Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law on May 23 that established a regulatory framework for psychedelic substances.
SB23-290, also called Natural Medicine Regulation and Legalization, was signed just a few weeks after it was approved in the Senate with House amendments. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Steven Fenberg and Rep. Judy Amabile, and is set to take effect starting on July 1.
The Colorado Times Recorder spoke with Tasia Poinsatte, director of the Healing Advocacy Fund of Colorado, last month about the bill’s potential. “Our state is facing a mental health crisis, and our current system has been unable to meet the needs of those who are struggling, including the many veterans in our state who are at a high risk of suicide,” said Poinsatte. “Colorado voters agreed with the passage of Prop. 122 that we need to open new, innovative pathways to healing for those who are struggling with mental health conditions.”
The law doesn’t place limitations on personal possession for any psychedelic substance, ranging from dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline, ibogaine, psilocybin, or psilocin. Psilocybin and psilocin will be administered at “healing centers,” but it does allow other substances to be added later.
The bill also states that anyone under 21 who possesses or consumes a natural medicine product will only be subject to a fine of $100 or less, and a maximum of four hours of “substance use education or counseling.” More than one offense results in the same fine and education requirement, with an added 24 hours of “useful public service.”
The cultivation of natural medicine is permitted if it’s happening on a person’s private property within a 12-by-12-foot space. However, anyone who is not licensed and “knowingly manufactures [a] natural medicine product using an inherently hazardous substance” is committing a level 2 drug felony. An “inherently hazardous substance” refers to solvents such as butane, propane, and diethyl ether.
The bill also includes protections for consumers, stating that a person using a natural medicine doesn’t solely constitute as child abuse or neglect, is not grounds for being denied health coverage, doesn’t disqualify a person to be discriminated against if they’re eligible for organ donation, and “must not be considered for public assistance benefits eligibility.”
A person with a natural medicine conviction is also eligible to have the conviction record sealed “immediately after the later date of final disposition or release from supervision.”
The bill calls for the creation of a natural medicine advisory board to examine “issues related to natural medicine and natural medicine product, and making recommendations to the director of the division of professions and occupations and the executive director of the state licensing authority.” It also requires the creation of a division of natural medicine to be established within the department of revenue to regulate licensing for “cultivation, manufacturing, testing, storage, distribution, transport, transfer, and dispensation of natural medicine or natural medicine product between natural medicine licensees.”
Colorado voters passed Proposition 122, also referred to as the Natural Medicine Health Act, by 52.64% last November to decriminalize psychedelics. “This is a historic moment for both the people of Colorado and our country,” said Natural Medicine Colorado coalition director Kevin Matthews. “I think this demonstrates that voters here in Colorado are ready for new options and another choice for healing, especially when it comes to their mental and behavioral health.”
The initiative took effect in December 2022. “Coloradans voted last November and participated in our democracy,” said Polis. “Officially validating the results of the citizen and referred initiatives is the next formal step in our work to follow the will of the voters and implement these voter-approved measures.”
Coverage from Westword shows that advocates aren’t happy with the law, stating that it’s too restrictive. According to sponsor Amabile, the bill is solid but won’t make everyone happy. “My takeaway from the testimony is that ballot measure 122 is controversial,” Amabile said at a meeting in late April. “It has a lot of aspects that some people like. It has aspects that the people who like some parts of it don’t like. It has parts that nobody likes.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a license to Ohio State University that allows researchers to cultivate psilocybin mushrooms for use in scientific studies. The license, which was awarded to Ohio State and partner Inner State Inc., a mental health and wellness research and development company, is the first license issued by the DEA for the cultivation of whole psilocybin mushrooms for research.
“This license is a major milestone not only for Inner State and Ohio State, but for the entire field of psychedelic research,” Inner State CEO Ashley Walsh said on Wednesday in a statement quoted by the Columbus Dispatch.
Multiple studies have shown that psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, may have extraordinary potential as a treatment for several serious mental health conditions. But studies of psilocybin normally use forms of the drug that have been synthesized in a laboratory. The new license issued by the DEA allows Ohio State and Inner State to grow whole psilocybin mushrooms to produce the compound naturally. Under the terms of the license, all cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms will take place in a federally registered facility in accordance with strict DEA regulations.
“By combining cutting-edge techniques in genomics and metabolomics, we have the opportunity to obtain a high-resolution picture of the chemical diversity of mushrooms that have remained difficult to study for several decades,” said Ohio State researchers Dr. Jason Slot and Dr. Kou-San Ju.
Researchers believe that using whole mushrooms in mental health studies could give participants the advantage of other compounds besides psilocybin, potentially offering additional therapeutic benefits. Walsh said that it is possible that psilocybin mushrooms “have multi-dimensional healing properties” that could more effectively improve the quality of life for people with severe mental illness.
Continuing research into psychedelics including psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine has shown that the drugs have potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for serious mental health conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. Separate research published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.
In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA as a breakthrough therapy for PTSD, a move that streamlined clinical trials to test the effectiveness of the drug. The following year, the FDA granted the same status to psilocybin as a breakthrough therapy for treatment-resistant depression.
Alan Davis serves as the director of the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education in the College of Social Work at Ohio State University, which he launched last year with the assistance of a private donation of $1.5 million. The center has developed a 25-hour continuing education program and an undergraduate minor in psychedelic studies. In January, the center launched its first clinical trial to explore the use of psilocybin as a treatment for military veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
“Currently, there have been clinical trials completed for people with addiction, depression, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety [and] end-of-life distress in patients who are terminally ill,” Davis told Columbus Monthly earlier this year. “All of those studies so far have shown really promising effects.”
The ongoing research suggests that treatment with psychedelics such as psilocybin, when combined with psychotherapy, can “reduce and, for some, ameliorate, the mental health problems that they are dealing with,” Davis said. “With some studies, they’ve seen that those positive effects can last six to 12 months.”
Other universities are also studying the therapeutic value of psilocybin and other psychedelics, but Davis says Ohio State is the first to create such a center in a social work setting. He added that educating professionals with social work degrees is essential because they are the biggest part of the workforce dealing directly with patients in a clinical setting.
“Usually, the only message that’s been out there is, ‘drugs are bad, drugs are dangerous, don’t do drugs,’” Davis said. “This is meant to provide that foundational knowledge for people so that they can understand all the interdisciplinary work that’s been done about psychedelics.”
Slot believes that we can learn a lot from mushrooms, noting that government prohibition has hindered study and set back researchers decades during an era of significant advancement in the biological sciences, especially genetics. He hopes that recent efforts to destigmatize psychedelics are successful so that the research can continue to advance.
“I don’t think psychedelics are going away. They get at the nature of consciousness, of the relationship between the mind and the body,” said Slot. “These are questions fundamental to our nature.”
Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted this week to block a bill that would have directed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research into cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a procedural vote on Wednesday, the Senate declined to advance the Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill (S. 326) with a vote of 57-42, falling short of the 60 votes needed to continue debate on the measure.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Montana Democrat Senator Jon Tester earlier this year with co-sponsorship by Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska. In February, the bill was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with a vote during a closed-door session.
Under the bill, the VA would be required to conduct a large-scale observational study that evaluates the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for PTSD and chronic pain. An identical bill (H.R. 1003) sponsored by California Democratic Representative Lou Correa is also pending in the House of Representatives, with Republican Representative Jack Bergman signed on as a co-sponsor.
The clinical study would explore the positive and negative health outcomes of cannabis use by military veterans, including whether using marijuana reduces the use of alcohol or opiates. The study would also investigate other aspects of medicinal cannabis use, including pain intensity, sleep quality, agitation, and overall quality of life. Once the study is complete, the legislation requires the VA to report back to Congress on the results and the feasibility of conducting clinical trials.
Vote Blocks New Research For Veterans’ Health
When he introduced the bill earlier this year, Tester, the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the legislation would give military veterans new choices to manage their health care.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve options when it comes to treating the wounds of war, which is why VA needs to have a better understanding of how medicinal cannabis plays a role in their healing,” he said. “Our bipartisan bill ensures VA is listening to the growing number of veterans who find critical relief from alternative treatments like medicinal cannabis, while working to empower veterans in making safe and informed decisions about their health.”
A total of 41 GOP senators voted to block the bipartisan bill, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then changing his vote to “no” in order to keep the bill alive under the Senate’s rules.
In a social media post, Tester wrote that “41 Senate Republicans just chose partisan political games over providing our nation’s veterans their hard-earned benefits and care. 41 Senate Republicans are telling the men and women who have defended our country that their government doesn’t value their sacrifices.”
“Not only are they blocking VA from *researching* medicinal cannabis as an alternative treatment for veterans dealing with chronic pain or PTSD—they’re blocking improvements to veterans homeownership efforts, community-based support, outreach, and more,” he continued. “It’s totally unacceptable.”
In a floor speech before the vote, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, one of the eight Republican senators who voted to advance the cannabis bill, said the measure “is an effort to make certain that veterans are not doing something that is harmful to them and to help them make an informed decision,” according to a report from the Military Times.
But the senators backing the bill on Wednesday were not enough to keep the measure moving forward. GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas said that the decision to block the cannabis research bill came after “spirited debate” during a Senate Republican policy lunch before the vote.
Cornyn told CNN that there were concerns among GOP senators about the methodology of the clinical trial authorized by the bill because “this retrospective study would be done strictly through volunteers who would come forward and talk about their experience with marijuana and PTSD,” and “it depends on people to self-select and we don’t know how that would skew the results.”
The senator also said that Republicans were not given “assurances” that they would be given the opportunity to offer amendments to the legislation, adding that there were concerns about whether the bill would be taken up by the House of Representatives and the chamber’s GOP leadership.
Political concerns may have also been in play, with critics of advancing the bill suggesting that the potential success of the legislation could be seen as a win for Tester, an incumbent Democratic senator up for re-election in a conservative state.
Cornyn indicated that negotiation on the bill would continue and that the legislation could be revived in the Senate. He explained that Wednesday’s vote was “hitting the pause button” on the measure. Schumer described the vote to stop the bill as “regrettable,” adding that he hopes efforts to resurrect the legislation in the Senate at a later date are successful.
Jeffrey M. Zucker, president of Denver-based cannabis-focused business strategy firm Green Lion Partners and vice chair of the Marijuana Policy Project board of directors, expressed disappointment at the decision to delay action on the Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill.
“I’m deeply saddened to hear that the Senate Republicans have blocked a procedural vote to advance this bill. It’s frustrating to see how politics can prevent progress on an issue that could make a huge difference in the lives of veterans and should really have no controversy surrounding it,” Zucker wrote in an email to High Times. “However, I’m still hopeful that lawmakers can come together to pass a bill that allows research into medical cannabis and eventually allows veterans to enjoy the benefits of medical cannabis. Our veterans deserve the best care possible, and medical cannabis could provide much-needed relief to those suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other conditions. It’s time for our leaders to put aside their differences and do what’s right for our veterans.”
The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) granted $19,942,918 to 16 academic institutions with plans to research cannabis on April 26. The grants will be dedicated to research initiatives exploring the effectiveness of cannabis on “mental health of young people, novel cannabinoids like Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC, and a first-of-its kind study of California’s legacy cannabis genetics, intended to preserve the history, value, and diversity of the communities that steward them,” a press release stated.
According to DCC chief deputy director Rasha Salama, the goal is to have these particular initiatives lead the way in cannabis studies. “It is the Department’s aspiration that these studies will advance the body of scientific research, further our understanding of cannabis, and aid to the continued development and refinement of the legal framework,” said Salama. “These studies will provide valuable insights on topics of interest to California’s consumers, businesses, and policy makers and the Department looks forward to sharing them once they are completed.”
Grants were awarded to institutions in six categories, including cannabis potency, medicinal use of cannabis, health of the cannabis industry, monopolies and unfair competition, California legacy genetics and genetic sequencing, and “other” topics. A total of 98 proposals were considered, and 16 were chosen from that pool based on “strong scientific methodology, their ability to provide useful information for policymaking, their advancement of public understanding of cannabis, and their potential to generate foundational research that will support exponential future knowledge.”
The institution that received the highest grant amount of funds was Cal Poly Humboldt with $2,699,178, which will be sued to tackle the topic of “Legacy Cannabis Genetics: People and Their Plants, a Community-Driven Study.”
According to a press release, a nonprofit organization called Origins Council and the Cannabis Equity Policy Council is partnering with the Cal Poly Humboldt to work on the initiative. “This research seeks to empower and protect California’s legacy cultivation communities who have overcome great adversity to innovate and steward one of the most important collections of cannabis genetic resources in the world,” stated Origins Council executive director Genine Coleman.
Additionally, the University of California, Irvine and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) received $2 million each, and both will be conducting cannabis potency studies.
