|Christine Stenquist of Truce Utah at the WVC|
In desperation she tried Marinol, then whole-plant cannabis, after her 19-year-old daughter steered her away from "Spice," a dangerous substance then advertised as legal marijuana, and her narcotics officer–father advised her she could probably find a stray bag of the still-illegal weed. Within moments free of her nausea, within weeks she was walking again, and soon driving to Capitol Hill "because I would be damned if any other patient in my state would suffer like I did."
Stenquist formed a broad, nonpartisan coalition of MS patients, pain management groups, and cannabis activists called TRUCE (Together for Responsible Use & Cannabis Education). She gave members reading lists on the history, policy, and science of cannabis, which propped up TRUCE's 4th pillar: patients. In 2014 the group ran into opposition from epilepsy moms who were lobbying for a CBD-only bill. "But that was fracturing a movement by demonizing part of the plant," Stenquist countered. Silenced and told to wait their turn, the group saw Utah pass the first CBD-only law in the country, which protects patients with only two types of epilepsy, and allows for no procurement of cannabis.
So TRUCE went to the ballot, gathering the needed 113K signatures to put Prop. 2 to the voters. After the LDS (not LSD) church came out against the measure, the group lost half of its executive board, but the measure still carried with 53% of the vote. Immediately, the state legislature passed an LDS-backed measure severely limiting the law, allowing only seven dispensaries confined to the most populated regions of the state, and requiring others to mail order their medicine from health departments, stripping away their right to grow for themselves. TRUCE has engaged former Salt Lake City Mayor and drug reformer Rocky Anderson to file a lawsuit "to win our vote back." Read more about TRUCE and support the lawsuit.
She identified patients for whom therapy can be done: those in dire need, due to chronic, serious & debilitating diseases and for whom traditional therapy has proved unhelpful; and those at the end of their lives, for whom possible long-term risks are irrelevant.
Therapists may not procure psychedelic substances for their patients, or administer them, but can attend and provide psychotherapy during and after a psychedelic session, provided the proper messaging is given and attested to beforehand regarding the benefits and risks of the therapy and the legalities of the therapeutic situation.
Molnar recommended therapists get training, through places like MAPS and CIIS, and recommended Stanislav Grof's book LSD Psychotherapy and Janice Phelps’ paper, “Developing Guidelines and Competencies for the Training of Psychedelic Therapists" (2017).
The legal footing for assisting a patient doing an illegal drug starts in the emergency room, where physicians may treat a patient who is under the influence, and the rights to personal freedom, autonomy, and health contained in the Canadian Charter.
Molnar cited three cannabis court cases that pertain, if one takes the stance that psychedelics are also medicine necessary for some patients: R v. Parker (Ontario Court of Appeal 2000), a medical necessity case; R v. Smith (Supreme Court Canada 2015), which ruled that prohibition “limits the liberty of medical users by foreclosing reasonable medical choices through the threat of criminal prosecution," and Allard v. Canada (Canada Federal Court 2016), upholding a patient’s right to produce their own medicine.
Her group, whose motto is "Test It Before You Ingest It" provides onsite education and testing of party drugs at events. McElwain had only to remind the crowd of the Fentanyl overdose crisis to give her talk gravitas. DanceSafe has Fentanyl test strips available by mail-order. On psychedelics, McElwain reminded us, "As we open up access, we need to provide safety."
She also discussed the legal aspects of her organization's work in a world where under most states' paraphernalia laws, testing kits are illegal. The states of CO, MD, MN, IL, and RI have passed laws to reform this sad and dangerous situation, as has Washington, DC. DanceSafe is also working to amend the federal "RAVE Act" to make harm reduction services more available to nightlife participants including distribution of free water, cool down spaces, peer education, and drug checking. And they're conducting a fundraising campaign to upgrade their onsite testing to a portable infrared spectroscopy machine, while keeping their library up-to-date so that they can identify all the substances out there. They've raised $15K of the $50K needed; interested donors can write here.
|Ann Shulgin enters the room.|
Raquel Bennett, a Berkeley-based psychologist, spoke about her work with Ketamine therapy, which she said "helps people open up to a window of relational re-learning." Working with patients with severe depression, there are several alternative dosages and modes of treatment which must be "spiritually and psychologically safe," including follow-up treatment.
On March 5, the FDA approved Spratavo, a pharmaceutical preparation of S-Ketamine for use under strict regulations. FDA approved ketamine (Ketalar) in 1970. Pharmaceutical S-Ketamine costs upwards of $850 per dose, but is available in generic form for $1.59. Bennett will give a talk on Ketamine therapy as part of the UC Berkeley "Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer" exhibit, and also mentioned the coming KRIYA Conference this November in SF.
On the movement fractionating subject, Elise Szabo of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) had an interesting point: She noted that the Alameda County sheriff testified that only 15 people had been arrested in the previous year for psychedelics, but significantly more were arrested for more stigmatized drugs like heroin, and many of those were people of color. Lanese Martin of The Hood Incubator pointed out that 25% of deportations are drug related, and insightfully noted that, "The discipline of self-empowerment is harder than following a sociopathic leader."
All this and much more highlighted an enlightening weekend, full of wonderful food and fellowship. The all-woman Brazilian dance and drumming troupe Mulhercatu was a special treat.
Conference organizer Annie Oak spoke about forming the Women's Visionary Council (WVC) after attending a 2017 GAIA conference in Switzerland where 80 of the speakers were male and only 4 were female. Following the logic, "If you want to change the world, make a better party," she started inviting women to speak at events and now has seen women's voices amplified at other conferences as well.
OG WVC Board President Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia wrapped things up saying of the event, "It makes my heart sing...there are a thousand strategies to make a better society, to be a different kind of light, to continue to become better people." She encouraged everyone to "connect, connect, connect."
Since 2008, the Women's Visionary Council has been sustained by supporters and members. All donations to the WVC are tax-deductible. A donation of $75 makes you a member of the WVC, eligible for discounts on WVC events, the WVC newsletter, and the ability to nominate people for WVC grants. Donations of any size can be made via PayPal, or by mailing a check to POB 5305, Berkeley CA 94705.
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