The Center for Medicinal Mindfulness is the first cannabis therapy center in the United States, offering both cannabis- and ketamine-assisted therapy. Join founder Daniel McQueen, MA, as we learn about the Center’s unique model, their impact on a growing community of therapists and sitters, and the future of the field.
Getting to Know Daniel McQueen, MA
Daniel McQueen, MA, is a psychedelic specialist, educator, and author of the book, Psychedelic Cannabis: Therapeutic Methods and Unique Blends to Treat Trauma and Transform Consciousness. In 2012, he co-founded the first legal cannabis therapy clinics in the United States, the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness, which is located in Boulder, Colorado and currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The same year, Daniel also founded Psychedelic Sitters School which continues to train students from around the world in Mindfulness-Based Psychedelic Therapy® modality and Cannabis-Assisted Psychedelic Therapy.
Daniel started his own journey into this work from a place of spirit. “I believe this [work] is a core identity for me. I’ve always been a little curious about hidden spaces, so to speak, and mysticism, mindfulness, and spirituality. When I was in my early twenties, I was part of underground communities that practiced from a spiritual orientation. Those were great, but I also realized that it wasn’t the whole model and that we needed other additional paradigms to support the spirit path, especially with medicines. So, I learned a lot about psychedelic harm reduction and safe use practices, and then ended up going to Naropa University and got my Transpersonal Counseling Master’s, thinking I would work within the field somehow, but at that point it was still very new. Research was the only path available at that time.”
“I always thought I would be heading in this direction. I’ve always had threads of this in my life. From there, it was just a realization that people needed this work. Then, when cannabis became legal, I realized this medicine is as potent as these other medicines. So, I just started exploring and developed a whole program around it, and wrote a book called Psychedelic Cannabis to teach people how to use it themselves. The book will tell you how to make specific blends of cannabis, so that you can set up the space and container to elicit full psychedelic states. I’m here to share and educate and just be a part of this movement.”
Launching the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness
The Center for Medicinal Mindfulness was the first legal cannabis therapy centers in the United States. Daniel, a psychotherapist, and his wife, an art therapist, began practicing with cannabis as a psychedelic in their personal private practices shortly after it was legalized for recreational use in Colorado. Doing so revealed how much they needed backend support in order to expand the work. So, Daniel and his wife gathered a small team of therapists and interfaith ministers to bring their practices together – to support each other and not be overwhelmed by paperwork. Now, “we have a full team here working together with the medical doctor and the ministers and guides and therapists who work with psychedelic cannabis and ketamine.”
“Colorado led the way [for cannabis], and through experimentation and practice we were able to figure out how to reliably create psychedelic experiences with cannabis. It’s hard to believe, but it’s very similar to an Ayahuasca or psilocybin journey but with the empathogenic support, similar to MDMA. It also affects the endocannabinoid system directly, [resulting in] a deep tissue relaxation and resolution of deeply held stress, tension, trauma in the body. Similar to an MDMA or psilocybin therapeutic journey, people will have a lot of memory recall to clear old injuries and experiences, a lot of emotional support similar to MDMA, but with a psychedelic visual component as well.”
“[This is] primarily a trauma resolution therapy. But within trauma, there’s a lot of symptoms we work with. Sometimes folks come who are in really difficult spaces and need a reset to re-regulate their nervous system. We might start them with working with ketamine to help reset the system. Then, we do a lot of trauma resolution work with the cannabis.”
The Center for Medicinal Mindfulness tailors treatment plans to each individual patient. “We have an onboarding process that involves a medical evaluation with our medical director, some assessments, [some] waivers. Once people get in their system, it’s sometimes it’s short-term treatment – like a 1-2 day intensive – or a weeklong intensive of combined sessions with ketamine and cannabis.” The Center can also support longer-term engagements with patients. “We have several psychotherapists on staff, and we include a great deal of therapeutic support in our program…We come from a transpersonal model and also work from a Mindfulness-Based Psychedelic Therapy® model. We offer ongoing support, and we think that’s just essential to any therapeutic or healing relationship.”” This kind of substance-assisted therapy allows patients to take advantage of the neuroplastic window in the brain these medicines help to create. By working with a therapist, individuals can solidify healthier ways of thinking and being.
Psychedelic Sitters School
“The Psychedelic Sitters School was started in 2012 as well. When cannabis became legal, we realized we could teach this modality to others. We’ve been developing it for the last 10 years. [Our] modality is called Mindfulness-Based Psychedelic Therapy®, which [integrates] the transpersonal model of somatic awareness with a trauma-informed space, and it’s very mindfulness-based. We’re not just teaching the logistics of how to facilitate these sessions, we’re teaching mindfulness practices that facilitators and guides can use to stay regulated themselves and get the most out of the experience themselves.”