UCLA-based studies secured six grants, and University of California, Berkeley (UCB) received grants for three. Other institutions included University of California, San Francisco, University of California, Davis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Cal Poly Humboldt.
One particular collaboration between UC Irvine and UCLA will conduct the “first double-blind, placebo-controlled, federally compliant, drug-administration study evaluating the intoxicating effects of inhaled cannabis plant compared to inhaled concentrates. It is expected [to] establish a clinically significant threshold to define high and low THC concentrations.”
In February, the DCC also announced a new grant program offering $20 million to help support and expand the state’s cannabis industry. “Expanding access to California’s retail cannabis market is an important step towards protecting consumer safety and supporting a balanced market,” said DCC director Nicole Elliott. “The retail access grant program ultimately seeks to encourage legal retail operations in areas where existing consumers do not have convenient access to regulated cannabis.” The grant application window ends on April 28, and $10 million of the grant funds will be awarded by June 20. After that, an additional $10 million will be “available to previous awardees as they issue licenses.”
The DCC released a statement in early March regarding the enforcement statistics from the past two years. According to the agency’s report, the DCC led 61 search warrant operations in 2021, but conducted 155 in 2022. In 2021, the DCC seized more than 41,726 pounds of cannabis (approximately $77,772,936 in value), but that number increased to 144,254 pounds in 2022 (estimated to be more than $243,017,836 in value).
Sometimes I wonder how many of the people I know have ever killed someone. I’m not talking about murder. I mean, how many of them have run someone over, or left a baby in a car, or accidentally given Grandma the wrong medication. It must be a big number. After all, heaps of people die all the time. And someone’s killing them. Not all of them, but at least a few. And yet when I think about everyone I’ve known in my forty-odd years on this planet, I can’t come up with a single one besides myself who’s killed someone. Maybe the killers keep it under wraps, or they just don’t think about it all the time like I do. Maybe for them, the whole episode was just something that happened a long time ago and it’s not on their mind anymore—like a stag party, or hernia surgery, or a mediocre backpacking trip to the Far East.
I don’t know the name of the man I killed. He was a Syrian soldier and I was an Israeli soldier and we were at war. I’m not saying that to excuse what I did, just to explain the situation. It happened in Southern Lebanon, at night. We were standing about twenty feet apart. He tried to shoot me first, but his AK-47 jammed. Then I tried to shoot him, and my rifle jammed too. I took the magazine out, cocked twice—and the chamber discharged a bullet. I put the magazine back in. All this time I was looking at the Syrian soldier, who was doing exactly the same thing. It was obvious that under the circumstances, with him so close to me, what I should have done is charge ferociously and clobber his skull with my rifle. I’m guessing he was thinking the same thing. But instead of lunging at each other, we kept clutching our jammed rifles as if they were life boards: something to hold the necessary murderousness at bay, something that would allow us the luxury of being brutes by proxy instead of just brutes.
With the magazine back in, I cock my rifle and shut one eye so I can aim. The Syrian does the same thing. His one open eye looks fearfully straight at mine. I start to squeeze the trigger but the Syrian beats me to it by a split second. I hear the tap of his firing pin. His rifle is still jammed. Mine works. The sound is deafening. His face spurts blood. I wake up.
* * *
Whenever Rivi comes over for her regular check-ups, she asks my mother tedious questions like “What were your parents called?” or “How long have you lived in Israel?” or “What is the President’s name?” Rivi says these questions are like a workout for the brain, but as an outside observer it seems to me that my mom’s brain hasn’t been in workout shape for a long time. On her last visit, Rivi asked Mom, “Do you remember what street you live on, honey? Do you know which city you live in?” like she was a little girl.
“Sort of,” my mom answered with a tender smile, “and you? Do you remember where you live?”
Rivi laughed and said she lived in Ramat Gan. Then she pointed to herself and asked Mom if she remembered her name.
“Ruthi?” Mom tried, “is it Ruthi?”
“You’re close,” said Rivi, stroking Mom’s pale hand, “very close. What about him?” She pointed at me. “Do you know who he is?”
Mom gave me an awkward look. “Him?” She shrugged her shoulders. “I know that I love him. Isn’t that enough?”
Before leaving, Rivi asked to have a word with me privately. She said my mom’s condition was deteriorating, she was worried, and I should take her to see a geriatric doctor. I tried to explain that Mom doesn’t like going to the doctor, and that as far as I’m concerned the fact that she doesn’t remember much is something of a blessing, because when you’re a lonely widow with no grandchildren and your son is an unemployed loser, it’s probably best not to remember. Rivi gave me a teacherly look and said that when I label myself as “an unemployed loser” I’m diminishing my existence, and that I have a lot more to offer. I asked what more I had to offer—not to pick a fight, but because I genuinely wanted to know—and she said that I’m a good person, a son who takes care of his mother, and that as a social worker she knows that’s not always the case. “I know you went through a rough divorce,” she added, “and that you have a mental health diagnosis, and that you experienced trauma in the army…”
“I killed someone,” I countered, “that’s not trauma, it’s what soldiers are supposed to do. I even got a medal of honor.”
“I know. Your mom told me there was a ceremony with the Chief of Staff and that—”
“I didn’t go. Did she tell you that, too?”
“Yes, she did. She told me. I know pretty much everything about you, from preschool onward. Your mom likes to talk. But her cognitive abilities are declining. She needs to see a doctor.”
After Rivi left, I made Mom some pancakes. Whenever I cook something good for her, she always wolfs it down, barely stopping to take a breath, as if I might grab her plate at any second. “Slow down, Mom,” I tell her, “relax, that pancake isn’t going anywhere.” But it’s pointless. If she likes it, she scarfs the whole thing in a second. That’s why I waited till Rivi was gone to give her the pancakes, so she wouldn’t embarrass herself.
“What’s the name of that lady who was here asking questions?” Mom asked.
“Rivi. Her name is Rivi. But it doesn’t really matter.”
“Yes it does,” Mom said and looked up at me, “it does matter, and I’m sorry I forgot who you are. Sometimes my thoughts get mixed up, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
“I know, Mom.” I tried to smile, and I leaned over to kiss her warm cheek. “I know.”
