Image by Kayla O'brien Goulden
Tell us about Fruiting Bodies and why now!
Fruiting Bodies Collective is an education and advocacy group based in Portland, Oregon working to diversify and increase public involvement in psychedelics. Portland is a central hub of the psychedelic resurgence—we have the world’s third largest psychedelic society and Oregon just passed Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, and Measure 110, the Drug Abuse Treatment and Recovery Act. We (co-founders Elan and Rebecca) found ourselves situated at the center of the activity because of our shared passions and experience in public education, mycology and justice work. Fruiting Bodies formed organically in late 2020 as a response to continuous inquiry from our community. People wanted to know whether mushrooms were legal now in Oregon, how to get involved in the emerging industry, what the costs and barriers would be like, and who Measure 109 would serve.
Rebecca, you were working on Oregon’s measure to legalize therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms, the 109 campaign, can you tell us about your experience with this?
I’ve been passionate about psilocybin as a healing agent since a profound experience I had with mushrooms in 2016. Back then there wasn’t much momentum toward legalizing or decriminalizing them. In 2018, a friend invited me to hear Paul Stamets speak and at that event, Tom and Sheri Eckert presented the Measure 109 campaign. I decided then that I would help see this measure through. I was working as a writer and farmer in cannabis at the time. Then in 2019, the campaign had an opening for a volunteer and event coordinator. There were only two of us on staff during that time—myself and the campaign manager. Campaign life is intense; everything rides on being able to educate the public and persuade them that they should care about this issue—and fast. We were training volunteers around the state, hitting the streets filling petition sheets, and hosting house parties to fundraise and build momentum. I ended up having to step away during the pandemic for personal reasons, but stayed engaged and continued to support the effort. We all cried during the election night party on Zoom when the votes came in and we saw that Measure 109 had passed. It felt historic.
What other work do you do in Drug Policy Reform and how did you get involved?
My background is in cannabis—first, on a Clean Green Certified recreational farm and then an organic hemp farm. I saw wealthy people getting richer who hadn’t really had a relationship with cannabis before it became legal. I have immediate family members and loved ones who used to sell drugs and who have been incarcerated. I also saw the lack of public education around cannabis and how that, paired with stigma, created barriers to access. These factors were precursors to what we’d soon be seeing in psychedelics. I serve on the board of the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance which is working to make the growing, gifting and group use of all entheogens (besides Peyote, which is a threatened Indigenous sacrament) the lowest law enforcement priority in the city of Portland. The desire is to maximize the options people have for engaging with these substances in ways that work best for them and their cultural context.
At Fruiting Bodies, we’ve gradually expanded our message from promoting awareness of psilocybin and psychedelic based healing, to ending the drug war altogether because we understand that social justice requires supporting the people who have been most impacted by unjust laws. These laws go far beyond psychedelics.
We’re part of a much bigger movement to end the drug war and we can’t take credit for the huge strides that have been made in the past couple of years and the leaders who have dedicated decades to this struggle. Our goal is to encourage psychedelic advocates to reflect deeply and engage with local and state/regional policy reform.
A lot of my personal focus (Rebecca) is on reshaping public narrative around drug use through storytelling on our blog, podcast, and articles. I recently wrote an article unpacking Measure 110 and spoke with chief petitioner Anthony Johnson about Oregon’s impact on national and even global drug policy. The more we have these conversations, the more we can change the public dialogue around drugs to one that is compassionate, based in truth, and respects the humanity and dignity of people who use drugs. It’s important to understand the drug war from a systemic perspective and interrogate the reasons why it has been so massive, well-funded and profitable. We have to understand who it has harmed and who has reaped benefit, and prioritize our efforts accordingly. We can all be a part of ending the drug war by having conversations with the people in our life who are less aware of these issues or have different viewpoints. I highly recommend the book Drug Use for Grown Ups by Dr. Carl Hart.
Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment & Recovery Act, received 58% of the Oregon vote in November. What does this measure mean for people in Oregon and especially for the people harmed by the War on Drugs?
Measure 110 is the most progressive drug policy in the country. All eyes are on Oregon. Not only did it reclassify small possession of all drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor with a $100 fine (which can be waived by attending a health screening), it also allocated $100 million in state funding to drug assessment, treatment and wraparound services such as housing,
The rollout is still in progress. Addiction recovery centers and services must be available in each of the state’s 16 coordinated care organization regions by October of 2021. What is especially exciting about this measure is the independent study which found that Measure 110 will reduce racial disparities in drug arrests by 95%. It will also reduce convictions of Black and Indigenous Oregonians by 94%. What we need to do next is pass similar measures in states that are more racially diverse, where this kind of legislation can have a major impact on the wellbeing of communities of color who have lived with over policing and felt the burden of the drug war for far too long.
What does the psilocybin therapy model look like in Oregon? Does this include microdosing and other methods as well?
- The psilocybin services model in Oregon is based on the premise that people don’t need to be unwell to benefit from psilocybin. Service centers, session facilitators, and mushroom growers and producers can apply for licensing through the state. The requirements and qualifications for these licenses are still being defined. The program will launch in January of 2023.
- People will need to go to a licensed center to consume psilocybin. There will be a preparation session which includes a health screening and orientation, followed by an administration session when the client consumes the mushrooms. Afterwards, the facilitator will offer an integration session which is not required.
- Microdosing and home consumption of mushrooms was not made legal under Measure 109. Nor was the retail sale and production of psilocybin products, so there will be no mushroom dispensaries in Oregon any time soon. Services will likely not be covered by insurance either, so affordability and creative funding is an issue we’re looking at closely.
On the topic of racial justice, what groundwork is currently underway in the Oregon psilocybin therapy community to ensure an inclusive and diverse industry? How is Fruiting Bodies contributing to this movement?
Fruiting Bodies acknowledges the history of racism, redlining and exclusion of Black people in Oregon. The legacy of white supremacy and racism continues to affect our cities and communities today. We are making a concerted effort to call out these issues head on when they appear in our policies and decision making processes. As part of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board’s Health Equity Subcommittee, we’re interrogating every rule and policy the board puts forth and asking, “Who will benefit? What will this cost? Who will this exclude?” and seeking to remedy these issues. A lot of this requires community outreach and input, which to be frank, is overdue and we are waiting to see Oregon leadership make this a priority. A board does not represent the communities who will be impacted. They need a platform that works for them so they can speak for themselves.
The history of indigenous psychedelic use is so important for us to know. Are you able to explain where and from whom does psilocybin come from? And what psilocybin’s traditional use is?
Psilocybin mushrooms are found all around the world. Relationship with sacred mushrooms has been part of human history for thousands of years, with Algerian cave paintings dating back to 7,000 BCE. It’s possible that the Aztec people used mushrooms ceremonially. In the west, we have emphasis on the Mazatec traditions in what we know as Oaxaca, Mexico. Through generations of ceremonial use, the Indigenous healers of the region experienced mushrooms as portals to communicating with God. Local Indigenous religious practices had blended with Catholic doctrines and icons into a syncretic religion of its own. Mushrooms were mainly used to help with physical ailments and dark spirits, not only “to see God” as westerners later did. Mushrooms were always consumed at night, by an altar, often with the entire family present. They were eaten in pairs, which were often picked by children to protect their energy, and songs and chants were sung throughout the ceremony. Mushroom ceremony was part of entire cosmology, or worldview. That’s what makes working with them in a modern context so confusing, because they’ve been removed from the worldview, lifestyle, and practices that surrounded them.
The curandera, or healer, Maria Sabina, was sought out by European banker and ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson in the 1950’s. She shared a mushroom ceremony with him, and he was the first known westerner to consume psychedelic mushrooms (what she called santos niños, or holy children). Without her consent, he wrote about his experience in Time magazine, launching the public, the research community, and the 60’s counterculture into awareness of magic mushrooms. The rest was history. Oaxaca became a tourist attraction, with celebrities such as John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Timothy Leary following in Wasson’s footsteps and the Mazatec people now speak of the “hippie invasion” which followed and transformed the culture of their home community. Maria Sabina was rejected by her community as a sell out and died in poverty. Today, mushroom ceremonies have been commodified and tourists travel to Oaxaca from around the world seeking a “traditional” experience with psilocybin.
What Is Sacred Reciprocity? And how are you working towards implementing this within the psilocybin therapy community in Oregon?
Sacred reciprocity is the heartfelt exchange, gratitude, and acknowledgment for everyone and everything that sustains us. In psychedelics, it is a call for those who consume plant medicines to give back meaningfully to the communities and lineages who have preserved these medicines for generations. Indigenous communities bear the impact of the expansion, along with, in many cases, oppression from local governments.
Oregon leaders have played lip service to Indigenous reciprocity, but as of this writing we are still waiting for the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board to even fill the one seat that was reserved for a Tribal member.
