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WOOP’s Top 5 Highlights of Psychedelic Science 2023

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Nearly 12,000 attendees from all over the world arrived in Denver, Colorado in June for Psychedelic Science 2023, in what was the largest gathering of medical professionals, indigenous medicine people, politicians, researchers, beneficiaries, celebrities, practitioners, underground guides, advocates, entrepreneurs, investors and simply the curious in the psychedelic healing space.


In 6 years, visitors to the Psychedelic Science Conference nearly quadrupled from the first one held in 2017 in San Jose California. Organised by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), more than 500 speakers delved into the complexities and opportunities of the psychedelic landscape. With dance parties, DJs, sacred ceremonies, and sound baths scheduled alongside talks and workshops, topics such as Therapy, Religion, Science, Studies, Clinical Trials, Society, Policy, Plant Medicine, Business, Veterans, Community, and more, were covered extensively.


The successful turnout at the conference underscored the significant strides made in legalising and normalising psychedelic drugs – but there is an air of caution around the commercialisation of psychedelics and sacred psychoactive plant medicines. The discussions underscore the importance of maintaining the sanctity and intention behind plant medicine use, and highlighting the potential consequences of colonisation and over-commercialisation.


Numerous women, including BIPOC representatives, shared their insights and experiences across various workshops and sessions. Amongst the many community partners was the Asian Psychedelic Collective founded by Simran Preeti Sethi.


Here are WOOP’s top 5 highlights for you, with our very own photos and links to videos.


1. Psychedelics & Migration: Healing Intergenerational Trauma Across Cultures


In a thought-provoking session examining the potential of psychedelic substances to heal migration-related trauma and reconnect immigrants with their ancestral roots, a panel of Latina, Filipina, South Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrants challenged the assumption that Asian demographics have no use for – or interest in – addressing deep-seated intergenerational traumas with the aid of psychedelics. They highlighted the widespread propensity to overlook the resilience, persistence, and survival instincts inherent in the BIPOC community and disregard their emotional needs and investment in healing.

a BIPOC panel of speakers at PS2023
The BIPOC panel at PS2023

The undeniable importance of diversity and representation for psychedelic accessibility.

A pertinent issue underscored by the panellists was the ongoing struggle against the "model minority" myth – an inaccurate portrayal of Asian Americans as universally successful due to an ostensibly superior work ethic and inherent talents, thereby sidelining the need for psychological healing interventions.


Addressing another facet of intergenerational trauma, the panellists elucidated the challenges associated with the decolonisation process. Many countries continue to grapple with the aftermath of having their indigenous practices suppressed and are now confronting the war on drugs, which has criminalised their indigenous plant medicines and practices.


Reflecting on the stigma surrounding psychedelics and the need to increase their accessibility, members commented on the ongoing worldwide war on drugs and the associated risks. The consensus was that overcoming this stigma and addressing accessibility requires substantial effort and attention.


Malek Asfeer, a former refugee and Creative Director of Ajna BioSciences, shared that “with more than 100 million refugees across the world, it is beyond shameful to see how little research and programs there are out there." They are organising psychedelics retreats for refugees and are collaborating with Unlimited Sciences on a study to address this gap.


The discussion culminated with an appeal for donations to organizations such as the Asian Psychedelic Society and Unlimited Sciences, which work on improving safe access for immigrants to psychedelics. The panel emphasised the need for more research and data to rectify the systemic exclusion of the BIPOC community.


2. Millions of Moms Collective


In a demonstration of solidarity, over 100 mothers and their supporters convened on Friday morning at the Colorado Convention Center's notable Big Blue Bear landmark. Millions of Moms members collectively declared their support for the safe and intentional use of psychedelics in maternal mental health.

A gathering of moms and supporters for psychedelics
Millions of Moms gathering at P2023

Source: Millions of Moms IG post

"I proudly embrace psychedelic medicine for my mental well-being and demand comprehensive research and equitable laws for all." - Millions of Moms

The rallying event was orchestrated by Tracey Lee, co-founder of Millions of Moms and Moms on Mushrooms, who aims to cultivate a compassionate community of mothers and allies. The gathering highlighted the burgeoning recognition and potential of psychedelics as powerful healing tools in maternal mental health.


3. The Wisdom of Elders


A session during the Psychedelic Science Conference offered a compelling platform for the Women’s Visionary Council's co-founders. Established in 2008 by Annie Oak, Maria Mangini, and Caroline Garcia, this non-profit now offers a voice to female Elders within the plant medicine community.

Watch now to delve into the wisdom of these elders.


Born in 1950, Dr. Maria Mangini, who has devoted herself to this field, expressed her concerns over the increasing popularity of plant medicines, practices once hidden and fiercely protected. She worries that this growth may lead to commodification, ultimately depriving the field of its essence. "Emerging into consumer reality, it will be dried and desiccated in a way that consumer reality tends to do," she said. While acknowledging the value of research in shaping therapeutic use of psychedelics, she fears a dilution of the "weirdness" inherent in the healing and integration process.

Dr. Mangini cautioned, “Commercial normalcy just doesn’t cover it. There are so many things that involve improvisation, risk, nonsense, and magic that we really need... Don’t think that science, technology, expertise, and professionalism are enough. The rest of this stuff is absolutely vital.”

