The psychedelic evolution is shaping the future of the industry, yet it runs the risk of repeating the mistakes of earlier psychedelic eras and failing to build ethics into the fabric of the field. Skyler Bascom, LPC, shares the potential applications of blockchain ledger systems to increase security, transparency, and equity between buyers and sellers of psychoactive plants.
Blockchain Can Help Ethics of Psychedelic Evolution
Renewed psychedelic interest in the United States is cresting and along with it comes the ethics of psychedelic evolution. As psychedelic-featured publications like Michael Pollan’s 2018 book How to Change your Mind and The Joe Rogan Experience podcast (episodes: #1035, #1179, #1407, #1428), swell in popularity, waves of Americans looking for healing and expanded consciousness will grow in equal proportions . As a result, at the time of this writing, Apple Podcast lists 14 podcast shows with the word “psychedelic” in the title . Of those 14 shows, 8 of them published their first podcast episode before 2018 and only 1 of those has a listed start date before 2015. This micro-sampling of Apple hosted podcasts serves as just one data point that shows the growth of North American interest in psychedelics over the last four years.
Thus, the ethics of psychedelic evolution poses a dilemma for the North American psychedelic community. As the consumption of psychoactive plants, such as Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis (two commonly used plants for ayahuasca tea), increases, so will the demand. After that, micro-communities in South American which depend on plant-based medicine for economic stability will mostly absorb this increased demand.
However, to safeguard against corruption, exploitation, and underpayment, the American psychedelic community would do well to consider using Ripple’s XRP blockchain ledger. Using a blockchain ledger would form a “trustless” ledger agreement between buyers and sellers of psychedelic plants. In turn, this ensures that the local farmers, harvesters, and shamans in South America receive fair compensation for their knowledge, skill set, and production of psychedelic medicine. Becoming early adopters in Ripple’s XRP ledger system can be a way for the North American psychedelic community to ethically trade with South American medicine workers in the future.
A History of Broken Trust
There is a dilemma for the ethics of psychedelic evolution within the North American psychedelic community. Why? Just look back 66 years in our brief history. On June 29th, 1955 a vice president of a large American bank named Gordon Wasson met the local Huautla medicine worker, Maria Sabina. Soon, the partnership took on a parasitic relationship at the start as Gordon Wasson lied about his intentions.
He pretended to be concerned about his son back home and enlisted Maria’s help to gain information about his whereabouts . Subsequently, the lie led Maria Sabina to open her doors to Wasson. So, she conducted a ceremony using psilocybin mushrooms, which up to that point had been reserved only for her local community as a form of plant-based medicine . This was the start of a parasitic relationship that would eventually damage Maria Sabina and her Huautla community dearly.
Following the publication of Wasson’s experience, waves of psychedelic prospectors flooded Huautla. Michael Pollan captures this black eye in Western psychedelic history. He writes, “It didn’t take long for thousands of other people—including, eventually, celebrities such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Mick Jagger—to find their way to Huautla and to Maria Sabina’s door. In brief, for Maria Sabina and her village, the attention was ruinous. Wasson would later hold himself responsible for ‘unleash[ing] on lovely Huautla a torrent of commercial exploitation of the vilest kind’” . Maria Sabina’s house was eventually burned to the ground. Worse yet, local officials jailed Maria Sabina because they held her responsible for the influx of exploitative foreigners.
Ethics of Psychedelic Evolution and its Dilemma
Substitute the name of Gordon Wasson with the names of popular psychedelic podcasters. Next, replace the city of Huautla with Iquitos, Peru and we have ourselves a third wave of psychedelic evolution. In due time, a third wave of North Americans will be in position to exploit medicine workers like Maria Sabina and their unsuspecting villages. This time not with the “little children” of psilocybin mushrooms, but rather the “divine vine” of ayahuasca.
Consequently, more parasitic exploitation might already be underway in heartbreaking fashion. Blogger Harry Stewart (2021) of the web-based company CultureTrip.com recruits potential travelers to Peru with the following sales pitch.
