Radical Risk Reduction for Event and Community Organizers

The #MeToo civil rights movement is creating an opportunity for communities of all types to develop new ways to resolve conflict. As more people feel empowered to speak out against sexual coercion, harassment and assault, many social groups are reflecting on their collective values and how to uphold them. For event organizers, effective mediation and risk reduction is especially important. They are responsible for the safety of participants at their parties, conferences or festivals. At events I organize, we practice a form of Radical Risk Reduction, which makes the most of the limited resources available to settle disputes. Our goal is to develop sustainable systems for resolution that have the greatest impact.

Many of the safety protocols that I help develop rest on the idea of community education and mutual responsibility. I am one of the founders of the Women’s Visionary Council (WVC) an educational nonprofit organization which hosts the Women’s Visionary Congress  and other gatherings of women researchers, healers, artists and activists in the psychedelic community. After launching these events in 2007, WVC organizers began receiving reports of women being sexually abused by leaders of ceremonies that use ayahuasca and other psychoactive substances. In response, the WVC released in 2014 a series of safety tips for people participating in these gatherings.

Our safety tips advise people to work with female facilitators or male/female teams and conduct due diligence to check out the reputation of the shaman or healer they may work with. Participants are also encouraged to consider the safety of the substance dispensed, check out the ceremonial site, secure safe lodging, attend the ceremony with a trusted friend, identify mechanisms for accountability, practice setting good boundaries, and evaluate how they are touched during the ceremony. These recommendations have been widely reposted and translated into several languages. Chacruna has created their own version of these tips which focus on ayahuasca ceremonies.

Reducing the Risks of the Psychedelic Renaissance

In the years since the WVC began considering the safety of women at psychedelic ceremonies, there has been a rapid expansion of interest in psychedelics and other non-ordinary states of consciousness. Driven by media stories, popular books on psychedelics, and publicity by groups like MAPS, millions of dollars are being raised for research into psychedelic-assisted therapies. In response, the WVC now supports other forms of education – such as proposals for the creation of a professional association for psychedelic therapists to create codes of conduct and hold practitioners accountable to ethical standards. This type of oversight could also moderate the impact of businesses and organizations that are entering this market which may or may not have the capacity to self-regulate.

While psychedelic-assisted therapies are presently attracting a lot of attention, most people will not engage with these substances in a ceremonial or carefully controlled therapeutic environment. Most people will have – and have always had – psychedelic experiences in social settings where they engage in unsupervised, self-experimentation. Growing interest in the therapeutic use of psychedelics has prompted increasing numbers of people to procure these substances in underground markets and use them in social environments. At parties anywhere in the world, chances are good that someone is ingesting some sort of mind-altering substance in addition to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.

As interest in psychedelics expanded, members of the WVC community became aware of an increasing number of overdoses linked to the use of psychedelics and other substances. We also saw an escalation of accidental poisonings from adulterated substances, especially materials cut with the synthetic opioid fentanyl. In response, the WVC created in 2015 a series of risk reduction workshops.

These workshops teach participants how to administer Naloxone or Narcan which blocks the effects of opioids, especially in cases of overdose. Instructors distribute Naloxone kits at no cost to people receiving this training. Trainers also demonstrate how to properly operate a milligram scale and employ volumetric measurement to accurately calculate dosage and prevent overdose. They also show how to use commercially available reagent testing kits to test for the presence of potentially deadly adulterants and reduce risk from misidentified drugs. Some event producers offer testing services onsite. This approach has the potential to attract unwanted attention from law enforcement, but can be carried out and publicized discretely.

Five years ago I co-founded another organization, an event production company called Take 3 Presents that creates immersive art parties. Together with our collaborators and producers of other events, we began to think about best practices to support risk reduction and community mediation. We developed these ideas for organizers of social events, but they are useful for other kinds of communities as well. The easiest kind of social gatherings in which to effectively manage risk reduction are private, invitation only events. The strongest models are gatherings where new attendees must be sponsored by an established participant to attend. This approach increases accountability. People avoid inviting friends who might make them look bad. Removing alcohol from the event to the greatest degree possible also supports risk reduction. Event producers can choose not to run a bar and still allow participants to bring personal quantities of alcohol – as long as they themselves don’t set up a bar at your event. Reducing alcohol consumption limits potential profits, but it significantly decreases the potential for illness, injury and consent violations.