We have units split into two parts. One is a cannabis-assisted psychedelic guide training, which includes two intensive, experiential practicums with psychedelic cannabis for all of our students. Then, we have a more advanced psychedelic therapy training program for those who wish to work clinically with these practices. Clinically, we use cannabis as a medicine for trauma resolution. Beyond that, we teach people the ins and outs of starting their own private practices, and we provide a lot of backend support for our members and students to help develop their practices.”
“We now have students all over the country and in Canada who are actively engaged in psychedelic therapy using cannabis as a tool. Cannabis is legal for either under the medical model or the adult use model for 70% of the U.S. population and all of Canada. It’s being legalized in countries all over the world. [This is] an opportunity to start practicing as a psychedelic guide right now, without having to change any of the laws. We know how to work with psychotherapists and licensed professionals to keep their licenses safe and protected, both under the medical model and the adult use model.”
It’s as effective as working with other psychedelic medicines and it’s as intense. It’s not uncommon at all for me to work with clients who are having DMT-level experiences – this is a really powerful tool. We just forgot how to work with it because most people just smoke it.
Over the last 10 years, the quality of the medicine has increased substantially. We’re just touching in on what’s possible with this. What we are able to do is use cannabis to teach all the foundational skillsets because it mimics all the other medicines. As other medicines become legal, we’ll be able to integrate them into our mindfulness protocols. Starting next year at the latest, we’ll be starting advanced practicums with psilocybin and DMT facilitation as well. The laws are quickly changing and it’s been wild to watch how quickly things are moving. We’re hoping to create a process where we can support a lot of people being guides for others.
Shifting Psychedelics in Colorado
Psilocybin is decriminalized in Denver, so there’s not much we can do with it in a clinical, therapeutic setting right now. But I would be surprised if other plant medicines weren’t legal in Colorado within the next few years. Decriminalize Nature has a big presence here, with local chapters in Boulder and Denver, and they’re working on some ballot measures to make the use of all plant medicines completely legal in Colorado. Then there’s another organization, SPORE and their allies, who are working on legalization of plant medicines for adult use, as well as for therapeutic use in future psychedelics centers. Beyond these ballot measures, there’s even legislation that’s moving through to legalize medicines and to create studies on safe use practices.”
“It’s starting to happen all over the U.S., so we’re engaged in that process as much as we can be. Our primary focus is doing the work, but networking with other allies and doing everything we can to support the legalization of these medicines. I think we’re making huge progress, and I would be surprised if we didn’t see legalization within the next few election cycles….We still have a lot of work to do to get people out of jail for these medicines and such, but we’re doing everything we can to move it forward.”
Building Ethics into the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness
“Our training program has a diversity, inclusivity, and need-based scholarship for folks. We’re facilitating making this [training] as accessible as possible for all people. We think that’s essential too. We believe this work is for all people. We believe everyone can do this work with the right training and accountability and a code of conduct. So, we’re sharing as much as possible.”
“One of the things that these medicines do is require us to do our own work and grow ourselves, and that’s going to be difficult. We’re learning how to navigate that space and provide guidance for folks who are really looking for major transformation in their lives, both internal healing but also professional development and calling. We have something called the Safe Community Policy, which is our community code of conduct, and we’re really working to create an accountability to community model. Boards and oversight boards are just now forming in the movement. So, we’re connecting with other organizations who are looking to provide objective oversight to like people in programs like ours. We also create a lot of community oversight for all of our students and practitioners – a lot of mentorship. Given the nature of psychedelic therapy and the conflicts and controversies in our field, we think this is a pretty essential piece, and so we bring an ethics accountability from the very beginning of our program.”
Right now, the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness is looking to “grow deeps roots. We’re developing the internal infrastructure to organize the program and make it as seamless as possible. The training program continues to grow organically, and we’re going to keep supporting students in that way. Next, we’re stepping into group work, [which was on pause due to COVID]. [Group work] is a great way to make this therapeutic practice more accessible for people. Starting this year, we’re going to start bringing in other psychedelic medicines, intensives, and training with other psychedelic medicines. We’re going to keep growing the program organically and supporting other people growing into it.
Connect with the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness
Daniel and his team would love to connect with you! He recommends checking out the website and signing up for the newsletter. “We’re really trying to stay in communication with our community. On the website, you can go to the training page, or check out our services page where you can learn about receiving clinical services. You can always submit an inquiry form to start getting involved. We’ll connect you the right team members to get you connected.”