con·ver·gence | \ kən-ˈvər-jən(t)s
the act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity
Brought to us by Oakland Hyphae, The People’s Psychedelic Convergence was held at the House of Jah’Siri in Portland, Oregon on October 30-31, 2021. The event was the most recent of several regional conferences that invite the local community to come together to learn and grow. The House of Jah’Siri, the beautiful space that held the event, hosted about 75 attendees along with vendors and plenty of staff to make the event work.
At the mention of the House of Jah’Siri, I hear the voice of one of the presenters, Bryan Kim of Decriminalize Nature Portland, reminding us that this is a FREE church, not waiting for permission from the government to practice. Bryan was one of five on a panel about the status of local regulations. The dynamics on the panel echoed the tension in Oregon as the State grapples with implementing Measures 109 and 110.
Panelist Rebecca Martinez, Fruiting Bodies Collective, summed it up well when she said “There are people in this movement dismantling the system from the outside. There are people working within the system to make the changes we need. There are people completely outside of the system building something completely new.” That summary of the different ways to participate with psychedelics ran through the whole conference. We diverge on different paths to do the work, but we converge around the commitment to doing the work.
The legislative panel was broadly informative covering the history and current affairs of drug policy in Oregon. Gabe from House of Jah’ Siri, spoke to the 50-year destructive reign of the Drug War and the pervasive way it colors our very thinking about these substances. His comments about allyship across the substance spectrum were challenging to strongly-held ideas about psychedelic exceptionalism or preference for plant medicine. After setting the stage around freedom to explore all substances, we zoomed in on Oregon drug policy and measures 109 and 110 specifically.
Rebecca Martinez, Fruiting Bodies Collective, spoke about Oregon Measure 109, Psilocybin Mushroom Services Program Initiative (2020). This bill sets up a framework for psilocybin producers, facilitators, and service centers.
The detailed presentation was very timely for an attendee we’ll call The Doctor. A practicing anesthesiologist for a major university healthcare system in another state, The Doctor remains anonymous for now. He was visiting Oregon to do some scouting for a property to develop into a Service Center as described by Rebecca and allowed by measure 109. “It is an exciting time to consider these service centers in Oregon. I am all about healing people. This opens up new tools to use, along with everything else we know, to help people become whole.”
The Doctor was impressed with the exceptional level of passion and vision of all the presenters at the conference. Along with his partners, The Doctor is going to build an integrated, medical-assisted therapy center that has the whole patient in mind, including spiritual and whole health support.
With more on 109 and a full review of Oregon Measure 110, Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative (2020), was Dr. Angela Carter. Dr. Carter introduced herself as a hopeful skeptic with skeptical hope, again underscoring the tension between the sense of the ideal and what’s possible today. As the acting Measure 109 Board Vice-Chair, Training and Equity sub-committees, and Measure 110 OHA Director, Dr. Carter brought a deep knowledge of the nooks and crannies of the current plans for implementation.
Broad support services including Behavioral Health Resource Networks in every county in Oregon are to be staffed by people with lived experience as well as education in substance use disharmony. Dr. Carter’s willingness to lean into the institutional constraints of the Oregon Health Authority to design something that will serve the community reinforced a sense of convergence throughout the day.
Nate Howard from the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance reinforced the positive outcomes and challenges of the current legislation restating the importance of work both with and outside of the current system. Nate overviewed some of Oregon’s historically racist practices with regard to drug policy. He acknowledged the limitations of municipal drug policy reminding us that cities can’t decriminalize substances. These local actions deprioritize law enforcement activities, but the risk remains. Although imperfect, both measures 109 and 110 increase access which is a move in the right direction.
In contrast to the previous speakers who are working within the system to make changes, Bryan Kim of Decriminalize Nature Portland encourages work outside the system. Bryan effectively outlined the limitations of the legislation noting the equity holes, continued involvement of law enforcement, bias toward corporate participation, and lack of benefit to underserved communities.
“Don’t wait,” he said, “for the government to give you permission.” Bryan’s challenges to the efficacy of the legal framework were acknowledged by the other panelists. All the panelists, as well as Reggie and the Oakland hyphae team, deserve honor for creating and maintaining a space where there is strong disagreement about issues but not a hint of personal animosity or disrespect.
After an outside sesh and trip to the food carts, on a quintessentially beautiful autumn day with a sparkling blue sky and all the fall foliage, we were back in the House of Jai’Siri for the main event.
Reggie Harris, HNIC at Oakland Hyphae and Hyphae Labs presented “Plant Medicine and Business: The Marathon Continues.”
This talk is a personal and transparent look at one man’s journey from the traditional market into the regulated psychedelic business space. Reggie wove personal experiences, practical business advice, and clips of Nipsey Hussle into an actionable commentary on the business of psychedelics. He shared his very real and relatable desire to be out of the traditional market and into a safer, legal marketplace.
Reggie’s experience with investors, their promises, and their contracts serve as a cautionary and motivating tale of entrepreneurship and hard work. For Reggie, success looks like building community. If it isn’t bringing the community together, it isn’t for him. Lead with what makes your business different.