Instead of a bar, an event could offer a teahouse which gives participants an opportunity to be in a social space without alcohol. I founded the Full Circle Tea House as a collaborative community art project at the Burning Man arts festival in 2011. This teahouse is now run by a group of volunteers who offer tea, empathy, water, soft pillows and a place to rest – sometimes providing 24/7 service. The act of being offered a tea cup, receiving it, drinking tea, and putting down your cup for a refill, brings you into connection with others and with yourself.

Safety and Mediation Teams

Tea servers are one of several potential safety teams that organizers can recruit and train. Those producing events of significant size or duration should also consider hiring professional medics and staff a quiet space for focused care. You could hire the Zendo project  or develop your own similar crew based on this model. It’s also helpful to ask someone to lead a sobriety support group at your gathering for those who choose to remain sober. Instead of hiring an outside security service to patrol your event, organizers can create a volunteer ranger crew drawn from past participants who can be trained to uphold community standards of health and safety. The Burning Man Festival does this with their Black Rock Rangers.

Developing safety teams from within your own community helps organizers create and uphold a set of common values. This is especially important when creating protocols to deal with sexual coercion, harassment and assault. Organizers can start by forming a rapid response team to react swiftly to consent violations at their events. I also recommend forming a group of mediators who consider complaints from participants and help organizers make decisions to support community safety. If a participant wishes to make a complaint through the legal system, that is their right and they should be supported. But some people don’t trust law enforcement to investigate and some communities can’t afford to hire lawyers to settle internal disputes.

I support the idea of creating mediation teams who are comprised of participants trained as therapists, counselors, social workers – or those with similar backgrounds. They have the professional skills to help organizers develop protocols for gathering information about a dispute and consider critical procedural questions – such as whether to consider anonymous accusations or allow accusers to conceal their identity from the accused. Such people can also help organizers develop systems to publicize how to report consent violations during events and also incidents that take place outside events.

To further support consent culture, organizers can work with professional counselors to host workshops about consent during their gatherings. Announcements about the event could also include support for affirmative consent. Such language could say, for example, “Make sure that every ‘yes’ is a ‘hell yes.’ A ‘no’ requires no explanation or qualification.” Creating a culture of respect and consent is important, but it is not enough to help ensure safety. To take a serious stand against abuse and harassment, communities should designate who is going to make decisions about excluding participants for violating community agreements. If nobody is willing to take that responsibility, it’s very possible that no action will be taken. People may be abused without recourse which can create trauma and pain within the community. Conversely, if too many people take part in collective decision to exclude a participant, this process may delay or dilute firm action and exhaust participants. The capacity to engage conflict is a limited community resource.

I prefer a system in which a mediation team of two to five people gather information from parties in a dispute and make a recommendation of possible action to event organizers. If the organizers are running a business to hold the gathering, the owners of that business have a legal duty to make the final decision. This process should take into account that people may attempt to intimidate or manipulate those trying to settle the dispute. This may be especially challenging for women engaged in this work who may need to overcome socialization that encourages them to be accommodating and agreeable and retreat from conflict.

If a decision is made to exclude someone from an event, friends of that person will often lobby the organizers. They might insist that the person in question is a terrific human being, that they didn’t mean it, that they deserve a second chance, that the process is flawed, or that mediators or organizers are bad people for making this decision. If this happens to you, don’t take it personally. It’s important to act with firmness and clarity. Consider also setting a blackout period for considering disputes three weeks before an event unless the incident takes place within that window.

Communities will have different responses to these difficult situations. Some will embrace a form of restorative justice for the accused and the accuser. Other communities simply remove those who violate their values from the invitation list. Social banishment is a very old idea. There remains the difficult question as to whether there should be an appeals process or a path back to the community over time. Mediators could decide, for instance, to exclude a participant for a period of time and then evaluate what efforts they have made towards personal evolution and resolution with the people they have harmed.

While organizers may want to exercise compassion in these cases, they should also consider a system in which there is no path back. This is not because they are infallible judges of human frailty. It is simply that community members may have limited time and energy to consider whether someone has taken the appropriate steps to reform their behavior. Instead of attempting to provide such therapeutic services, organizers could consider a system in which people banned from events are referred to outside professional therapists. They could also set aside a budget for a limited number of counseling sessions for those who have negative experiences at their events and need support.

