#13 The Best Kind of Counter-Culture, Drug Using Criminal | Rick Doblin Pt. 1

November 24, 2020
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  • Rick discusses his entrance into the psychedelic space – and how both the holocaust and his heritage influenced his upbringing (3:05)
  • Rick had a sense of possibility during his childhood that was coloured by immigrant stories of his family (6:00)
  • Initially, Rick believed all the anti-psychedelic propaganda, and discusses his approach to resisting the draft – including the implication of a felony conviction, mass incarnation and the drug-war (7:20)
  • Rick emersed in Russian language to learn about ‘the other’. It’s where his underground career first started when a book was given to him which was partially written under the influence of LSD (11:30)
  • Palmcourt parties were psychedelic parties at college, and it was Rick’s first exposure to psychedelics – and nudist colonies. It was the first time he saw the underground in the open. (14:20)
  • Rick’s first few times with LSD were both emotionally difficult and remarkable (15:20)
  • Rick loves Mescaline – “the most important psychedelic not being studied” (16:40)
  • In 1972 Rick’s guidance counsellor gave him an early copy of Stan Grof’s book – which was fortunate (18:00)
  • The moment Rick realized he wanted to work on psychedelics for the rest of his life (20:00)
  • As an 18-year-old, Rick wrote to Stan Grof – and to his surprise – Stan wrote back! That was the genesis for Rick, and he remains his mentor to this day (22:30)
  • Rick describes a pivotal and influential dream he had – which continues to guide him (23:41)
  • Rick discusses some of the accomplishments of MAPS and how it can operate as a non-profit and public-benefit corporation mix. MAPS has a role to play – and part of a national health care approach around the world. It has built public value – and is leading the way in regulatory systems and a credentialing of therapists (30:00)
  • How do we get this covered by national health care – and demonstrate cost effectiveness? (33:40)
  • Rick views ketamine clinics in different ways: those who offer a pharmacological treatment and those who offer treatment in conjunction with talk therapy – which is much more durable for the patient (35:30)
  • The difference between drug policy reform and drug research – and how they can be aligned (39:00)
  • Ronan apologizes for some public comments he previously made that were misunderstood regarding his views on underground therapy – and Rick talks about a Martin Luther King statue and quote about “those who violate an unjust law to educate others on the injustice have the most respect for the law” (43:20)
  • Rick agrees to join Ronan for a second chat in Part #2 to talk more about the work of MAPS (48:00)

Transcripts

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Rick: [00:00:00] And so he shows me this whole story and then now we're back into the room and he's on his deathbed and he says, I knew from that that I was saved for some purpose, but I didn't know what the purpose was. And now I know what the purpose was. And I was like, OK, what's the purpose? And he said, well, it's to tell you to become a psychedelic therapist and to keep trying to bring back psychedelic research. [00:00:22][22.1]

Ronan: [00:00:28] This is Field Tripping, a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host, Ronan Levy. Today I'm very excited to welcome Rick Doblin to the podcast. Rick is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, commonly referred to as MAPS. Founded in 1986, MAPS is a nonprofit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal and cultural context for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and cannabis. In essence, MAPS helps scientists design, fund, and obtain FDA regulatory approval for studies on the safety and effectiveness of a number of controlled substances, including MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin to treat PTSD, anxiety, and depression. MAPS is also conducting clinical trials under the guidance and regulations of the FDA and are in collaboration with federal regulators, including the DEA. Recently, their psychedelic research fundraising campaign raised thirty million dollars in donations to prepare MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for Phase three FDA approval, which are conducted through MAPS in Israel, Canada, and the USA. Congratulations, Rick, on all your amazing accomplishments and thank you for your dedicated commitment to psychedelics. I hope you know how important and appreciated you truly are by the community. It is my pleasure to welcome you to Field Tripping. [00:02:01][92.5]

Ronan: [00:02:04] Rick, you and I had a conversation a week or two ago, and I think we really just started by talking about how we both got to be in the places that we are right now. And I found that so inspiring and fascinating and moving that I would really love to hear that story again, to be quite honest. And I think many of the people who listen to our podcast would love to hear it. If you wouldn't mind, tell us how you got into psychedelics, how you got inspired to create MAPS and push against, truthfully, all odds in almost all respects to get to where we are right now, which is really on the cusp of a new psychedelic renaissance with MAPS and MDMA being used for the treatment of PTSD as probably the first legal access to a psychedelic we're going to see in the modern context. [00:03:03][59.6]

Rick: [00:03:05] So how I got into it was I grew up in a family that was very politically attuned and also very much Jewish and influenced by the Holocaust and the state of Israel. My great great grandmother moved to Palestine in 1904 in order to die and be buried on the Mount of Olives, because once the Messiah comes, the Messiah is supposed to walk out of a certain gate of the walls of Jerusalem, and then the Mount of Olives is right across there. So those are the people that are first supposed to be resurrected and then died in 1907. And my great grandparents moved to Israel, to Palestine in '23, built a house in Tel Aviv that's now a historical site on Rothschild Boulevard. And so I was born in '53, you know, I had relatives that you know fought in the War of Independence and '48 in Israel and had quite a lot of relatives in Israel. And so as a result, I was educated about the Holocaust from a very young age. And that's what really influenced me in an incredibly profound way. I grew up in Chicago and then when I was about three or so, we moved to a place called Skokie, which was, many people or some people may know about it, it's sort of a famous situation where the Nazis wanted to or neo-Nazis wanted to march through Skokie because it was mostly Jewish with a lot of Holocaust survivors. And the ACLU defended the Nazis, the neo-Nazis right to march. But where I was, I thought everybody was Jewish. I thought the whole world was Jewish. It took me a while. There was a big story when I was six that my parents explained to me that not only was our neighborhood not Jewish, but not only was not the whole world Jewish, but they were this tiny fraction of one percent. And so that just made me realize the sense of vulnerability and the sense of the Holocaust. And so I was born, I would say, with every possible privilege and advantage. So I was born in '53, at the time of American strength. We had one World War Two, I was Jewish and I was educated about the chosen people, I didn't quite know enough at that time to realize we're all chosen, but I sort of bought into that. Also, I was white, also I was the first born male child. And also my father was a doctor. My grandparents had been successful business people. And so we were well off. I just had this sense of possibility. And at the same time, I was realizing that no matter how successful we might be in America or how much I could count on food and shelter for the rest of my life, that you could be... I was vulnerable to that kind of hatred and prejudice that caused the Holocaust. And so that just made me start thinking about deeper threats to my survival. And also, I really felt this other part is that on my great grandparents side, around 1880s, they came over from Russia and then my other grandparents, one of them came in 19 20 from Poland. So it's a story of immigration, of immigrants and then the American Dream. And then doing well and then their ability to give great-grandchildren or grandchildren this support to really do whatever we wanted to do, knowing that our basic survival was taken care of. So I just started feeling like this was, you know, the threat from the Holocaust was something that I had to acknowledge and address. Then as I was growing up, I did believe all of the anti psychedelic propaganda. I thought that if you took LSD about six times, you are legally insane, that it would hurt your chromosomes. My dad was a doctor, as I said, but he didn't drink. My parents didn't really drink. They didn't smoke. So it was kind of a nondrug household that I grew up in. And so there was no contrary information coming to me and my dad being a doctor, he also realized that a lot of what he learned in medical school, which he went to in the 50s, was outdated. And so we had all these, you know, drugs that pharma companies had given him and a big drawer and his basic thought was don't take any of them, just you'll get better on your own. So there's this all anti-drug thing I bought. And then what really started happening for me was the confrontation with Vietnam as I started getting older and started recognizing that I was going to be involved in the draft for Vietnam, I started thinking about how to protest and I started studying nonviolent resistance. So I was reading a lot of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Thoreau, Tolstoy, a lot of theoreticians about nonviolence. And I realized that with the draft that we participate in systems of oppression voluntarily a lot. You know, we're sort of lulled into it. And I felt that the best strategy for being a draft resister was that I wasn't a conscientious objector, because in order to be a conscientious objector, you have to be against all wars. You have to be a pacifist. And I felt like certain wars are important. Wars of defense, they're necessary. So I wasn't a conscientious objector and I felt the best thing to do was to just not register, not send in the first postcard to register, drain the system of the most energy, and then have them come after me and put me in jail. So that was my strategy. And I anticipated, you know, you think that the government knows everything. You know, I had a Social Security number, I was paying taxes, I was in high school, you know I thought I'd be caught. [00:09:28][383.7]

Ronan: [00:09:29] I think you referred to yourself as what was it like a conscientious criminal or something like that? [00:09:33][3.8]

Rick: [00:09:33] Oh, well, a counter-culture drug-using criminal. [00:09:36][2.7]

Ronan: [00:09:37] There you go, right. [00:09:37][0.5]

Rick: [00:09:37] Yes. Yeah, that that came a tiny bit later because I was a counterculture criminal, but I wasn't a drug user. OK, so I didn't quite add that for a little bit, but I was planning to be a draft resister and go to jail. My parents were sympathetic, but they said you're never going to be able to be a doctor. You're never going to be able to be a lawyer. You're going to never be able to do anything that requires license because you're going to be a felon. And I was like, OK, I just have to accept that. And so that also made me think, what am I going to do with my time? [00:10:07][30.1]

Ronan: [00:10:08] Did you understand the gravity of that decision with the benefit of 30, 40 years later? Did you really, with the benefit of time now, would you have made a decision? [00:10:18][9.9]

Rick: [00:10:20] I think I would have, but I do think you're right in that I didn't fully understand the consequences of it. You know, when you see now, the more and more the consequences of mass incarceration from the drug war and what it means for people to have a felony conviction and how difficult it is for them to find housing, to find jobs, to find education, to get loans, all sorts of things once you're a felon. I didn't really fully realize that, but I did have that sense of security, in a sense from my family that they would make sure I would survive. So all of that is just to say that that I was thinking more and more about psychological factors, that this was a lot of these wars or prejudices or genocide or, you know, blowing up the world with nuclear weapons. It didn't seem rational or sensible. It felt that people's fears and anxieties were getting the better of them. And so that just made me think more and more about psychology. And I was taking Russian in order to learn about the other. I actually spent the summer after my junior year of high school in Russia and my parents, this is where my underground career started actually, thanks to my parents because they sent me to Russia to study Russian. I'd already studied it for a couple of years in high school, but they gave me prayer books to bring to the guys in the synagogue because prayer books were illegal in Russia. And so they packed in my luggage a bunch of prayer books to, you know, somehow or other I should find the synagogue and give them the prayer books. And all of this is just to say in my Russian class, this fellow gave me this book to read and I loved it. I loved it. And I gave it back to him. And he said, Do you realize that some of this book was written under the influence of LSD? And I was like, that's impossible. That's not possible. LSD is hallucinations. It takes you away from reality. You can't produce anything great. You're disoriented. There's nothing good that come from LSD. And he insisted that it was true that this book was written partially under the influence of LSD. And like, that's no way. And so I checked into it. And it turned out he was right, it was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey and parts of it were written under the influence of LSD. So that was the crack in the facade of drugs are all bad. I was very interested in finding my own way. And so I went to an experimental college, New College, which is now the Honors College of the State of Florida in Sarasota, Florida. When I went to it as a private college and I just was so lucky, I ended up there. Now, this is 1971 that I start college and while I'm in college, there's two things that they didn't put in the brochure. It was a small school, no grades, written evaluations, students curiosity was the most important thing, off campus study, independent reading projects, everything was great. But what they didn't put in the brochure is that they had all night parties till sunrise with psychedelics. It was designed by Impey, the famous architect, the dorms were, and in the middle of it was this Palm Court and we have these Palm Court parties that would be epic parties with lots of people tripping. But also they had a lot of students that were tripping for personal growth, for spiritual inspiration. So you had this kind of party group celebration and you had this individual exploration. And that was a great thing for me to discover that that was going on at the school. The other thing that was very influential for me was that at the swimming pool, which there was a young teacher at New College who'd actually studied with Young, and it was a small school. We didn't have a lot of facilities. Her husband was quite wealthy and they donated this big Olympic sized swimming pool with a big decorated fence all around it. And somehow or other, it had evolved into a nudist colony. And here I was, this super shy guy from high school barely could talk to a girl. And now, you know, I'm in the middle of a nudist colony. [00:14:33][253.1]

Ronan: [00:14:35] And a psychedelic party is happening across the street. [00:14:37][2.3]

Rick: [00:14:38] Yeah, yeah. And the morning after the sunrise from all these night parties, we go swimming in the pool and felt like this oasis of sanity. And so in this oasis of sanity, with the energies of drugs and sex and things brought up from the underground into the open so that we could deal with them better, they weren't repressed. You know, there's still issues for sure. But at the same time. You know, they were sort of up there for us to address and to wrestle with, that's where I started really getting into psychedelics and I had a series of difficult experiences because I was way up in my head, I wasn't very emotional. At that time, an LSD experience was 250 micrograms. So it was four times or so, three or four times what current doses are for the bladder. And so it was existential. That's what taking just one hit of LSD was like. You know, there'd be periods of time like who am I? Where am I? And so I had intimations of connection beyond ego, intimations of a deeper reality, intimations of all the energies in your mind, of all the evolutionary progress that it's taken to get here. It was just so remarkable. But at the same time, it was emotionally very difficult, this letting go and being open and, you know, trust let go open is what Bill Richards, has led a lot of the therapy training programs for Usona and Compass, to deal with trust, let go, be open. And that was very hard for me to do. And I had experiences with both LSD and mescaline. Somebody came by campus with half a pound of mescaline. And so I decided to buy it all, friends and I then distributed it and we all did it. So my early training is LSD and mescaline, actually love mescaline a lot. I'll say mescaline is the most important psychedelic that's not being studied, although it's starting to be studied a bit. But my experiences were really difficult and I went to the guidance counselor. At some point I was like, I need help. I just don't know how to deal with this. I'm getting less interested in my studies also this was now 1971 into 1972. So it was after the backlash against the psychedelics, which really culminated in 1970 with the Controlled Substances Act and Nixon declaring war on drugs, and so the 60s had sort of crashed and burned, you could say. And the war was still going and there was this sense that there was a lot of external pressure for sure, but also some internal dynamics from some of the advocates that could have been, they could have advocated more successfully. So there was this sort of inner exploration like what did we do wrong? How could we do this better? And so from that, I got less and less interested in my classes and more and more interested in this kind of spiritual evolution, emotional evolution that I felt was necessary. And so I went to the guidance counselor and I said, help me with my trips. And the guidance counselor took me seriously and said, this is something important, what you're doing. And he gave me a book to read and to show you how lucky I am. He gave me a book by Stan Grofe called Realms of the Human Unconscious Observations from LSD Research. Now, this was 1972 and the book didn't even get published till 1975. My guidance counselor had a manuscript copy and he was in touch with Stan and so I read this book and that's really what pulled it all together for me because what Stan was doing was describing research that had been shut down, but that was incredibly promising and he was describing realms of the human unconscious. He was mapping the mind and moving into mystical, spiritual, Jungian archetypal realms, as well as birth trauma and a lot of issues about birth, as well as all sorts of psychodynamic issues. But he had this kind of spiritual element to it. But the main frame of it was science. I'm very distrustful of religious ideology. You know, a good example of it is the metaphor is of a volcano, the spiritual inspiration comes to these founders of religions. It's like the volcanic explosions and it's over time. It gets hardened into rock, though, and people just believe it, like literally true and that it's not metaphorical, it's not fluid. And so there's just so much in that way that it's detrimental or dangerous about religion. But this kind of scientific frame over this spiritual. But then the most important part of all for me was the therapy, the reality check of could we use this to help people? And so all of this builds up to this decision for me that this area, psychedelics is what I want to work on for my life. And because the way Stan talked about the spiritual aspect of it, it's about this unit of mystical experience where we feel connected to everything, to nature, to history, to evolution, that we're part of something big. And this is, you could say, quantum physics in that sense, that we're not separate objects, we're all together in certain ways. We're both wave and particle. We're both individuals distinct within a circumscribed life and death. And at the same time, we're part of this eternal, enormous mega-billion year, whatever universe. So it was this political dimensions that really made me decide to commit my life to psychedelics because I felt like here is the antidote to genocide and to mass murder and to fundamentalism is that if you can feel this connection beyond your religion, beyond your race, beyond your language, beyond your gender that were part of this one unified field of energy, that if you feel that, then it will be more difficult to dehumanize others, to be racist, to be prejudiced. And that also in the therapeutic aspect, we can work through our traumas. We don't have to carry these multigenerational traumas down through hundreds and thousands of years. We can kind of move through them. We can break old patterns, we can become more spiritual. And from that we can build a new base of humanity's mental health. And so that's where Max's idea is mass mental health. That's what we're really working towards. And we're working towards it with medicalization, through psychedelic drug development, but also through drug policy reform. So it was at 18 years, although reading Stan's book that I thought I have this luxury of not starving and having a place to stay from my parents. And this is a strategy of helping people to have these experiences that I think can really make a contribution to a better world. And also I can use psychedelics for my own evolution, my own therapy. [00:22:03][445.0]

Rick: [00:22:04] And so I wrote a letter to Stan Groff and to my utter shock, Stan wrote me back. I'm just this 18 year old kid confused with psychedelics and Stan's this MD/PhD researcher at Johns Hopkins, one of the leading psychedelic researchers in the world. And but he wrote me back. He encouraged me and he said that he was giving a workshop that summer. That was really the genesis for me of focusing my life on psychedelics was that reading, Stan, and I'm in touch with him still today. He's 89 years old. We've just published his book Way of the Psychonaut, which is the summary of his life's work. So Stan has been my mentor and Stan has mentored a lot of the people involved in the psychedelic renaissance, Charlie Grove, Michael Metaphore. We've studied with Stan holotropic breathwork. Bill Richards worked with Stan at Johns Hopkins back in the late 60s, 70s. And so. I feel so lucky that now that I'm 66 and actually next month, meaning in November I'll be 67, that the ideas that I had when I was 18 still makes sense to me now. And the one thing I'll add to this is that in my early 20s after I had decided this, I had a pivotal dream that explains my persistence in this area. And the dream was, I think many people may have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, that movie, it's kind of classic psychedelic. And in the end of it, there is the astronaut is on his dying bed, his death bed, and all of a white room. He's in the middle of the room, this is before the birth of this star child, which I think is a metaphor for humanity's evolving consciousness into this sort of understanding of our place in the universe. [00:23:58][114.7]

Rick: [00:23:59] And so I'm in this room and this is a dream now, I'm in this room, there's this guy dying on this bed, all-white room. And he says that he was a survivor of the Holocaust and that he was miraculously saved from death and he knew that he was saved for a purpose, but he wasn't sure the purpose of what the purpose was. And he said, let me show you what happened. And so then all of a sudden now we're on the outskirts of a town, I don't know exactly where, but I think in Poland and there's thousands and thousands of Jews that are lined up in front of a mass grave, and then they're all machine-gunned and buried. And not all of them are dead, you know, but they're buried alive. And so then I'm in the ground buried with this guy. And then it becomes a bit of a Jesus story in that he's buried for three days. And then he kind of he's knocked out by the bullets shot and stuff but he sort of comes back while he's alive and he manages to dig himself out of the grave and come up to the surface. And because it was the edge of town, there's no Nazis there anyway. And he runs into the forest and he meets the partizans and he, you know, works as a soldier until the end of the war. And so he shows me this whole story. And then now we're back into the room and he's on his deathbed and he says, I knew from that that I was saved for some purpose, but I didn't know what the purpose was. And now I know what the purpose was. And I was like, OK, what's the purpose? And he said, well, it's to tell you to become a psychedelic therapist and to keep trying to bring back psychedelic research. [00:25:36][97.1]

Ronan: [00:25:39] That's an intense dream. [00:25:40][0.8]

Rick: [00:25:41] Yeah, then I'm sitting there and I'm thinking in my own head, still in the dream, I'm thinking I've already decided to do this. This is what I want to do. So I can in good faith accept this and tell him I will do that and then he can die in peace. I tell him I will do that, and then he dies. And then I walk out of the room. And I was reading a lot of Hermann Hesse at the time and Siddartha, A Journey to the East, a lot of things like that. And so then I walk out of this room and all of a sudden I'm in the middle of a forest and there's a river. And I walk down and I sit next to the river and I'm just watching the river go by. And after a few minutes, I notice that there's a small boy sitting there watching the river with me. And then I take notice of him and then I say, oh, I'm friends with him. I'm friends with his father. His father was a carpenter who helped build my house. More importantly, though, particular time, I had a large stash of LSD and I was kind of worried I might be busted. But I asked his father if he would store my LSD stash in his farm. And once I connect the boy to oh, he's connected to my LSD, it all made sense. And then I woke up. So I felt like the response to the Holocaust, the response to the US and Russia all blowing up the whole world is this sense of connection and also the psychological evolution. If I were to give up, I would be betraying all those six million that were killed in the Holocaust of Jews and so many other people died in that war. So that's why whatever the DEA did or whatever obstacles from the FDA didn't really matter. [00:27:16][95.3]

Ronan: [00:27:19] That's quite the burden to assume you don't present as a martyr, right? [00:27:24][5.3]

Rick: [00:27:25] I mean, I'm willing to sacrifice, but no, I'm not interested being a martyr. I mean, I was willing to go to jail for the protests of the Vietnam War. Not just this whole, you know, thousands of years, people trying to kill the Jews, but also this multigenerational history of family members running away from repression and anti-Semitism in Russia and in Poland, finding a new home in America, living the American dream, and then multiple generations down, being charged to really look at deeper threats. And so I like to say that I'm pampered but not spoiled. [00:28:07][41.5]

Ronan: [00:28:15] It's been said that our great human adventure is the evolution of consciousness. We are in this life to enlarge the soul, liberate the spirit and light up the brain. It has also been said that humanity has advanced when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious and immature. And that's why I love the story of Rick's introduction to psychedelics. Not only is it a delightful and charming story, it also reminds me about one of the big things I'm trying to keep alive in the current psychedelic renaissance, that it should not just be about important, but somber treatments for mental health conditions or predefined paths to healing or optimization or wholeness. It should also be about lighting up the spirit and exploring our consciousness for no other reason than in the words of Dr. Seuss, "These things are fun and fun is good." In the end, adults in this modern Western experiment of society seem always to be on a path to somewhere. And sometimes it's important to stop and be rebellious for no other reason than to stop and be rebellious. [00:29:21][65.8]

Rick: [00:29:24] No, I'm not interested in martyrdom, but I was interested in meaning and purpose, and I would say also just from a fundraising perspective, MAPS has raised over one hundred million dollars now in our history. That's over three, four years, the big challenge is going to be coming ahead where we need to raise another 30 million to bring MDMA, PTSD to Europe and around the world. And then we may need to raise another 50 million or so for other indications for MDMA. And it'll be challenging because of your work, actually, and Compass, there's so many investment opportunities for people. And now people are saying, why should I bother donating? You can achieve some of the same things by investing. So I think that we will show that we will do things differently. We are sympathetic with your efforts, were sympathetic with Compass. We think there's an important need for the for-profit community. The need is great. For profit doesn't have to be bad. But at the same time, we think that this nonprofit public benefit corporation mix that we have makes a lot of sense and in particular for health. And I'll just say, since you're in Canada, that national health care systems like in Canada, like in Europe, make a lot of sense. And in America, health care is warped by the profit motive. I mean, per capita expenses are greater than any other country in the world by a substantial margin. But our outcomes are not that good compared to the outcomes in the rest of the world. And that's because so much of the money for health care is profit that's taken off the top and isn't directly related to patient care. So I think that's going to be our challenge is demonstrating that the nonprofit model has a role to play. What we're saying is we have made a lot of public value. So that's part of our story is for one hundred million dollars, who knows what MAPS is worth on the market if we were to capitalize it. But certainly, we've spent the donor's money well, that's the point. We built public value and we are leading the way through the FDA, through the regulatory systems. And we're sort of struggling to really work with FDA on some things that I think will have a big impact on te Field Trip, on Compass, it's about the credentialing of the therapists. For a while they are the FDA was wanting for us because we came first, they listen to us. And so we have a two person therapy team. One is a licensed therapist. The other can be a student, doesn't have to have a license. Then Compass Usona come along with psilocybin. FDA starts to realize that they might actually have to approve some of these drugs. They can actually work and then they're concerned. Are they going to be considered to be too lax with what the problems are. So then they started saying they want an MD/PhD to be the lead therapist and they want a doctor on site. We didn't even have to have a doctor on site, which we have to have a doctor do the initial screening. But there's no need to have a doctor on site. You have a doctor on call is fine. And so we got these agreements in a legally binding way. What's called a special protocol assessment process that we went to after FDA said we could go to phase three. But then along comes Compass and Usona and FDA tightens things up and they want a doctor on site and MD/PhD for the lead person. And that just is increasing the cost. It's unnecessary. It's not practical. So we're fighting that out and we're going to spend somewhere like three hundred and fifty thousand dollars or more on our lawyers who are experts in disputes with FDA. But in the end, I think we've got a reasonable case and I think senior management sees that some of these things that the division of psychiatry products is doing is not based on the data. So in any case, that's our kind of situation now. [00:33:10][225.4]

Ronan: [00:33:10] Have you spoken to Compass and Usona about that because I could see the mixed messages. On the one hand, you know, if you're looking at it from a purely for profit enterprise, you want the highest barriers to entry for people coming along and trying to compete with you. On the other hand, lowering the barriers to entry means it's probably easier to get what you want to get done done. So I'm curious to know what their perspectives have been. [00:33:31][20.4]

Rick: [00:33:32] I think that the issue is going to be, particularly in Europe and also in Canada elsewhere, is how do we get these things covered by national health care? You know, because this is more expensive initially than just giving people some pills. And it's more effective, though. So we have to demonstrate that over time to the insurance companies, it's cost-effective. Plus One, which is an open science journal, just accepted a paper of ours on the cost effectiveness study of our MDMA, PTSD treatment based on our phase two data. So I think that the costs of the barriers to entry, the Ph.D., I don't think that Usona or Compass really wants them. I think they felt that they had to agree in order to get their research project going. And I think that they are sympathetic with our efforts. So, you know, one part of what we're doing is because we are nonprofit, is that we feel like we're a public utility, like your water company or your power company, but for psychedelic data and psychedelic regulatory relationships. So we feel like we should share this with everybody, profit, nonprofit, anybody who's interested, governments around the world. [00:34:45][73.0]

Ronan: [00:34:45] That's the biggest. One of the biggest challenges, though, with psychedelic therapies is that you're right, they are more than just pills. They're incredibly impactful based on the research that you certainly pioneered. And they have the capacity to help millions, if not billions of people, but because they involve the time of medical professionals, use that term broadly and becomes expensive and time-consuming. And finding the solution to that quandary is certainly something that is central to our thesis in Field Trip and I'm sure something that you wrestle with often as well. [00:35:19][34.0]

Rick: [00:35:20] Yeah, I mean, the other logical reason for collaborations is that you know, from what I understand, you're working initially on ketamine clinics because that's what's legally available. But what we find is that a lot of the ketamine clinics, some of them, I would say, are less effective and less responsible than others, and those are the ones that just offer ketamine without any kind of psychological support. And that's the way it was approved. Ketamine was approved for depression without any psychological support. It just has a pharmacological treatment like another version of electroconvulsive therapy or something that shakes up your brain. And it doesn't matter the content. And then you will come to a new organization, broke a pattern of depression. And so I think that a lot of the anesthesiologists that are offering ketamine therapy don't understand psychodynamics and they just see it as a moneymaking thing. And also they're helping some people, which is good. But I think people get better help when it's combined with therapy and they need less ketamine sessions and it's more durable because you're teaching them the integration process. But what that means is that the therapists who are offering ketamine are interested in MDMA and also psilocybin. So the clinics that you're setting up will eventually become psychedelic clinics, not just ketamine clinics. [00:36:48][88.0]

Ronan: [00:36:49] Absolutely. [00:36:49][0.0]

Rick: [00:36:50] All the people that were training for MDMA, they want to learn how to work with ketamine. They want to learn how to be cross-trained with psilocybin. What if DMT comes along the road? They want to be trained with that as well. So what we're talking about is networks of psychedelic clinics, thousands and thousands of psychedelic clinics throughout the world, tens and twenties of thousands of therapists doing this work and millions and millions of patients. And the thing that also, though, for us and this is, I'd say a bit of a difference between us and the for profit companies is that we are willing and eager to get involved in drug policy reform and to try to provide access to people to these drugs without having to buy it from us, meaning that it's a fundamental human right to explore your consciousness, that the drug war is counterproductive, racist, and really is never been focused on reducing drug abuse. It's always been ulterior motives and we need to just get away from it. Doesn't mean there's going to be no problems with drugs, but that we want mass mental health. And then if we were to get into this discussion now about my ketamine and DMT trip, that's where I kind of solidified this mass mental health. But for us and in any case, that means working on drug policy reform, trying to help people have these experiences, trying to train people and peer support, I think that there will be more than enough people still coming to the clinics, still wanting the therapeutic setting. But I think politically, the concern has been by some of the researchers and some of the for profit companies that this gets you on the wrong side of policymakers. But we have not seen that to be the case. So we've been outspoken since I started MAPS in '86 as both drug policy reform and medicine and they're completely separate. So you need a whole set of evidence and data and proof to make something into a medicine. It's a different set of arguments for policy change. But what we found is that they're mutually supportive despite people's fears. And to this, I'll say that a friend of mine was the legislative director in Washington, DC for the head of the Black Congressional Caucus. I was asking him, what do you think about the strategy? We're actually working on drug policy reform and also on research, and a lot of people criticize us for that. And so he said that in the civil rights era that Martin Luther King was sort of the nonviolent resistance person. And he said that Malcolm X was a little bit more aggressive, you can say. And so he said that what he observed in that is that the kind of advocacy that Malcolm X did, it made Martin Luther King more acceptable. When there's somebody that's sort of going for a bigger change, it pulls the center that work for drug policy reform actually legitimizes the work for research and the work on the research, changes people's attitudes and opens doors in drug policy reform. And we actually heard from one of the leaders of one of the for profit companies had a meeting with some of the leaders of the FDA. And this is where our strategy was confirmed. The FDA was talking about the Oregon Psilocybin Initiative, which is going on the ballot to try to make psilocybin available in a state legal way, not just to patients, but to people for personal growth in some kind of licensed therapists and supporters, things like that. And so the FDA said that they were worried about that, but their worry was they compared it to medical marijuana and they said, and you'll be sympathetic with this Ronan, they said that all of what's happened with medical marijuana was at the state level and it bypassed the FDA, and so because people could sell marijuana to patients without having to do the research and the FDA missed this part. But there is this monopoly that the DEA has sustained since 1968. There's only one company that has a legal license to grow marijuana in the United States, and they only grow under contract to the nationalists on drug abuse and they can only grow for research and it can't be used commercially. So it's not good for phase three. We're still trying to break that monopoly. We've been working on that right now for the last 20 years. And I think we're getting a little bit closer. We're about to sue the attorney general and the DEA next week to try to make them decide on all these applications. But in any case, FDA said that they were worried that this Oregon psilocybin initiative would take away people's interest in doing the research because they want to see the research. And so what that means is they want to see the research. They're not going to shut down the research because Oregon is going to have this initiative or, you know, Denver and now Ann Arbor and Oakland have had these decriminalized nature initiatives to decriminalize plant medicine. So any case, we're in good shape. I think that that's our bigger mission. [00:41:54][303.8]

Ronan: [00:41:55] Absolutely. And listen, I think our philosophy with a Field Trip is very much aligned with your perspective. You know, we aren't so active in terms of our drug policy reform efforts, but we are openly supportive of the efforts in Oregon to see that happen. It is a counterbalance and I hear your point. I don't think the research is going to stop. I think the research with cannabis, for instance, is just picking up on a number of different clinical settings. And there's still incredible amounts of opportunity for innovation around cannabis and cannabinoids that would reward for profit efforts while still not limiting the sort of state by state rollouts or the federal legalization of cannabis in Canada as well. So I think those objectives can be aligned, but the balance does have to be struck. [00:42:43][48.2]

Rick: [00:42:44] Yeah. So maybe if you could say a moment about some of the comments that people have called me recently that you made that seem to indicate that, you know, underground providers are narcissistic and they're not trustworthy because they're breaking the law. [00:42:58][14.0]

Ronan: [00:42:58] I'm happy to go into that and if that's the way it came across, I do apologize. That's not the intent at all. My comment was that people who are willing to break the law and undertake, you know, illegal activities in pursuit of effort and this is not everybody, but you have to have a belief and a tolerance for risk and an attitude that is in many ways can be irrational and defying self-preservation. And undoubtedly, when you're that committed to a certain path and a certain passion that you're going to see, probably some of those people have narcissistic tendencies, that they're going to see themselves with God complexes because I think it's just a reflection of choice of the path. But that doesn't mean everybody does. Certainly, within the psychedelic community, it's true about all communities as well. But in my mind, there has to be something to be said that if you're willing to do something overtly illegal in pursuit of a cause, you know, it reflects something about your personality. [00:43:58][59.4]

Rick: [00:43:59] Well, there, let me tell you, I don't know about that. So Martin Luther King, as I mentioned, Martin Luther King's mentor, Reverend Howard Thurman, was the minister for the Good Friday experiment. Martin Luther King got a Ph.D. at Boston University. Reverend Howard Thurman had studied with Gandhi and had studied with other advocates of nonviolence. And he was sort of the hidden mentor for Martin Luther King and others advocating the nonviolent resistance for the civil rights movement. And so in front of Marsh Chapel in Boston University, where Martin Luther King got his Ph.D., where the Good Friday experiment took place, there's a statue for Martin Luther King and there's a quote on the side of it that relates to what you just said. And the quote says that, and I'm sure I'll mangle it a little bit. But the gist of it is that, "somebody who sees a law that they think is unjust and is willing to violate it and suffer the consequences in order to educate others about the injustice of the law actually has the highest respect for the law." [00:45:03][63.2]

Ronan: [00:45:03] I totally agree, don't get me wrong. You know, I'm a big advocate of what Tom Robbins says, where he says, like, "at some point in your life, you have to decide between what is right and what is merely legal," you know, that makes you metaphysically on the run. America is full of metaphysical outlaws, and I 100 percent agree with that. Don't get me wrong, I think that the vast majority of people, specifically within the psychedelic sphere, you know, when they undertake this work in light of the consequences, in light of the risks, most of them are doing it from an altruistic, well-considered thoughtful pursuit. It's just that when someone takes that level of passion, especially when it may be illegal, there's going to be a subset of those people who are going to reflect narcissistic personalities. But it's also true about for profit. It's not specifically limited to only underground providers or anything along those lines. [00:45:58][54.5]

Rick: [00:45:59] Well, I was gonna say, I'm going to totally agree with you. There's a lot of the people that work in psychedelics, they're like where is all the ego and disillusion. [00:46:06][7.6]

Ronan: [00:46:08] Exactly. [00:46:08][0.0]

Rick: [00:46:09] We have a lot of egotistical people who, you know, you can get this ego inflation, which is the opposite. So, you know, we do see that a fair amount. And so just taking psychedelics doesn't guarantee ego dissolution or humbleness or, you know, yeah. And I think that there can be this sense that, you know, you're up against the world and you're right and everybody else is wrong. So I think there is some of that narcissism even in people that have done a lot of psychedelics, that it's not just taking the drugs, it's taking them in therapeutic settings, dealing with your shadows. That's really necessary. So here I will agree with you that sometimes we look at some people and like, man, they've really done all that many psychedelics? How come it didn't work? [00:47:01][51.7]

Ronan: [00:47:03] Yeah, no, I think that's a fair comment. But you were a little bit limited on time and we didn't get too into how you went from the inspiration to the buildout of MAPS, which maybe we'll save that for another podcast. [00:47:16][12.1]

Rick: [00:47:16] Yeah, I would be glad and I'd be glad to come back and do another time. [00:47:19][3.2]

Ronan: [00:47:24] After the first part of my conversation with Rick, three key things stood out to me. First, never forget to have fun even when you have a clear goal and a stated mission that you're fully committed to. It's important to stop and have fun along the way. Despite being the poster child for the FDA approval of MDMA, which is a cold, sober and strict process. Rick is still unabashed and open about his ongoing psychedelic use for both therapeutic and recreational purposes. Tom Robbins once said, "When it comes to perpetuating how to make love stay. I got no advice. But here are the two most important things I know, everything is a part of it, and it's never too late to have a happy childhood." And by that I mean we're all connected to nature, to history, to evolution. Everything is part of a greater whole. We're individuals in terms of life and death, but at the same time part of an enormous internal network. And as Rick so aptly notes, if we as individuals are able to feel our own connectedness, it becomes harder to be dehumanizing. It becomes harder to hate, and most importantly, it becomes easier to love and have compassion. Finally, I believe in political solutions to political problems. But man's primary problems aren't political. They're philosophical. Until we can solve our philosophical problems, then we're condemned to solve the political problems over and over and over again. Psychedelics have the power to break through these cycles of generational trauma and failure. By taking a step forward, we are able to move through it, change old patterns, become more spiritual, and ultimately build a new base for humanity. [00:49:13][108.3]

Ronan: [00:49:21] Thank you for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host, Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious, breathe properly, and remember, every day is a field trip if you let it be one. Field Tripping is created by Ronan Levy and produced by Conrad Page. Our researcher is Sharon Bella. Special thanks to Quill. And of course, many thanks to Rick Doblin for joining me today. To learn more about what MAPS is up to, be sure to check out maps.org. Finally, subscribe to our podcast and sign up for our newsletter at fieldtripping.fm. [00:49:21][0.0]

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About Ronan

An entrepreneur and a visionary, Ronan is one the founders of Field Trip – with a mission to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy. Concurrent with his work at Field Trip, he is a partner at Grassfed Ventures, a venture capital and advisory firm focused on the cannabis and biotech industries and is Chief Strategy Officer and Member of the Board of Directors for Trait Biosciences Inc., a leading biotech company in the hemp and cannabis industries. Prior to his current roles, Ronan co-founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRx Inc., the latter of which was acquired by Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) in 2016, after which he served as Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Affairs for Aurora. A lawyer by training, Ronan started his career as a corporate lawyer at Blake, Cassels Graydon LLP and Legal Counsel at CTVglobemedia Inc. (now Bell Media Inc.) He holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Commerce degree, both from the University of Toronto.