Coltrane or these legendary performers that people talk about losing themselves in their music. But with Garcia, it was like, and I didn’t have enough life experience to fully understand, but it was an absolute lift off. When he would play or solo, you’d just completely lose yourself, and then the song would end, you’d take a deep breath and the next thing you knew, you were in the middle of it again. It was incredible.

Now I go to shows and I’m kind of sober. I just take it in and enjoy it. But yeah, man, Garcia was unlike anything else I’d ever seen. I’ve seen tons of all the jam bands now, but he was the guy.

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