For Oakland Hyphae, it’s what they do, where they are located, and who they are NOT that makes all the difference. According to Reggie, not being a “white tech bro”, being located in Oakland, California, where psilocybin was decriminalized in 2019, and offering psilocybin potency testing are the mix that makes Hyphae unique. He and the team continue to move into the opportunities that that uniqueness opens to them.
Beyond information around brand building and finding a niche, Reggie provided solid business advice. To sum it up briefly: get a lawyer and get it all in writing.
As he highlighted the necessity of this by sharing some insanely oppressive contract language, it drove home the point about business interest in this space. There are extractors coming: companies are bringing their money and looking to extract from this space, not build within it. The audience was a sea of nodding heads.
Reggie’s talk highlighted the exponential growth of Oakland Hyphae in such a compressed timeline. While exceptional, it also seems to reflect the entire psychedelic space in terms of the speed at which this movement is happening.
It is reflected in the vendors that were present. Both Golden Euphorics and Hyphae Nootropics offered their mushroom nutraceutical products for sale. The quality of the products, packaging, and knowledge of the vendors, was phenomenal. They did not present like new products in a burgeoning industry. These are refined, tested, and professionally supported products with solid ground-up teams behind them. I am really looking forward to seeing both of these brands flourish.
The next talk took us from the boardroom into the lab with three members of the Oakland Hyphae team.
Tomas Garrett, Emily Savage, and Ian M. Bollinger spoke to dosing, testing, and the Hyphae Spectrum of measuring mushroom potency beyond just psilocybin and psilocin. These three presenters shared the power of testing as a tool for creating and delivering consistent products (we can have nice things) and addressing industry-wide lack of testing capacity (but not just yet).
Each speaker was compelling and informative. Tomas really got me thinking with his talk about dosing. He is developing a dosing matrix that made such good sense to me as a tool to communicate the anticipated effects of the medicine. Emily spoke to other testing, besides potency, that needs to be established, standardized, and widely available. From substrate testing for heavy metals and contamination to genetic testing and cataloging, Emily is working at the forefront of analytics in the space. Ian managed to make HPLC analysis as easy to understand as a trip to the water park and a ride on a lazy river.
After getting the basic gist of the chemistry involved, he talked about the Hyphae Spectrum and a novel way to speak about magic mushroom potency. The Hyphae Spectrum is a quantification of multiple substances – Phosphate Tryptamines, Beta Carbolines, Psilocin, and Psilocybin – that provides a snapshot of that particular mushroom and characterizes the potential effects. This is exciting work and I am looking forward to seeing where this takes us in our understanding of this powerful medicine.
The afternoon continued after another break, this time with many more conversations between people who just met. During Reggie’s talk, he asked for a show of hands from people from different areas, people doing different work in the space, and more. He set the stage for people to connect around their geographies and areas of interest.
The subsequent breaks were active with networking and introductions. The chilliness of the afternoon was melted away by the warmth of our next speaker.
Mariah Makalapua, @medicine.collective, shared about the ceremony.
My notes here get very thin, not because there wasn’t ample wisdom and information during the talk, rather, I felt called to be present and listen. Mariah is a medicine keeper and healing liberation navigator who spoke to the significance and importance of the relationship with the medicine. She carefully navigated the aspects of ceremony without prescription or template making.
Even in her suggestions around creating ceremonies, Mariah focused on the importance of, rather than the ingredients of the ceremony itself. She closed her talk by praying over us. Wisely rooted in accepting ALL the aspects of medicine, her talk was both comforting and provoking in its depth.
The last speaker I caught was Hanifa Nayo Washington, co-founder of Fireside Project. Hanifa introduced us to this free and confidential resource in the psychedelic space. Fireside Project is a peer support line for during and/or after a psychedelic experience. This community service is offered 12 hours a day, 7 days a week from 3pm to 3am by calling or texting 62-FIRESIDE or downloading the Fireside Project App.
Since being introduced to the Fireside Project and following on Instagram, I am excited to report that they have assisted their 1,000th client. Bravo and many thanks to this group of hardworking and dedicated volunteers from and for our community. I encourage you to follow @fireseideproject and let people know about this great resource.
The event continued with two methods of mushroom cultivation and a forest foray on Sunday, bringing home the point that access to the medicine should be local and accessible. At each of these local inoculations – Denver, Arcata, Portland – Oakland Hyphae showcases the best of the mushroom scene in that place.
I can practically see the mycelial network that the team is building across the country, keeping this community of mushroom enthusiasts connected and informed. While Oakland Hyphae was the main event, the whole conference was used to elevate and showcase the local practitioners, activists, and businesses that are carrying the medicine for that geography.
A special thank you to Monica Cadena, @sacred.alchemist, for her assistance with this summary of the event and to Reggie @Oakland_Hyphae and @Hyphaelabs and the whole Oakland Hyphae team for their genuine hospitality. Thank you for coming to the Rose City and introducing me to the mushroom community in the city where I lived for 26+ years. Big thanks to Beard Bros for the opportunity to share the experience.