* * *
In the evening, I roll a “healthy cigarette” for Mom. That’s our codename for a joint. She smoked her first one when she was eighty, a few months after I moved back in with her. Every evening we’d sit in the yard and smoke the lousy, gritty pot that Nathan, the neighbors’ son, sold me for cheap. Mom always stressed about how the pot was going to destroy her short-term memory, and I always tried to figure out which of the things that had happened in the recent past she’d rather not forget: that my dad had dropped dead of a heart attack? That Dikla had left me for a woman with Asperger’s who designed products at her company? Or was it that I’d put on twenty-two pounds in seven months and now I looked like Mr. Potato Head?
As soon as mom started smoking, her mood always improved. Or maybe it didn’t but the weed made me think it did. Once, she grimaced and shut her eyes and said, “All these pains are unbearable! Do you know which part of my body hurts most?” When I said I didn’t, she gave me an apologetic, stoned look and asked me to remind her what we were talking about. “I was asking what you want for dessert,” I said.
“Mmm… Do we have any ice cream?”
“Of course we do.” I headed to the freezer, and presto—in the blink of an eye, the unbearable pain had turned into a tub of Cherry Garcia with M&M’s on top.
“I’m sorry about today,” Mom says, passing me the healthy cigarette, “maybe I really should see a doctor.”
I take a drag. “Okay. I’ll make an appointment. But first tell me who I am.”
“You?” she says with a hurt look, “I know who you are.” She falls silent, and I feel guilty again. You don’t have to kill to feel guilty. Mom stammers, “You’re… you’re…” and bursts into tears.
I get up and hug her: “It’s okay, Mom, don’t worry about it. You remember that you love me and that I love you. Isn’t that enough?”
While experts have argued in the past that the link between psychosis and cannabis is overstated, another study published just last year linked increased risk of psychosis and addiction to high-potency cannabis.
Now, a new study published in the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences is sharing another perspective, finding that cannabis use is not associated with an increased risk of developing psychosis, even among those predisposed to the disorder.
The research was conducted by a team of investigators from Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom.
Exploring Psychosis and Cannabis
The authors point to the history of research on this specific issue, adding that there have been “limited prospective studies” on the topic and that “the direction of this association remains controversial.”
They describe the study’s primary aim, “to examine the association between cannabis use and the incidence of psychotic disorders in people at clinical high risk of psychosis.” Researchers were also looking to assess associations between “cannabis use and the persistence of psychotic symptoms, and with functional outcome.”
For this study, researchers assessed the relationship between cannabis use and the incidence of psychotic disorders in clinically at-risk subjects. The study analyzed 334 individuals who are at high risk of developing psychosis, along with 67 healthy control subjects at baseline. The investigators then followed up on the participants over a two-year period using a modified version of the Cannabis Experience Questionnaire.
During the follow up, 16.2% of the clinical high-risk sample developed psychosis. Of those who did not develop psychosis, 51.4% had persistent symptoms and 48.6% were in remission.
Authors ultimately stated, “There was no significant association between any measure of cannabis use at baseline and either transition to psychosis, the persistence of symptoms, or functional outcome.” They added that the findings “contrast with epidemiological data that suggest that cannabis use increases the risk of psychotic disorder.”
A Potentially Misunderstood Topic
The findings are indeed contrary to a number of other recent studies on cannabis and psychosis, though there may be more to this conversation than initially meets the eye.
A 2016 review of previous research published by The Lancet (the journal which also published the 2022 study) found that people already experiencing psychosis can improve outcomes by reducing or eliminating cannabis use. This essentially shows that cannabis does not exhibit a causal relationship to psychosis.
While people with psychotic illnesses may use cannabis and other substances more often, studies showing lifetime incidences of acute cannabis-induced psychosis in the general population are still rare.
This study specifically showed that, even among those predisposed to psychosis, a history of cannabis use is not associated with an increased risk of developing the illness. While authors noted that further research is still needed to understand the relationship between cannabis use and mental health outcomes, these findings could help to shift perspectives on policy and healthcare in the future.
Affirming Previous Findings
It’s also not the only study to come to a similar conclusion.
A 2022 study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry analyzed emergency room data related to cannabis-induced psychosis. Researchers concluded that the implementation of Canada’s cannabis legalization program “was not associated with evidence of significant changes in cannabis-induced psychosis or schizophrenia ED presentations.”
A similar study, published in January 2023 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the same question in relation to the United States, analyzing data from 2003 to 2017. Researchers came to the same conclusion, “The findings of this study do not support an association between state policies legalizing cannabis and psychosis-related outcomes.”
The last time I caught up with Wilfred star-turned-cannabis operator Jason Gann in January 2021, he was weathering the ups and downs of startup cannabis ownership.
Today, he’s continuing to survive, learn, and grow his brand, Wilfred CBD and Hemp, as well as his entrepreneurial acumen. While doing so, he’s taking the usual entrepreneurial smacks. In addition to steering his brand, Gann is embarking on additional endeavors to grow the brand while giving back to his fans and the cannabis community.
Launched in December 2020, the Wilfred Cannabis brand came out the gate in California, highlighted by THC pre-roll smokes shaped like cigarettes. A few months later came CBD smokes rolled similarly. The THC brand began making incremental gains across the California market. Interest was quickly piqued among a loyal fan base for the Australian and U.S. versions of Wilfred, which Gann co-created. The recognition led to book meetings, appearances and sales.
Backed by marketing efforts like in-store demos–with Gann pulling half shifts as himself and half as Wilfred for meet and greets—he reported strong growth potential for the THC brand. He noted that there are plans to possibly expand into Oregon, Washington State, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
But a double whammy of the pandemic mixed with product and partner issues dealt Wilfred a substantial setback. The growth plans stalled in time. Rather than push on, the THC brand halted in 2021.
Like many aspiring cannabis operators, Gann pivoted to stay operational. With THC efforts on hiatus, he’s focused on the CBD line and Delta-8, a sometimes controversial product offering he stands behind.
Delta-8-THC, a naturally occurring chemical cannabinoid found in small doses in hemp and marijuana plants, certainly has its endorsers and operators like Gann. Many like him support its use for a reported less intense high. Many others have championed Delta-8 for its ability to skirt prohibition laws against Delta-9-THC and be sold legally.
Most concerns about the Delta-8 revolve around flower quality and potential spraying of solvents during production. Delta-8 proponents push back on the claim, often suggesting that only a few bad actors participate in such practices. Still, many states have placed bans or partial prohibitions on its sale and production while the debate continues. 14 states have passed laws against Delta-8 as of January 2023.
Gann said he became a fan of Delta-8 after being introduced to it during the pandemic.
“I am a big, big spokesman for Delta-8,” said Gann. He added, “It gets a real bad rap but…I’m more productive, my concentration is better and I don’t get anxiety.”