The echoes of colonisation continue to resonate throughout the plant medicine world.


Adele Getty conveyed a strong message during an "Ask The Elders" session. “Don’t get in front of the medicine. We’re seeing organizations collapse, businesses collapse, teachers or communities collapse because they’re getting in front of the medicine in ways that are either unethical or just premature.”

Getty urged for balance between the material and spiritual domains, cautioning attendees against swinging too far in either direction. "Take too many steps forward in the spiritual or psychedelic world and you can look back and see that you’re living in your car. Take too many steps in the material world and you may look back and see you lost your soul or spiritual connection."

In her closing remarks, Dr. Mangini shared, "Perhaps then, psychedelics without women is like medicine without nursing. It is not just good practice to include women for reasons of political correctness, but it is vital for bringing different intellectual and experiential perspectives – different truths – into the movement in order for it to succeed."



4. Protest during Rick Doblin’s Closing Address


The voices of indigenous and minority communities resounded powerfully during the closing ceremony of PS2023. As Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), was poised to deliver his closing remarks, there was a wave of protest from indigenous activists. The crowd joined in the outcry. Recognising the importance of their message, Doblin ceded the stage to the protestors for them to voice their concerns.

Watch the video of Rick Doblin's closing address at PS2023, which was interrupted by indigenous activists with powerful messages that cannot be ignored.


Dr. Angela Beers, the first speaker, criticised the exclusivity of PS2023, highlighting the financial barriers that prevented many indigenous individuals from attending the conference. She revealed that they had to fundraise independently to enable some indigenous elders and medicine people to just participate in the panel discussion, "Indigenous Affinity: The Impacts of Legislation on Native Communities".

Kathoomi Castro, another indigenous activist, expressed his anguish over the misuse of indigenous medicines. He lamented, "We opened our medicines for you to heal, not to exploit or monopolise. This movement is not a renaissance; it's been happening for centuries. You're appropriating it, colonising it, and in the process, damaging us and erasing our cultures. Stop, and think critically."

He further warned of the detrimental effects of such appropriation, drawing parallels with the harmful impacts of tobacco, opioids, and coca in the hands of colonisers. Castro cautioned the audience about the potential repercussions of abusing these natural substances, stating, "In 20, 30 decades from now, you are going to see the medicine harming you because they’re living beings and they do not like to be abused."


The final speaker, identified only as Godoy, shared a message of peace. “Thank you for the permission of being here. In the name of all of our ancestors, may we be strong and united. You listened. We are one. We are united. We are peace. We are love. We will overcome the challenges as they did. Thank you.”


In response to the protest, Doblin acknowledged the need for all voices to be heard. He emphasised the importance of careful listening to all voices. He concluded, "I feel much more hopeful and I do think that we need to listen to all the voices. There are risks and benefits, and I truly appreciate the time and what we’ve just heard."


5. Snow Raven's Closing Ceremony Performance


Shamanic singer and artist Snow Raven, also known as SUOR, graced the closing ceremony for the 2023 Psychedelic Science Conference with her phenomenal talent.

Watch and listen to the incredible performance of Snow Raven SUOR.


Born in the Republic of Sakha - Yakutia, one of the most remote and frigidly inhabited regions of the world located in arctic Siberia, Snow Raven began learning the language of birds and animals at the tender age of three. Her voice, deeply rooted in traditional Sakha culture, serves as a unique instrument in itself. She is recognised as the original pioneer of "arctic beatbox", characterised by the reindeer breath, and is the founder of the OLOX ecosystem, which stands for 'Of Many Beliefs Common Truth'.


Conclusion on Psychedelic Science 2023

In summary, PS2023 showcased a growing array of opportunities for individuals to engage in psychedelic research, or to serve as providers, facilitators, or educators in this emerging field. Providing an expansive exploration of various subjects and demographics, it also underscores the need for changes in accessibility, inclusivity, and the decolonisation of indigenous medicine and practices. The conference illuminated the multifaceted potential of psychedelics' impact on society, indicating a significant shift and expansion in the field of psychedelics over the years.


Amy Emerson, CEO of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), addressed these evolving dynamics during the session "Visionary Women: Transforming Psychedelic Medicine". She urged attendees to continue inspiring others to join the movement, leveraging their unique skill sets to contribute to the ongoing work in the field. In her words, "I encourage people to keep inspiring new people to come into it and bring the skill sets that they have where they know they can contribute because we still have a lot of work to do. So it’s going to take all of us to do it."


However, other than providing a platform for speakers and performers, the psychedelic industry needs to continue to make space for more diversity and the inclusion of vulnerable populations such as BIPOC, LGBTQI and other sexual minorities, veterans, and non-English speakers. In the commercialisation and mainstreaming of psychedelics, careful consideration is necessary to ensure safe usage and prevent potential misuse or abuse, as well as to protect and honour the indigenous keepers of plant medicines by respecting their traditions, ensuring fair trade practices, and genuinely involving them in conservation and sustainability efforts.


Look out for the next article by our volunteer writer, Gaia Travelin, who will be sharing her personal experience and reflections on PS2023.


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