January 2012

Exploring the entheogenic

By Art Goodtimes

MAPS … The Multi-disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies celebrated its 25th year with a four-day conference at the Oakland Convention Center in California last month. A contingent of Telluride Mushroom Festival staffers joined me to host a promotional table for our event at Cartographie Psychedelica, where serious scientific lectures and panels shared top billing with benefit celebrations and a costumed Medicine Ball — featuring DJs, interactive tech stations, a visionary art gallery and rows of exhibit booths … Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS founder and director, opened the gathering of researchers and enthusiasts by explaining the humble beginnings of the organization back in 1986. His dissertation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government focused on “The Regulation of the Medical Use of Psychedelics and Marijuana” and his master’s thesis addressed the attitudes and experiences of oncologists concerning the medical use of cannabis. Starting MAPS was his attempt to develop legal contexts for the beneficial use of psychedelic drugs through raising funds and overcoming regulatory hurdles to do the necessary scientific studies – studies that had been curtailed in the Sixties with the government backlash against the recreational explosion of popular psychedelic use.


our fire may be small
but even
a small flame
holds back
the night

-Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

OLD FRIENDS … Many friends of Shroomfest attended the event, including Dr. Emanuel Salzman and his wife Joanne of Denver – founders of the Telluride Mushroom Festival. Manny has long been an advocate for the medicinal use of psychedelics – or “mind medicines,” as he likes to call them. In fact, it was his interest in not excluding entheogenic properties from mushroom studies that led him to found the Telluride event … Paul Stamets, one of Shroomfest’s founding faculty, gave a heartfelt talk on the need to work together to change the ruling paradigm when it comes to entheogens … Ethan Nadelmann, J.D., Ph.D., who heads up the Drug Policy Alliance, led a workshop on “Constitutional Freedoms, the Uses of Psychedelics and MAPS’ Mission.” Described by Rolling Stone as “the point man” for drug-policy reform on the national level, he attended Shroomfest twice, and told me he is hoping to come join us again, perhaps even this coming year. He has authored two books on international criminal law enforcement (“Cops Across Borders” and “Policing the Globe”), as well as dozens of articles on drug policy in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Science, National Review and the Nation … Martina Hoffman, one of the many psychedelic artists represented in the Visionary Art Gallery, embraced us warmly. She, and her husband – Robert Venosa – who passed away earlier this year – have been past attendees of Shroomfest, and she expressed a desire to visit us again – something we’re hoping we can make happen. A special tribute was held for Robert with a Jonathan Singer video, a digital dance performance by Android Jones and Phaedrana, and music by The Human Experience … Although I didn’t get a chance to visit with them, two former mushroom-festival faculty were also presenters – Don Abrams, M.D., and Ralph Metzner, Ph.D … Don is chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division of San Francisco General Hospital and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. One of the first clinicians to recognize and define many early AIDSrelated conditions, he received funding in 1997 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to conduct clinical trials of the short-term safety of cannabinoids in HIV infections. He’s gone on to run many cannabis studies, his latest being the possible pharmacokinetic interaction between vaporized cannabis and opioid analgesics in patients with chronic pain. He was co-editor with Dr. Andrew Weil of Integrative Oncology from Oxford University Press. His work is something I’ve always hoped to showcase in Telluride … Ralph is a psychologist and professor emeritus at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he organized an international conference on ayahuasca in 2000. His writings include two edited collections on the science and the phenomenology of shamanic entheogens: Sacred Mushrooms of Visions – Teonanácatl and Sacred Vine of Spirits – Ayahuasca. He is founder and president of the Green Earth Foundation <www.greenearthfound.org> We’re hoping very much to bring him back to Telluride as a featured speaker.

NEW FRIENDS … While there were dozens of wonderful people we met in Oakland and who want to come to experience Telluride, there’s a bunch more whom we want to come to talk, like Michael Albert- Puleo, M.D., and his fascinating research on the pharmacology secrets of the early Christian “Messiah Medicine” <www. mythobotanicalpress.com>; Mark Henson and his Sacred Light – the Art of Conscious Evolution <www.sacredlight.to>; David Bienenstock, senior editor at High Times; Cinematographer Torsten Klimmer <www. omananda.com>; Alan Macy, Hitch McDermid and Mark Goerner’s Heart Beat Amplifier <www.heartbeatamplifier.org>; Tatiana Ginzburg from Russia <www.shriam.daism. ru>; Andres from Hungary; Jett – the list goes on and on … And the one thing I’m sure of is that Shroomfest this next year (Aug. 16-19) is going to be far richer and more exciting than ever with an infusion of new psychedelic energy.

DANCING … It was great to kick up my heels at a wonderful Contra Dance series in Durango this winter. Thanks to Sarah Griesedieck of Montrose for turning me on to this marvelous event … Wendy Graham was the caller at the monthly series, which is held the first Saturday of each month at the Park Elementary School at 510 E. 6th Ave. at 7 p.m. For more info on the series, call 970-385-9292 … What I love about contra dancing is that you get to dance with people of all ages – from youngsters in elementary school to oldsters into their seventies. It’s a fun night of community building, laughs and lots of good honest sweat. With a touch of dizziness, doing all those dosey-does and twirls … Wendy is an amazing caller, and she had the Adobe Brothers of Albuquerque backing her up. They were so good I had to get their CD … I wish Telluride had a contra dance series. Check out Wendy’s website at <www.folkmads.org/wg_gallery.html> to see where she will be calling in the region.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner