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Diversity, Inclusion, and Marginalization

Key Points:

  • Psychedelics catalyze global systems changes.

  • Global drug policy reform is the primary means for liberating black and brown bodies.

  • Call to action: end the global war on drugs. President Obama called the War on Drugs an "utter failure." Far too many resources have been spent and lives wasted on the war on drugs.

Liberation, Equity, and Social Justice

As we move forward post-COVID, drug policy reform should be near the top of our agenda.

Drug policy reform--and perhaps more broadly prison abolition--will be effective at achieving social justice goals such as diversity and equity. Policy reform de-stigmatizes and re-energizes communities of colour by liberating young men of colour who are disproportionately incarcerated.

Liberation will allow for the interjection of new concepts, ideas, and ontologies into existing power structures and knowledge bases. As marginalized voices are heard and heeded, paradigm shifts will emerge.

A pro-liberation stance benefits everyone. The liberation of black and brown bodies will:

  • empower countless individuals in political and economic arenas

  • add value to the marketplace

  • transform the global politics

  • reduce disparities gradually but sustainably

  • result in a marketplace responsive to more people, and therefore a government that is also more responsive to the people.

F*** the Police

Mistrust of the government and corporations has flourished. Ironically, such cynicism about institutions of power enables corruption. We need to change the system from within, as a government by and for the people and as a population endowed with the power to speak even when we lack other resources.

Addiction, Substance Abuse, and Marginalization

Labeling drug users as criminals or even as mere deviants leads to self-fulfilling prophesies. Stigmatizing mental health issues worsens the self-hatred that accompanies addiction.

New approaches to addiction are needed, and they are on the horizon with emerging research in neuroscience and psychedelic science.

Psychedelics can help alleviate the social and psychological burdens of substance abuse by addressing the root causes of addiction. Psychedelics reset the default mode network in the brain, allowing healing to take place.

New models for treatment centers, new interventions, and new modalities are on the horizon in the psychedelic space and beyond.

Colouring the Psychedelic Space: Creating a Kaleidoscope

Indigenous communities and non-European epistemologies have been marginalized, exploited, romanticized, and even ridiculed along the way.

The psychedelic space has been overwhelmingly white and Bay area-based, although that’s about to change.

Chacruna is leading the way in colouring the psychedelic space and ensuring open dialogue about diversity

What PPs Can Do

Privileged people often don't realize how privilege manifests. Interesting to read the open letter for MAPS written to call attention to blind spots: The official response affirms a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Yet no formal apology and even a defensive stance towards the authors of the open letter are examples of being blind to white privilege:

When speaking about traditional psychedelic therapies and plant medicines, it is important to listen rather than speak, to defer to the custodians of their respective traditions. Even experts need to defer. Even saying, "Oh I lived in your village for six months to do ayahuasca ceremonies, it's so lovely there!" is not helpful. Does that make sense? Indigenous epistemology and ontology cannot be gleaned from cultural immersion. It's pretty deep.

Another issue still there, but getting better, is the tendency to romanticize, idealize, and exotify indigenous wisdom. The notion that technology cannot be integrated into traditional practices is one example of that.

Suggestions for PPs:

  • Also advocate passionately for reform and liberation.

  • Listen in to marginalized individuals and communities with an earnest intent first for a while. Wait for an invite to talk.

  • Consider new ways to engage diverse audiences by putting yourself in their shoes rather than expecting them to wear yours.

  • Listen to grievances without becoming defensive and have compassion. If you haven't experienced discrimination or marginalization, you may not fully grasp the extent of the problem. Instead of denying the problem, ask what you can do to help.

  • Privilege allows some to speak openly about psychedelics without fear or legal retribution. Time to come out of the closet to make it "ok" to use psychedelics responsibly. People of colour usually don't have that option.

What the Oppressed and Marginalized Can Do

  • Interject. Insert. Creatively dispute dominant discourse.

  • Engage in entrepreneurial activity. This is a big one.

  • Use the media to draw attention to the issues and to change public opinion.

  • Never give up.

  • Forge strategic alliances.

  • Think about bottom-up instead of top-down reform.

What All of Us Can Do

Support policies and programs that incentivize marginalized entrepreneurship in the psychedelic space.

Continue to dialogue, pushing through the discomfort.

This article co-authored by MAPS Canada director Mark Haden offers sound public policy advice.

Join together, keeping compassion and a sense of humour at the forefront of all our actions.

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