“The industry has become increasingly popular in the last 15 years thanks to word of mouth testimonials, slick marketing campaigns, and all-inclusive package deals at English-speaking ayahuasca retreats. Adventurous new-age types find the prospect of traveling to the remote jungles of South America to ingest a psychedelic medicinal potion difficult to resist, while those with chronic mental or emotional issues are prepared to try just about anything to alleviate their pain.” 
Although this blog’s tone is upbeat, the history of Wasson meeting Maria Sabina and the subsequent fallout that transpired, must serve as the ethical foghorn. Therefore, it must be a warning to psychedelic enthusiasts who are seeking fair-trade commerce with plant-based medicine communities in South America.
So, as the inertia of the third wave of psychedelics picks up, more Americans will trade-in their synthetic shackles from the pharmaceutical industry for plant-based medicine. Thus, villages like Iquitos, Peru are in good position to be centers of fair-trade and commerce. But equally so, they can also be the victims of the North American psychedelic community again. It is a community looking for budget-based medicine tied to outdated models of international transaction fraught with corruption, greed, and exploitation.
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‘Trustless’ Blockchain & the Ethics of Psychedelic Evolution
Facing this third wave of American psychedelic enthusiasts, we can see how the early adoption of Ripple’s XRP “trustless” blockchain ledger system can provide a solution to economic power differentials. Historically speaking, North Americans use these differentials to favor themselves at the expense of the South American financial ecosystem. With this in mind, adopting Ripple’s XRP “trustless” blockchain ledger system might enable South American plant-based medicine workers (using ayahuasca for example) to secure and protect their worth with foreign traders. If economic safeguards aren’t put into place to form a symbiotic relationship with the third wave of Americans seeking healing and wellness in the Amazon, history may repeat or at least rhyme. Hence, adding a “Ripple”[A] agreement between North American medicine seekers and South American suppliers can ensure that a wave of fair-traders will replace the parasitic heritage passed down from Wasson.
The Federal Reserve ‘Trust’ System
To understand how blockchain technology and a “trustless” ledger system like Ripple’s can help solve this ethical dilemma for the American psychedelic community, we must understand how the Federal Reserve “trust” system works in making international transactions.
To understand this, go no further than G Edward Griffin’s examination of the Federal Reserve. In Griffin’s 2010 book “The Creature from Jekyll Island” he portrays the Federal Reserve as a “cartel,” which was built on promises and bail-outs. As a result, America’s economy is largely built off a “trust” system. So individuals can borrow from small banks and small banks can borrow from big banks and big banks can fall back on tax payer bail-outs . This system helps protect American currency at the cost of our international neighbors while utilizing outdated technology vulnerable to corruption, greed, and exploitation.[B]
Honoring the IP of Plant Medicine Communities
Due to the large transaction fees associated with making international payments, North Americans subvert the bank system altogether and pay plant-based medicine workers with USD cash and/or locally accepted currency. Consequently, the result is that the plant-based medicine communities in South America are not paid what they are worth. Currently plant-based communities, like those found near the Amazon basin, absorb the transaction fees. This is done by accepting budget-based payments from foreigners rather than exacting the world-class compensation they deserve.
Certainly, the regions that grow Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis naturally and the people who know how to grow, harvest, and administer the medicine should be paid at world-class international rates. The medicine’s potency and purity along with the spiritual wisdom and guidance that it enables, ranks among the world’s best therapies. Furthermore, this intellectual property (IP) of the South American plant-based communities has been developed and passed down through the ages. Those communities deserve to be compensated for the millennium(s) of development. With this in mind, compensation should not be based on the convenience of a foreign traveler’s vacation budget.
Plant Medicine Practitioners Underpaid
Nevertheless, these plant-based communities and those that dedicate their lives to psychedelic plants are paid at a criminal rate. The world’s best medicine administered by the world’s best practitioners deserves world-class compensation. Indeed, this is true in North America where we pay doctors, physicians, and surgeons based on their competency and skill level. However, the same cannot be said of how we compensate our South American professionals who are the keepers of a precious psychedelic vine which has healing properties equal to no other plant on earth. Above all, the community that grows, fosters, cultivates, and protects this plant should also be equally guarded and protected. Accordingly, Ripple’s “trustless” blockchain ledger system can ethically safeguard and protect their community, ensuring they get paid based on their value and not based on exploitation.
