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Amplify #12 Plant Medicine Law Group

The three women behind the Plant Medicine Law Group come from diverse backgrounds. Serena is a Chinese-American lawyer, born in Hainan and raised in Los Angeles. Hadas is an Israeli-American attorney, born in Jerusalem and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Adriana is a Brazilian-American attorney, born and raised in São Paulo.

Amplify #12 brings you a relevant discussion on female representation in the psychedelic space. Let’s check this out now!

photo of Hadas
Hadas Alterman

WOOP: How and when did the three of you get together, and what were your reasons for founding the Plant Medicine Law Group?

Hadas: I was introduced to Serena via email and upon speaking with her realized that her brilliance would bring major intellectual horsepower to anything she did. I met Adriana at a cannabis industry event a few days later, and her abilities to make people feel genuinely welcome and included, connect people generously, and create win-win situations awed me. Two weeks later, the universe conspired to put the three of us at the same bar, at the same time. And the rest is history.

We founded the firm because we knew that there would be individuals and companies in the psychedelic space, newcomers and legacy alike, who would want attorneys like us as advisors: people to whom they could relate and who could support their visions from a place of clarity. We built this firm to help usher in a paradigm shift. We’re here for the companies that want to succeed in helping the world heal, for the companies with genuine purpose, passion, and soul.

WOOP: Have any of you had personal psychedelic experiences that have transformed or empowered you in some way?

Serena: As I discussed in my medium article, I have tried ketamine-assisted therapy and ayahuasca ceremonies in Costa Rica. They have helped me tremendously with depression and dealing with childhood trauma. These experiences have clarified the root causes of my own suffering in the past, and the process of integrating these experiences is what really transforms me. Integration applies my awareness to the realities I create and helps me make different choices in the present. Thoughts, words, and deeds – by making different choices with respect to my thoughts, words, and deeds, I can reimagine my reality and shift it if needed.

WOOP: We see that all of you are involved in many other projects around decriminalization and destigmatization. Could you tell us more about them, and why it is important for more women and minorities to be involved in the psychedelic space?

Hadas: We’ve realized that it’s not about the sex or gender of the folks involved, so much as it’s the team’s energies (e.g., masculine v. feminine, western v. non-western). The masculine, western way of working is very left brain, very linear. But there’s a reason why the cliché "winning hearts and minds" is so enduring in politics: to bring about change successfully, a movement must appeal not only to people's logic but also to people’s emotions. In politics, the right relationships are just as important as the right arguments. One’s words as well as one’s energy must be persuasive; and the energy a group cultivates will dictate the energy that it emits to the rest of the world.

More concretely, diverse representation is an absolute necessity when creating public policy. However well-intentioned, white men can no longer unilaterally decide for the rest of us. That doesn’t work and isn’t acceptable anymore. We need stakeholder involvement and representation at every level. And to do that, one has to build trust. We are not the only ones who find it much easier to trust groups when their leaders are people with whom we already have relationships, or, at the very least, are people to whom we can relate. Why should one trust that a group of very different people will look out for one’s interests? Why would we ask any stakeholder – especially members of marginalized groups – to do that? It isn’t in their best interest, so we need leaders who inspire trust and represent a variety of interests, communities, and viewpoints.

Photo of Serena
Serena Wu

WOOP: Have you faced any sort of discrimination or backlash for your immigrant background or gender in this field?

Serena: I have not encountered any yet. Mainly I noticed that there are few people of color, particularly Asians, in this space.

Adriana: I have noticed that biotech companies and VC groups are mostly populated by men, while nonprofits and entities working with indigenous rights are mostly populated by women. It’s a shame that a nascent industry is already dividing along with antiquated gender roles where men are earners and women are caregivers. We know we may alienate certain players with our branding, but we also have proof that it has attracted clients with whom we are really excited to work.

WOOP: In your opinion, is there still a stigma around women using cannabis or other psychedelics?

Serena: Yes, but I don’t think this is specific to women. Growing up with the D.A.R.E. program that taught drug abstinence, I had a bias against doing illicit drugs. It took some convincing to try ketamine and ayahuasca. I needed to understand the benefits and potential side effects, as well as how to create a mindful, safe environment to maximize the benefits while mitigating the risks. Society is becoming more accepting of cannabis, and I suspect the psychedelics stigma will lessen with increased education, exposure, and awareness.

Adriana: Absolutely – there has been family backlash ever since I became increasingly open about exploring these plant medicines. At the same time, people who thought I was crazy 9-years ago for being interested in cannabis are now reaching out to me about medical news and legalization efforts.

WOOP: What are the current legal barriers entrepreneurs face within the cannabis and psychedelic industries?

Hadas: There are major (and in my opinion, undue) tax burdens on cannabis operators. It can be painstakingly difficult to get a bank account, and the regulations in most states are unjust and unfavorable to small businesses. Most psychedelics aren’t even legal yet, so the difficulties are obvious. Moving forward, we’re going to see lots of insurance hurdles that will have to be cleared. This question deserves its own article!

WOOP: What do you hope to achieve with the Plant Medicine Law Group?

Serena: Help build safe, legal and equitable access to psychedelic medicine.

Adriana: Offer clients a source of legal services that equally appreciates the integrity of their efforts to provide safe, equitable access to psychedelic medicine and their business needs.

photo of Adriana
Adriana Kertzer

WOOP: In your experience, what can be done to support greater gender parity moving forward in this field?

Serena: I would like to see more diverse voices represented; there are many women doing great work in this space, and they all deserve credit where it is due. One of the ways I tried to highlight them is through @womeninpsychedelics. And at the same time, I hope to see more women elevating their own voices and taking up space.

WOOP: Any other exciting news or projects you are working on?

Serena: Community forum on February 24 at 12pm PT with Chacruna discussing Asians and Psychedelics; a psychedelic law symposium with April as the target date; profiling women in psychedelics on Instagram; navigating the world of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Hadas: I’m the Policy Director for #DemocratizeHealing NY.

Adriana: Jewish Psychedelic Summit with Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, Madison Margolin, and Natalie Lyla Ginsberg (MAPS) March 21-22; new batch of #jewsndelics profiles on jewwhotokes instagram; interface working group Safe+delics will have its 3rd virtual meeting in March; second-panel discussion co-sponsored with Business Trip to be announced soon.

Plant Medicine Law Group is a law firm serving the psychedelic and cannabis space founded by three women: Hadas Alterman (Berkeley Law), Adriana Kertzer (Georgetown Law) and Serena Wu (Harvard Law).

Their mission is to expand equitable access to plant medicine and help companies in the psychedelic and cannabis industries succeed in a complex, emerging market. They provide strategic expertise to successfully launch, fund and grow your business. Check out their video.

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