On the CBD side, Wilfred Cannabis continues to source its flower from an unnamed Tennessee-based hemp producer. Each CBD cigarette contains between 80 and 100mg of CBD. Meanwhile, the THC brand is exploring new ways to enter various US markets. Licensing deals in multiple territories, including California, Illinois, New York, and Australia, are being discussed.
Gann touched on several positives he sees in licensing, including “Partnering up with a licensed partner who sees the value in the brand, and they wanna have exclusive rights in that state.”
Now based in Galicia, Spain with his wife and children, Gann splits time between his wife’s home country and the U.S. to meet with brands, production partners, and other business operations.
Doubling Down On Podcast Plans
Podcast plans are also in the works for the Wilfred brand, with one focused on the show and another on the cannabis plant.
It’s been 21 years since Wilfred first appeared in an Australian short film. The short launched two seasons on Australian TV in 2007 and 2010. In 2011, a U.S. version premiered, spanning four seasons and 49 episodes, concluding in 2014. Along the way, the show picked up a dedicated fan following that remains active on Gann’s personal and brand Instagram accounts.
After seeing the wave of success from other nostalgia watchalongs podcasts, Gann decided to launch one for Wilfred fans. Plans are now in the works for Wilfred Dissected, where he, co-stars, and production members will watch and reminisce about episodes and days on set. He also hopes the podcast can help tap into mental health components often discussed on the show.
“With Wilfred Dissected, there’s something of a behind the scenes reunion,” he said. “But there’s also that mental health aspect that people do reach out to me all the time for.”
Over the years, Gann has received numerous messages and met with fans in person who have discussed how the show helped with their mental health experiences. To address this aspect, he hopes to also have mental health experts on the show.
Gann is now refining production measures for the show. Pre-production planning is reportedly close to completion. Booking guests is almost complete as well. Gann reports most principles and select production members have signed on. He has not yet secured U.S. co-star Elijah Wood just yet, citing work schedules, but he remains optimistic it will happen.
Gann also said that discussions for a third Australian series to mark the 20th anniversary could be in the works. However, nothing is planned at this time.
“I’m not announcing it, but we are talking about it,” he said. “It would be kinda cool to just sort of put a button on the end of it and bring it back where it started.”
The Cannabis Code
Gann’s second planned podcast endeavor is The Cannabis Code. Billed as Cosmos meets Ancient Aliens meets The Da Vinci Code, each episode plans to feature Gann taking listeners on a journey that connects cannabis to humanity and beyond. Gann’s personal experiences with the plant, mental health and alcoholism over the years inspired the show.
With six years of sobriety by 2013, Gann abstained from cannabis until season 4 of Wilfred was close to shooting. The decision came from understandings he’d gathered earlier in life, as well as the help of a doctor. To Gann, the decision to use cannabis was more than medical.
“I just felt like I had a spiritual relationship with cannabis that was important for my soul’s journey,” he said.
The feeling inspired him to explore the spiritual connection cannabis has with some of humanity’s earliest groups and beyond. In The Cannabis Code, he hopes to analyze those connections and what he feels they mean.
“I believe there to be some other healing element component to cannabis that science and medicine can’t yet define,” he said.
Gann took a particular interest in the Dogon people of Mali. Ancient Dogon stories and prophecies believe cannabis originated from the brightest star in the winter sky, the Two-Dog Star. Known as the two-dog plant to the Dogon, the plant was gifted to humans by a visiting species. The story has been passed down for thousands of years. As such, many believe the Dogon have a connection to extraterrestrial species, one which Gann supports.
“I don’t believe these people told this story with, what a purpose of playing, like, a 20,000-year-old prank…on the future generations,” he said.
Gann not only believes that cannabis came from another planet to help expand and evolve our thinking. He claims to have first-hand experience with out-of-this-planet beings.
“When I was about 27 years old, I had an interaction with a conglomerate of extraterrestrial beings,” he said.
Since that experience 23 years ago, Gann has explored extraterrestrials, histories and ancient civilizations to learn more. He feels The Cannabis Code helps answer some of those questions.
“I’ve recently started calling myself a ‘cann-spiracy theorist’ because, for me, I think that there’s so much to this plant,” he said.
Gann did not provide official release dates for either podcast but hopes to give some updates soon.
Patients in Australia will soon have legal access to the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and MDMA under a plan announced by regulators last month. But with no approved source of the drug available to therapists, patients will likely face bills in the tens of thousands of dollars to obtain the promising treatment.
Last month, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Australian government’s medicine and therapeutic regulatory agency, announced that qualified psychiatrists will be able to prescribe the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and MDMA for the treatment of certain mental health conditions beginning later this year. But the agency has not approved any products containing the promising psychedelic drugs, leaving mental health professionals to source the drugs themselves. Without a government subsidy to help cover the cost of the medications, psychiatrists estimate that patients will have to pay as much as AU$25,000 (nearly $17,000) and more out of pocket for psychedelic-assisted therapy.
“For the actual patient, it might be $25,000, $30,000 for a treatment,” said Dr. Stephen Bright, a senior lecturer at Edith Cowan University and director of the charity Psychedelic Research In Science & Medicine.
“I honestly don’t think, for the next 12 to 18 months post July 1, that these treatments will be very widely available at all,” he added. “The tight controls of therapy mean there are very few psychologists who put their hand up. There will be a few clinics that open up, but I don’t think we’re going to see the floodgates open.”
Dr. Paul Liknaitzky, the head of the Clinical Psychedelic Lab at Monash University, revealed last month that he and other mental health professionals will be partnering with investors to open a psychedelic-assisted therapy clinic in Melbourne. But training requirements for therapists and detailed guidelines for such therapy have yet to be issued by government regulators.
“There is a lack of detailed clarity from the TGA to help us understand how it’s going to roll out. We are concerned but cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Liknaitzky said that he and his colleagues will help establish protocols that set high standards for ethical and effective psychedelic-assisted therapy. But he warned that the high cost of treatment might make the treatment inaccessible to most Australians.
“Sensible and safe treatment approaches, based on decades of best-practice development, will include considerable screening, psychotherapy and other support. A typical course of treatment, spanning a few months, may be in the order of $25,000, plus or minus $10,000,” he said. “If it turns out to be cost-effective, it will be in the government’s interest to fund it.”
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Shows Promise
Ongoing research has shown that psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, has the potential to be an effective treatment for several serious mental health conditions, including PTSD, major depressive disorder, anxiety and substance misuse disorders. A study published in 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was a quick-acting and effective treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder.
