An Interview of Josh Meadow, Chief Operating Officer of the Chacruna Institute

On April 23-25, 2021, the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines will present A Virtual Psychedelic Summit on the Globalization of Plant Medicines and Indigenous Reciprocity.

The Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines’ mission is to provide public education and cultural understanding about psychedelic plant medicines and promote a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science. Bioneers’ J.P. Harpignies talked to Josh Meadow, Chief Operating Officer of the Chacruna Institute, about the upcoming event.

J.P. HARPIGNIES: Josh, what is the Chacruna Institute hoping to accomplish with your upcoming virtual conference and what do you view as the event’s unique importance?

JOSH MEADOW: This conference is a call to action to bring awareness to issues that are largely absent in much of the mainstream psychedelic discourse. As plant medicines and psychedelic medicine go global, many Indigenous communities and traditions throughout the Americas continue to be marginalized and excluded from the benefits. We believe it is vital that the psychedelic community help to support these groups and the traditional spiritual and ecological knowledge that they preserve. This conference is uniquely important in this regard because it spotlights the importance of Indigenous reciprocity in a way that has not been done before in the psychedelic community. Additionally, in parallel with the conference, Chacruna is going to be launching our new Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative of the Americas, a comprehensive online resource that will allow people to connect with and donate to grassroots Indigenous nonprofits and community initiatives at the local level.

J.P.: Will the conference focus on new developments in the psychedelic domain (such as the questions raised by the influx of venture capital into the emerging business of medical psychedelics, new battles over religious freedom, and the need to diversify the psychedelic community and address racial and gender-related inequities within it, etc.) and what are you hoping to contribute to discussions surrounding these issues during the event?

JOSH: Absolutely. These types of questions are in fact the primary focus of most of our conferences. We have now organized 7 different conferences, each with a unique subject matter, but united by the fact that each has focused on some of the most cutting-edge social and cultural issues in the space, and we have helped push certain topics that were previously unnoticed into the mainstream (of the psychedelic world) discourse. In 2018, our conference Cultural and Political Perspectives on Psychedelic Science featured the first major panel on the commodification of psychedelics, and last year’s Psychedelic Liberty Summit was directly focused on many of these questions. Our conferences were also some of the first to focus on how psychedelics intersect with issues of race, gender and sexuality. Sacred Plants in the Americas II continues this trend, with a variety of topics related to new developments in the domain. In addition to the panels and talks about cultural reciprocity, we are highlighting a variety of unique topics, from plant medicine conservation to healing racial trauma with psychedelics, to psychedelics and sports, to “con-spirituality” (i.e. the disturbing recent trend of some elements of the “New Age” community intersecting with far-right conspiracy thinking), and much more!

J.P.: What do you think makes the Chacruna Institute unique as an institution in this domain, and how do you envision your role in the larger ecosystem of psychedelic-oriented organizations?

JOSH: Chacruna is, in our opinion, a unique organization in the psychedelic ecosystem for several reasons: 1. Our deep commitment to diversity, equity and access: While many organizations now strive for these values, it has been a central part of our mission from day-one to pioneer initiatives supporting and providing a platform for diverse voices, including women, queer people, people of color, Indigenous people and the Global South. We are proud to have a diverse global team, led by a queer couple and with many BIPOC and LGBTQI members. 2. Our academic legitimacy and standards of excellence: Our core team is made up of accomplished Ph.D.s, MDs, PsyDs, social scientists, clinicians and practitioners, and our work is backed by diligent research and rigorous academic standards. We then seek to present this academic information in a way that is highly accessible and easy for a mainstream audience to engage with, without “dumbing it down.” 3. Our influence and impact on the cultural conversation: We have tended to be ahead of the curve, helping start public conversations on many of the social and cultural issues that have since become part of the psychedelic discourse. We have also helped to launch the careers of many new up-and-coming voices in the space.

Ultimately, we see our primary role in the space as bridgebuilders between different domains. This takes many forms, such as bridging the gap between psychedelic culture and psychedelic science, between marginalized and mainstream voices, between big corporate players and small grassroots communities, and between academia and the general public. With our years of experience, diverse global team and many connections to a wide range of groups in the psychedelic community, we are uniquely positioned to promote dialogue and cross-collaboration in the psychedelic space.

J.P.: Thank you, Josh!

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