What sacred reciprocity means to us, in practical terms, is a few things: first, we need to ensure that the Indigenous people of Oregon are aware of these services and have a voice in how to best make these healing resources (and funding!) available to their community, with the understanding that the legacy of colonialism has resulted in higher rates of addiction and mental health challenges for Tribal members. These are the very things that may benefit from psilocybin, but only if it can be offered in a community-driven way. The same goes for communities of color, especially the Black community of Oregon, who has been oppressed by over policing, systemic racism, and the drug war. Next, we need to create as much space within this program as possible for people to practice with psilocybin in a way that suits their worldview and spirituality. In other words, we need to ensure the practice of psilocybin ceremony is not sterilized and medicalized, and that at the very least its Indigenous history is acknowledged and respected, and at the same time ensure that customs and practices are not appropriated or tokenized by non-Indigenous people. Finally, we need to recognize that this program, and this moment in psychedelics, does not exist in isolation—they are the products of a deep history and precursors for what is to come. So, reciprocity, to honor everything that sustains us, is to take seriously our role in the continuous history of this healing modality and make decisions that will have positive ripples across other states and around the world. This means slowing down and never rushing policies and rules through because they feel urgent or personally/politically expedient.
At Fruiting Bodies, a significant portion of proceeds from our training will be redistributed to sacred reciprocity efforts. We’re hoping to lead by example, and we believe this practical step should be a central commitment from any business operating in this space.
What are you most excited about for the future potential with psilocybin and what are your concerns?
We’re most excited for a future of psychedelics that looks more like an ecosystem than a monocrop field. A future where these substances are respected as intelligent medicines and co-conspirators in our growth and healing and integrated into society with reverence. It will take a couple of generations, but societal attitudes are shifting and stigma is losing its power. The face, the culture, the community of psychedelics is going to look different and more diverse in the future if we have anything to say about it. Information and ideas are spreading more rapidly than ever. We hope that through heart centered storytelling and leveraging the power of the internet, we can help create a culture where individual sovereignty is valued and people have the educational resources and legal protections to make informed decisions about how to engage (or not engage) with psychedelics, and all drugs for that matter, in a way that works for them.
Our biggest concern is corporate takeover of plant medicine. That psychedelics will be treated as a capitalistic industry rather than a healing modality (and to be clear, healing can look many ways; we include celebratory and “recreational” experiences in our idea of healing). We worry that psychedelics will take the same path as cannabis, yoga, meditation—and be commodified, diluted or corrupted in the hands of people who don’t fundamentally understand or respect them, but have dollar signs in their eyes. We are tinkering with consciousness here. There is a lot of chaos in store unless we—users, leaders, business owners, all of us-- commit to the daily inner work of integrating our shadow, decolonizing our hearts and minds, and healing our generational wounds as psychedelics go mainstream.
You are starting a facilitator training program that works for everyone and is built on justice and equity. Can you tell us how this program is going to roll out, what it’s all about and how people can get involved?
Yes! We’re very excited about this. We’re currently fundraising for our biggest project yet—a social justice informed psychedelic facilitator training. It will begin as a series of self-paced mini courses released digitally that anyone can use. They’re presenting psychedelic space-holding through a framework of understanding power, privilege, justice, and how these forces are relevant to the psychedelic experience and healing in general.
Then, we will be adapting these materials into a psilocybin-specific certification program for people seeking licensing in Oregon’s legal psilocybin services program. This will include remote and in-person learning, experiential elements, and mentorship. Completion of this program will result in certification so students can take the state’s licensure exam and begin practicing at licensed service centers as early as 2023.
Our program will depend on being able to raise the funds needed to produce this curriculum in a timely manner. We have a couple of awesome sponsors helping us get started—Dr. Bronners, Psychedelics Today, and Mimosa Therapeutics. We still have a long way to go to cover our costs. We need many more sponsors and donors. We’re not independently wealthy like a lot of the folks making waves in corporate psychedelics. This project is dependent on community involvement and support. If companies or individuals want to support our work, they can make a contribution on our website (FruitingBodiesCollective.com) or contact us directly about becoming official sponsors.
Those who want to take the online or Oregon training can get on our waitlist by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a DM to our Instagram @fruitingbodiesco. Be sure to include your email address, full name, and state/region where you are located.
This is truly a community effort for the people and by the people. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received so far and we’re committed to offering something new and truly generative to this space.
ANSWERS BY REBECCA MARTINEZ (CO-FOUNDER FRUITING BODIES)
QUESTIONS BY YAWN
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