Separate research published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer. And in 2021, a study published in the journal NatureMedicine determined that MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, is a highly efficacious and safe treatment for individuals with severe PTSD.
But Professor Chris Langmead of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences says that it is unlikely that public health agencies will cover the cost of such treatment until further research including a cost-benefit analysis has been completed.
“We’re trying to get a groundswell of research and funding so we can do the research, clinical studies and practice rollout [to ensure] that this is not purely a market-led solution where the most disadvantaged populations are missing out,” he said. “The TGA has put Australia at the forefront of the world and we really need to take the opportunity and make the most of it.”
University of Melbourne associate professor Gillinder Bedi said that a shortage of clinical staff trained in psychedelic-assisted therapy will also make the treatment difficult for patients to obtain.
“The infrastructure will get set up. There will be clinics. But the problem is we don’t have staff. People can’t even see psychiatrists under normal conditions,” she said. “If you put two clinical psychologists in a room for eight hours, at a [Medicare] billing rate of $120 an hour – which is not what people charge, they charge $200 to $300 – you have an enormously expensive treatment. I think it could get higher [than $25,000].
“No matter which way you look at it, it will take time away from other treatments and cost a whole bunch of money. It’s unclear who will foot the bill, some organizations are trying to set up philanthropic funding,” Bedi added. “But it’s going to be for people with money, in the initial stages at least.”
Victor Kwesi Mensah—known professionally as Vic Mensa—is a man who fully embodies what it means to be an artist. He’s got the drive, the spirituality, the sound, and most of all, the confidence. But how does one attain the knowhow to be a successful artist, let alone be successful at anything?
The answer lies in a strong support system. Mensa has been surrounded by supportive people for most of his life, dating back to high school where his band Kids These Days was drawing the eye of major record labels and prominent record producers. It was during these formative years that Mensa realized he had talent, honed his craft, and was propelled by the love and support of family and friends to tap into his potential. That potential is now culminating with a second full-length album, a record that’s sonically rooted in hip-hop, jazz, and African music.
When we connect over Zoom, Mensa reveals more about his upbringing and how it helped shape the man he is today. He lays bare his longtime relationship with cannabis, morphing from a teen trying to sell pot he didn’t possess, to owning a socially conscious weed company—93 Boyz—Chicago’s first Black-owned cannabis brand, and how the intersection of weed, fashion, art, and music provided the bedrock for his ascension from a Chicago fresh kid to an inspiring artist kids can look up to.
High Times Magazine: Growing up in Chicago, did you always know you wanted to pursue music?
Vic Mensa: I was a skateboarder first from age 6. By the time I was in third or fourth grade, I was starting to choose my own music, and was more interested in rock and roll. So I started playing guitar when I was 10. After that, I started writing graffiti, and that was really my introduction to hip-hop.
I was climbing 15-story fire escapes, painting rooftops and jumping on train tracks to paint trains before I was technically in my teens. Zoo York was a big influence of mine and there was a Zoo York video—I think they called it the Zoo York Mixtape—that had some KRS-One in there, which was probably the first hip-hop that really resonated with me.
Did you have a particular style of graffiti art and/or skateboarding, and did that style evolve into what you were doing early on with music?
I think all of those things are intertwined because they’re street culture and counterculture. As far as a particular style of graffiti art, in Chicago, we have a lot of styles but I think we’re most known for straight letters, and I was influenced primarily by the Chicago graffiti legends. Straight, block letters, a kind of straight letter tag style. But I was also a student of the game from my earliest days. I was studying Los Angeles graffiti crews like MSK and New York guys like SKUF and Cope—all the OGs.
When I started to release and promote music, I was already familiar with traveling across the city promoting my name [through graffiti], even though at first it wasn’t my real name. I’d do my own wheatpaste posters and shit like that when I was in high school. I mean, I’ll still do a wheatpaste poster to this day, don’t get it fucked up, but off top, I’d definitely be out on a street corner with the bucket and the posters, treating it like graffiti. Because in a way, graffiti is street marketing. A lot of the people that do street marketing for record labels are graffiti guys. So graffiti and skateboarding are my two primary stylistic inspirations.
So you’re immersed in the graffiti world. Was there a moment when music suddenly became the primary focus?
Probably around freshman year of high school when I started to record. Just receiving positive feedback and reinforcement from people around me—not everybody, obviously, but from some people that I respected—did a lot for me. I recognized that I had a particular talent for writing rhymes, but you know man, honestly, I think one of the reasons why I focus myself on doing so much for the youth is because in the dawn of my youth, I know how much those votes of confidence did for me.
Like my big brother Dare who I have tatted on my wrist and who I’ve written a bunch of songs about—may he rest in peace. He was older than me—near my age now when I was a kid—and he brought me into Jam Crew, which was the primary southside Black graffiti crew and took me under his wing. He was like, “This my shorty, he’s dope. He’s dope in general.” Nobody knew I could rap, but they were just showing me love, boosting my confidence, and giving me opportunity. As I found my own path in what I really wanted to do, I already had that network of older guys in the city who supported me and would let me rock stages when they’d have shows and stuff like that.
So your brother helped you see that you were dope in a particular way—just as a human—and then from that, you were able to grow into yourself musically from that sort of base.
One-hundred percent. Those same people who showed me love when I was a kid trying to dress cool and do graffiti and all of that shit—those same people when I picked up a mic or released music tothis day still give me opportunities.
In Chicago, one of our primary forms of cultural currency and a hub of creativity came from the boutiques and sneaker stores. We had a shop called Leaders that’s still around that was incredibly impactful to all of our upbringings, a place called Sir & Madame, which is also still in existence, and a place called PHLI. All of those places were these centers of inspiration, creativity, sneaker culture, art, hip-hip, and graffiti all at once.
Some of the first guys I knew who were heavy with weed, who were cutting edge, having the best weed and the most knowledge and information—all played into our existence as fresh kids from Chicago. We’ve always been involved with art, we’ve always been involved with fashion, we’ve always been involved with music, and we’ve always been involved with weed.
How did your relationship with the plant start and how did it evolve as you evolved as a human?
My relationship with cannabis began when I was 11. I was just like any other kid living in the city, sneaking out of my mom’s basement to smoke in the middle of the night, before school, or after school. In those ways, I became very familiar with weed and trying to sell it. But the problem was, I didn’t have any weed to sell!