Applications of Blockchain in the Ethics of Psychedelic Evolution
I encourage readers that identify as a psychedelic third wave member to further research Ripple’s XRP blockchain ledger . Without a doubt, this ledger has the capacity to enable instant liquidity transactions between North American medicine seekers and South American plant-based communities .
Churches like the Uniao do Vegetal (UDV), which utilize ayahuasca for ceremonies, can set up fair-trade agreements using Ripple’s XRP blockchain ledger to create transparent and “corruption-free” smart contracts . Above all, these contracts can be set-up in a way that assures South American plant-based communities are paid at world-class rates for world-class medicine.
This contract would be decentralized and its fulfillment transparent. Both parties fairly trade goods and services in a symbiotic relationship. Furthermore, this enables North American churches to receive world-class plant-based medicine and South American communities near the Amazon basin to receive world-class compensation. Ripple Chief Technical Officer (CTO) David Schwartz calls this “an internet of value” . The shift will require further research into the implications and practical applications between churches in North America that use psychedelics as sacraments and those communities in South America who have intellectual and spiritual rights to the plant.
In conclusion, there is an ethical dilemma riding on the third wave of psychedelic enthusiasts. The dilemma will forever paint our relationship with South American medicine workers like Wassons did with Sabina. The first wave was built on trust and that trust was broken. As a community, are we willing to consider adding a “trustless” Ripple to the third wave? Moreover, can we guarantee South American plant-based communities that the next swell of North American psychedelic enthusiasts will form symbiotic commerce trade agreements?
- A) A fun side note is that Ripple named their company from the 1970’s Grateful Dead song, “Ripple.” The Grateful Dead were well known culture icons of the first psychedelic wave in America.
- B) Lastly, another interesting side note is Gordon Wasson was a JP Morgan Bank executive. JP Morgan was one of the founders of the Federal Reserve, which formed a parasitic economic relationship between banks and citizens in 1910.
- Rogan, J. (Host). (2017, November). (No. 1035) [Audio podcast episode]. #1035- Paul Stamets. In The Joe Rogan Experience. , Rogan, J. (Host). (2018, October). (No. 1179) [Audio podcast episode]. #1179-Nikki Glasser. In The Joe Rogan Experience. , Rogan, J. (Host). (2020, January). (No. 1407) [Audio podcast episode]. #1407- Michael Malice. In The Joe Rogan Experience. , Rogan, J. (Host). (2020, February). (No. 1428) [Audio podcast episode]. #1428- Brian Greene. In The Joe Rogan Experience.
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- Pollan, M. (2018). How to Change your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence. Penguin Books.
- Estrada, A. (1981). Maria Sabina: Her Life and Chants. Ross-Erikson.
- Wasson, G. (1989-1986). Harvard University Herbaria. Accessed April, 2021.
- Stewart, H. (2017, November). “Ayahuasca: The Hallucinogenic Plant Attracting Hordes of Tourists to South America.” Culture Trips.
- Griffin, E. (2010). The Creature from Jekyll Island: a Second Look at the Federal Reserve. American Opinion. Schwartz, D. (2021, March 16). David Schwartz Ripple CTO Interview – XRP Ledger, CBDCs, Private Ledger, Flare, PolySign, Bitcoin [Video]. YouTube.
- Kuo, T., Rojas, H., & Ohno-Machado, L. (2019). Comparison of blockchain platforms: a systemic review and healthcare examples. Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, 26(5), 426-478. Schwartz, D.; Youngs, N., & Britto, A. (2018). The Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm.
- XRP Ledger (2020). XRP Ledger.
- Schwartz, D. (2021, March 16). David Schwartz Ripple CTO Interview – XRP Ledger, CBDCs, Private Ledger, Flare, PolySign, Bitcoin [Video]. YouTube.