Monday May 1st - Sunday May 7th
Stories from Vice, Broadly, New York Magazine, AFP & PsyPost.
I wish you an excellent week. Thanks for reading and please consider sharing: I'm not great at marketing. Help me make my Sunday matter! And now, the stories:
Setting legal precedents and saving ayahuasca users from prison time.
Ayahuasca is heavily policed other than in a few South American countries, yet the brew travels across the globe to ayahuasca churches and individual practitioners, often in the US and Europe. These users sometimes face police raids and arrest, however, relatively few end up spending time in jail.
This is due in part to the efforts of the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education (ICEERS), which has been fighting for the legal rights of ayahuasca users over the past four years. In 2015, the Ayahuasca Defense Fund (ADF) was founded as a branch of ICEERS.
After a successful defense of two Chilean men raided during an ayahuasca ritual, Benjamin de Loenen, the founder of ICEERS, realized a growing trend. 77 legal cases from around the globe were reported to ICEERS between 2010 and 2015.
“The cultural dimension of ayahuasca really challenges the drug control system because it is much younger than these very ancient practices,” de Loenen told Vice. “Shamans have started traveling outside of their traditional territories sharing their culture and other people go there to learn from them.”
De Loenen and ADF project coordinator Constanza Avilés don’t provide legal counsel themselves, instead they provide an education resource for lawyers handling ayahuasca cases, as well as a hub for attorneys to share information. So far, none of their clients have served prison time and their work has helped set precedents for ayahuasca use in places like the US, UK, and Spain.
A Broadly writer meets the dolphin ambassador.
In 1994, shamanic healer and fashion designer Aros Crystos was gazing at the ocean from Muir Beach, California. In that moment, he received a telepathic message from dolphins. Over the next ten months, Crystos came to understand that dolphins are intergalactic beings who can travel through dimensions at will. “Where there is true love, shapes, forms disappear and left us only our smile,” went one of the early communications.
Over the past 23 years, Crystos has established himself as a “dolphin ambassador on land.” In the mid-90s, he lectured across the West Coast and attracted a couple dozen practitioners to meditate with him every week.
Broadly writer Eva Sealove, went to try Crystos’ dolphin journey. Sealove brought a few friends to one of Crystos’ associates in Santa Monica. “This meditation the dolphin taught me many years ago,” Crystos began.
The group was instructed to imagine being in a turquoise ocean, discovering its beauty. Eventually Crystos asked them to “dive even deeper” and call upon their guides.
“Your dolphin friend is beckoning,” said Crystos. For Sealove, the quest was successful. She found a dolphin named “Kid,” describing him energetically as a “brightly-colored baseball cap with propeller.”
According to Crystos, dolphins are here to bring humankind back to the sea. “Humans are amphibious beings,” he said. “It's time to reprogram.”
An anthropologist is studying enthusiasts who believe in the power of mushrooms.
Joanna Steinhardt, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, delivered at talk at Psychedelic Science 2017 describing her research on amateur mycologists who are doing everything from making medicinal tinctures to developing myco-remediation (using mushrooms to filter environmental toxins).
“Psychedelic mushrooms are just one corner of the fungal kingdom,” she said.
DIY mycology has emerged as a movement, inspired by book like Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World and Terence and Dennis McKenna’s Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide, explained Steinhardt. “Websites like Shroomery and Mycotopia were founded in the mid-1990s with forums focused on psilocybe cultivation, allowing people to swap information, troubleshoot their failures and crowdsource solutions,” she said.
Some enthusiasts in the Bay Area are growing oyster mushrooms which eat oil, while others are working towards scientific breakthroughs testing whether some types of mushrooms can be used as herbicides against invasive plants.
One of her research subjects, who described himself as a psychedelic naturalist, explained how much magic mushrooms shaped who he is. “What immediately became crystal clear to me is that all organisms are valid and alive and interconnected. And we all share life together,” he told her. “There is no me without the ecosystem.”
For another study subject, foraging for mushrooms is “a really deep connection … connection to myself, connection to community, and to the earth, and obviously, to mushrooms.”
Uraguayan pot smokers became the first in the world to sign up to buy weed from pharmacies.
Uraguay’s leftist government, having already decriminalized cannabis in 2013 and allowed it to be grown in people’s homes, will make it available for purchase in July. It will be the first country in the world to do so.
“This is a great step forward in the evolution as citizens,” Marcos Ferreira, one of the people queuing in a small line to sign on to the Cannabis Register at a post office in central Montevideo told Agence France-Presse.
However the final stage of cannabis legalization comes with many caveats. Buyers who sign up must submit fingerprints to ensure they don’t exceed monthly maximums set at 1.4 ounces. Only Uruguayans or foreigners with permanent residency permits can sign up, with the goal of preventing “cannabis tourism.”
According to the secretary general of the National Drugs Council, a gram will cost $1.30, half of what it sells for on the black market. Cannabis is grown at secret plantations near Montevideo by private companies regulated by the state.
People who experience an Oculus Rift-induced NDE are less afraid of death.
Researchers led by Mel Slater of the University of Barcelona induced out-of-body experiences in 16 women using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, according to a study published in PLOS One.
“We wanted to see what the effects were of establishing a strong feeling of ownership over a virtual body, and then moving people out of it, so simulating an out-of-body experience,” the researchers wrote. “According to the literature, out-of-body experiences are typically associated with changes of attitudes about death, so we wanted to see if this would happen with a virtual out-of-body experience.”
Compared with a control group of 16 women who experienced a VR scenario without the simulated out-of-body experience, participants in the OBE group had lower levels of fear of death on average.
This study relied only on a questionnaire, but a more sophisticated study has been completed which Slater hopes will be published in a few months.
THE QUOTE BOX
”To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive— the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being alive is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands. We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.“
That's all for this week. Look out next Monday morning!