So I was trying to sell all types of shit. I was trying to sell blunt guts in a bag to the kids at the private school down the street. I remember the first time I tried to sell some weed I was in seventh grade and had a dime of Reggie. I tried to take it across the way to the high school in the area and tried to sell it to one of my friends. He was like, “Damn, man. You ain’t even got no mids?” I was like, “Man, this is all I got right now. You gonna buy it or not?”
As I got into high school, a lot of my big homies sold weed and I caught a couple plugs and became the guy with the specialty product. It was me and my boy Joey Purp—we had the best weed in the school and we’d pride ourselves on having cutting edge strains at the time. I really thought I was the man when I had Jack Frost, which was a Jack Herer cross strain. I’d be having the OG Kush, the Master Kush, some OG Master Kush. That was our thing, being at the cutting edge of our community as far as weed was concerned.
I used to go as far as bagging up my weed in Nike SB lace bags. For somebody I was trying to impress, I’d bag up an eighth of Jack Frost in the Nike SB lace bag and they’d be like, “Oh, this thing’s fresh.”
I honestly learned so much from selling weed. Selling weed was my first entrepreneurial pursuit. Before I was selling a mixtape or anything like that, I was selling weed. To make it to school on time, I had to get up and bag up mad early. Sometimes people would want to shop super late, so I’d need to stay awake. I had to be punctual—or as punctual as a weed man is—but I’m just a punctual person in general. In those ways, selling weed provided the building blocks for my understanding of work ethic, and through selling weed, I funded all of my first music projects, purchased all of my studio time, paid for all of my music videos—everything. Cannabis enabled me to be in the studio and to express myself.
When it got you into the studio, was there a moment or set of experiences where it became clear that music had taken over and was going to be your main path?
The moment when I sort of stopped everything else was when I got robbed, as a high schooler selling weed inevitably does. I was hustling serving guys who were way older than me—guys in their 20s who had newborn babies but were shopping with me buying quarters and halves daily—and I’m just a little ass kid. Eventually, I did get set up and robbed and lost a laptop with a bunch of important music on it. But around that same time, my father was really supportive of my music shit and was sometimes giving me money to go to the studio. So I just kind of fell back, you know?
It was the same way with graffiti. We kept getting arrested and eventually that was just in the way because music was starting to support itself. Everything else became ancillary—graffiti, hustling—things that were not my primary focus anymore—and I dove into music headfirst.
As you started to hit a certain level professionally, was there a “good omen” like in the Alchemist book that made you feel entrenched in music?
I was in a band in high school and we were performing at SXSW and different festivals courting all of the major record labels. In fairness, a lot of that was people reaching out to me, but I was loyal to the band. People loved the band as well, don’t get me wrong, but No I.D. reached out early on and was rocking with me so much that he was like, “I’ll check the band out.” The real life attrition was there, and this was the blog era, too, so we were getting love on all the blogs—2DopeBoyz, iLLRoots—and building relationships with all of those people. Even before music was paying anything, it was already real in high school and we were building a grassroots fanbase. We were selling out 1,500-person venues in Chicago when we were 16 and 17, so pretty quickly, the music became real.
I personally already had an understanding of grassroots marketing and communication from graffiti and hustling, so I’m selling tickets in the hallway the same way I’m selling dope, you know? Maybe at the same time. I’m putting up posters and stickers all over the city the same way I was just busting tags. On top of that, we were just making good music. The music became a clearly viable pathway pretty quickly.
Throughout your career, you’ve been outspoken about psychedelics and mental health. When did you start to understand the benefits of psychedelics and did they play a role in your success?
I got into psychedelics when I was 18 or 19. The first day I ever took shrooms I was sleeping on my manager-at-the-time’s couch and Chance [The Rapper] came over and he had a hook and a verse for a song that would become Cocoa Butter Kisses. I took the mushrooms, went into the other room, started writing my verse, and just caught a spirit. It was like, “Whoa, this is different.”
From there, I was taking mushrooms constantly in the making of that album called the INNANETAPE and [mushrooms] became a real part of my lifestyle. Throughout my life, plant medicine has been important to me and has played a big role in my different journeys as a human being. I chilled out on shrooms for a while after [INNANETAPE] because I had just overdone it.
The ways in which I’ve used mushrooms in recent years have been in a microdosing capacity and in a much more healing capacity. I started taking antidepressants when I was 15. I started seeing psychiatrists at that same age—therapists shortly after—and in the last 14 years, I’ve taken over 10 antidepressant medications. In that same time period, I’d probably had one year when they were effective, which is a dismal efficacy rate.
I’ve found that plant medicine has just been far more impactful to me in addressing my mental health than pharmaceuticals have, and I think the pharmaceutical industry is scared shitless about the potential for disruption that all of these different medicines present.
It’s like you start taking [pharmaceuticals] and you think that it’s helping because if you miss a couple of days you’re like, “Oh shit, I’m really bad, I’m suicidal now.” Then you remember you were never suicidal when you started taking the medication! The medicine is making me dependent on it. I was struggling when I first started taking it, but I wasn’t trying to kill myself. When you’re dealing with some of these plant medicines, you’re getting a more straight deal.
In the best moments, I think [plant medicine] can help move inhibition. Creativity is not of man in its purest form. It’s given to us from whatever you believe is above us. If it’s God or it’s Allah or the universe or the ancestors—at the end of the day—I believe we’re all just a vessel for a more powerful, divine energy. In the best moments of our creativity, we’re the most uninterrupted sacral. It’s like a radio, and [plant medicine] can help you pick up [the frequency]. They can help pick up the signal.
I’m learning more how to harness things as tools, but to train myself to be the primary influence. These days, I stray away from relying on being under the influence of anything other than myself. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever have external influences, but I work on my meditation a lot. Meditation has been the most powerful tool for me in addressing my mental health.
I’ve been meditating since I was 16, and in recent years, my meditation has become far more consistent and more extensive. I’ve learned more techniques, I’ve been on five-day silent meditation retreats, and I’ve studied different meditations from different places in the world. In terms of cannabis, some of its traditional uses were as a meditative tool. People think of Rastafarianism as a happy-go-lucky “by the beach, mon,” lackadaisical idea. In reality, those Rastas are vegan, deeply spiritual, deeply meditative, deeply revolutionary, and they meditate with the ganja. Meditation is my medicine above all.
If I haven’t meditated in a day, I find myself getting aggravated over little things I can’t control. Meditation is my first line of defense.
