Q&A with Amanda Siebert; Author and freelance multimedia journalist, focusing on the intersections of business and culture in the cannabis and psychedelics.
Tell us about yourself and your journey to becoming a plant medicine/ psychedelic writer?
My appreciation for plant medicine and psychedelics began with cannabis. It was the first plant medicine to have a positive impact on my quality of life. A few years ago, depression and PTSD had me believing that I was unworthy of a healthy, joyful existence. Cannabis allowed me to manage my symptoms enough to realize that I deserved what I believed was not meant for me.
Since then, I’ve worked with other plant medicines like psilocybin mushrooms, San Pedro, and ayahuasca to meet with, integrate, and love up the parts of myself that were in hiding. I choose to write about psychedelics and plant medicines because, after they helped me regain my zest for life, I simply feel compelled to. I write with the goal of encouraging the reader to consider, even for a moment, that drugs they may have spent their lives fearing deserve a second thought (and may even improve their lives).
Can you tell us your personal experience with psilocybin?
I used psilocybin for the first time in my early 20s, and even with that first ‘recreational’ experience, my life improved in several ways. It wasn’t until later that my use became more intentional. Psilocybin has helped me move through some tough moments in my career. While writing my latest book, Psyched, I came up against some serious blocks about half-way through the process. A 7-gram journey obliterated those blocks and allowed me to move forward. I finished the book in six weeks.
Your goal is to bridge the perceived gaps between the medical and cultural worlds when it comes to plants and fungi medicines - Why is this so important and what cultural histories do you find yourself drawn to in this work?
I think as humans, our tendency to silo is natural, but it can also take away from understanding the big picture. While I understand why we label certain uses as ‘medical’ and others as ‘cultural’ or ‘recreational,’ I prefer to view the use of psychedelics and plant medicines along a spectrum, giving each use equal weight and consideration. Humans have always used drugs in different ways, and this will continue whether they are legal or not.
Your father is from Paraguay, have you learned any of his ingenious histories and connected them to the plant medicine research you’ve been recently studying?Have you connected with your lineage through sacred medicine?
My family is Mennonite, which is a type of anabaptist Christian. After WW2, my family moved from Siberia in Russia to Paraguay. My father was raised in a region called the Chaco, the geographical centre of South America (essentially a giant dust bowl). In Mennonite culture, drugs are a big no-no, and I was raised to avoid them at all costs. Interestingly, Mennonites are very reliant on medicinal plants, and many grow their own. I grew up watching my Oma make creams and lotions out of plants from her garden, so I never quite understood the aversion to cannabis.
What is your favourite strain of psilocybin mushrooms, and why?
African Transkei Cubensis – the strain from that very joyful 7-gram experience.
Your “Little Book on Cannabis” is Canada’s most selling cannabis book! What will we find in your next book on psychedelics?
My next book, “Psyched: Seven Cutting-Edge Psychedelics Changing The World” will be in bookstores everywhere on October 18, 2022! In it, I break down the history, science, and cultural and medical uses of seven different psychedelic drugs and plant medicines, contextualized with case studies and interviews with scientists, doctors, therapists, and advocates. I am *so* excited for it to be released.
From all the people and companies you have met within the space what are some of the important ones any psychedelic supporter should be following and supporting?
There are a few BC companies and non-profits who I’m paying attention to. On the psychedelics side, I’ve been inspired by conversations with the teams at Numinus Wellness in Nanaimo, TheraPsil in Victoria, and Optimi Health in Princeton. On the cannabis side, the folks at Habitat in Chase are really pushing the envelope when it comes to sustainability—and their cannabis is incredible. When it comes to media, I love the work coming out of Doubleblind and Chacruna. Everything Nicolle Hodges is doing is cool as f**k and very much worth checking out.
You’ve been nominated for reporter of the year at the Miami Microdosing Awards, congrats! Where do you see the future of mainstream psychedelics media and reporting going? How will you ensure reciprocity and equity in this field?
Thanks! Props to Shayla Love at Vice for winning the award. I think we’re going to continue to see psychedelics permeating the mainstream, especially in film and TV. I predict more documentaries, news spots, and TikTok trends will highlight psychedelics this year, and that conversations on psychedelics in the media will go deeper than what we’ve seen over the last two years (consider the NY Mag Podcast, Power Trip, which discusses abuse in psychedelic therapy). I will continue to do what I can to shed light on inequities while highlighting the people and causes that I believe are moving forward with the right intention.
What are you most excited about for the future of psilocybin?
I hope that with whatever regulatory change comes our way, psilocybin remains accessible. Legalization should not mean that it is only available in a medical setting at the cost of hundreds of dollars an hour. Let’s allow people to decide where they find themselves on the spectrum of use, whether that’s in a doctor’s office, in the safety and comfort of their home, or out in nature.