The paradox is that sometimes you’ll need a plant medicine experience to understand that you don’t need plant medicine to get to an elevated place.
There are breathing exercises and meditations you can do that will get you as high as any weed or psychedelic spirit medicine. One of my favorite things these days is to microdose mushrooms and complete an hour-and-15-minute-long meditation from a book by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I usually don’t do guided meditations because I like the practice of disciplining myself, but the meditation in this book Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself is so wicked that it’s like being on an astral plane. When I microdose, I’m taking non-psychoactive doses, which helps me tap into my internal power.
In January, you had an incident with psychedelics that made headlines. How did it go down?
I was headed to Ghana for about a month and I’d decided to get off my antidepressant medication. For the past few years, I’ve been dabbling with microdosing, but not really in the most consistent way. I had that experience that I mentioned previously where I had recently started taking a new antidepressant, took a few days off and started to feel suicidal. But I then realized I wasn’t suicidal when I’d started taking the medication, and decided to get off of it.
So I was off to Ghana and was going to quit the antidepressant cold turkey. I was going to get on a real microdosing regimen, not have a drink when I got there, and take this step for my mental health. I reached out to a couple different companies just to get the right microdose of shrooms and they sent me a bunch of shit. Pretty carelessly, I threw it all in my bag and took off.
I had a great experience there, no issues getting off of the antidepressants. All of the microdosing was cool and I just put all the shit back in the bag, wasn’t thinking too hard about it, and then I ended up going to jail.
In all honesty, what I had on me probably added up to an eighth of shrooms and a single tab of acid—which was an LSD microdose—so the entire bottle was one dose. It was a very miniscule amount of psychedelics in bigpackaging. But I was in such a cool place in my mind, had been meditating a ton, and was in such spiritual alignment that I wasn’t stressed.
I’ve been working with a lot of folks recently in the prison release space and was actually able to help a friend of mine come home 12 years early on a 25 year sentence in 2020. So at the end of the day, being involved in clemency processes and legal processes for bringing other guys home made being in jail for a couple days—especially with the perspective that I have of these friends who are living years of their life in prison—a miniscule experience.
My meditations also gave me a brilliant edge in there, to the point where I was just meditating the whole time to avoid thinking negatively. I’d come in front of the bail court and she was like, “Yeah, we’re going to move your court date to three months from now.” It’s those things that will make your mind want to freak out, but I was in a place of real alignment, so I wasn’t stressed and decided to see things as a blessing in the form of a lesson, and was like, “I’m going to get into the psychedelic game, too!”
At this point, the medical and health benefits are undeniable.
The actual, tangible, biochemical serotonin levels in your mind are boosted. It’s like the laws of this nation are proven time and time again to be ineffective at meeting the needs of the people. The people are sick, are in constant fear and danger of gun violence, are poorly fed nutritionally, and the laws of this nation are incapable of addressing any solution to those many needs. So sometimes, you gotta go to jail for some shit that’s stupid.
In May, I launched the first black-owned cannabis brand in Chicago, Illinois—93 Boyz. We’re in quite a few dispensaries and are rapidly expanding. We all know what the War on Drugs has done to Black and brown communities, but it still stands that our representation in the industry is miniscule. So we’re taking steps to change that.
Our brand is standing on high quality and cutting edge genetics in a market that doesn’t really have that yet. Also baked into our ethos is that a portion of all of our proceeds are going to community-driven efforts. And that’s what 93 Boyz is all about: Tastemaker weed mixed with socially-minded initiatives.
Our first project that we’re launching in August with the release of our full strain portfolio is a project called Books Before Bars. We’re putting over one-thousand books into Illinois jails and prisons. This is an idea I had from my own experience sending literature to people in prison and seeing how their entire life experience can be—and has been—shifted by reading the right books. If you can’t attain freedom yet in the physical, you can get it in the mental while you’re still in the cage.
If the federal government signs off on psilocybin, a pair of Rhode Island lawmakers want the state to be ready to benefit.
The bill under consideration would “decriminalize the use of so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ statewide,” according to local news station WPRI, although that would “[hinge] upon whether the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approves psilocybin as a treatment for chronic mental health disorders.”
“Veterans and many others in our community are struggling with chronic [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], depression and other mental health disorders that can be totally debilitating,” said Democratic state House Rep. Brandon Potter, as quoted by WPRI. “We should give them the freedom to try every tool available and not criminalize a natural, effective remedy.”
Potter is sponsoring the measure along with state Sen. Meghan Kallman, also a Democrat. It’s familiar territory for Potter.
Last year, Potter proposed a bill that would have also decriminalized psilocybin, although there was no provision in that legislation on FDA approval.
According to WPRI, this year’s proposal “would require the Rhode Island Department of Health to regulate the use of psilocybin as a treatment should it be approved by the FDA.”
“Psilocybin is not addictive,” Kallman said, as quoted by WPRI. “It’s naturally occurring and people have been using it recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years.”
“It is only illegal because, over 50 years ago, President Nixon associated it with his political opponents,” she added. “It’s time to undo that mistake and give our neighbors struggling with chronic mental illness, and all Rhode Islanders, the freedom to use psilocybin responsibly.”
Mushrooms and other psychedelics are fast emerging as the next front for legalization advocates, as the science and medical community continues to uncover more encouraging findings about their ability to treat disorders.
The state of Oregon legalized psilocybin for therapy in 2020 after voters there approved a ballot measure. Two years later, voters in Colorado did the same.
The changes in laws have coincided with a shift in attitudes about the drugs.
A poll in 2020 from the research firm Green Horizons found that 38% of American adults believed that psilocybin mushrooms should be legal in at least certain circumstances.
“When it comes to psychedelics, there are many parallels with the movement to legalize cannabis. In both cases, education is paramount,” Adriana Waterston, Green Horizon’s SVP of Insights and Strategy, said at the time. “Psychedelics, like cannabis, have been tied to a negative, highly stigmatized image for many years. Science, however, is showing us that psychedelics demonstrate tremendous promise for certain chronic psychological illnesses, even those that have been treatment-resistant. As we continue to study psychedelics and evidence for their benefits mounts, we can expect support for legalization to follow.”
The poll found that 25% of Americans believed that psilocybin mushrooms should be legal under limited circumstances –– perhaps as a medical or religious practice –– while 13% think they should be legalized outright.
As WPRI noted, “Current federal law classifies psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug alongside fentanyl and cocaine, both of which are highly addictive,” while state law in Rhode Island puts the hallucinogen in the same category as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.”