Finally, organizers should determine how they will or will not publicize these decisions. They could set boundaries on these conversations and say, for example, “This decision is final. I am not going to engage with you about this on Facebook, or here at this community event. Let’s set another time to talk.” Or perhaps organizers will decide not to publically discuss the matter. If organizers have been empowered by their community to act, it’s their right to make that decision.

Sometimes, people who are removed from a community threaten to sue for defamation. It’s helpful for organizers to have a lawyer they trust give them legal advice through this process. If a person’s name is removed from an invitation list without any public information about why this action was taken, this reduces the chances for a defamation case and other forms of retaliation against the accuser, mediators or organizers. Other communities may choose to publically shame people who are removed and publish an account of their transgressions.

Closing Thoughts

However your community chooses to act, taking responsibility for the safety of participants at events is an opportunity for communities to decide what their values are and how to uphold them. These measures require a commitment to stand up and act in the defense of others. Communities that endure through times of social upheaval learn how to resolve conflict. Effective safety protocols reduce the potential for social discord and harm. Train and empower people in your community to create a system that works for your culture. Feel free to share the WVC’s manual on Radical Risk Reduction for Community Organizers. Budget carefully the collective energy you have available to resolve conflict. Build resiliency. Practice Radical Risk Reduction.


Risk Reduction Workshop, Nevada City Sunday, April 15, 2018

Overdose of opioids and other substances is a public health concern throughout the world. Yet information about how to prevent overdose, calculate dosage, and test the content of widely available recreational drugs is difficult to acquire. In the spirit of universal access to all knowledge, and to prevent future deaths, the Women’s Visionary Council (WVC), a nonprofit 501c3 educational organization, will host a Risk Reduction Workshop on Sunday, April 15, 2018 at Akashic Visions Gallery, 513 Searles Ave., Nevada City, CA from 1 to 6 pm.

No controlled substances will be used or permitted in the space during the demonstration.

In the first part of the workshop, Dr. Gantt Galloway, Pharm. D., Research and Executive Director of the New Leaf Treatment Center, will provide training in the use of Naloxone or Narcan which blocks the effects of opioids, especially in cases of overdose. Participants completing the training will receive Naloxone kits to take home. Naloxone kits will be distributed at no cost on a first come, first serve basis.
During the second portion of the workshop Ethan Currens will demonstrate how to accurately measure liquids and powders to help prevent overdose. Using water and benign salts as demonstration tools, Currens will discuss risks associated with super-potent substances and show how low-cost milligram scales and widely available volumetric tools can be used to improve the accuracy of measurement.
Part three of the workshop will show how to use commercially available reagent testing kits to test for the presence of potentially deadly adulterants and reduce risks from misidentified drugs. Amy Raves of Safer Raving will conduct this demonstration and discuss the limitations of field reagent kits.

Workshop Schedule
1:00 pm – 1:10 pm Welcome & Greetings
1:10 pm – 1:30 pm Overview of Risk Reduction – Annie Oak, WVC Board Member
1:30pm – 2:00 pm Dr. Gantt Galloway demonstrates Naloxone
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Participants practice Naloxone injections and receive kits
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm Ethan Currens demonstrates weighing and measuring
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm Amy Raves demonstrates reagent testing kits
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm Questions & Discussion
6:00 pm – Event concludes

The cost of this workshop is presented on a donation basis for maximal accessibility. Tax deductible donations can be made at www.visionarycongress.org or in person at the event.

For more information contact:


Recipes from our Women & Cannabis Dinner with Chef Emma Sanchez

On March 5, 2017, we gathered at Parties that Cook in San Francisco for a Cooking with Cannabis workshop led by visionary chef Emma Sanchez and plant medicine pioneer Jane Straight.  As part of the event, Emma shared how to prepare this delicious dinner to compliment your favorite strain or cannabis enhanced oil.  Below are Emma’s recipes for Fresh Buckwheat Pasta, Homemade Pesto (with options for many different variations), Greener Goddess salad dressing and her incredible Chocolate Budino Tart with sea salt and olive oil.

Chef Emma Sanchez has focused her work on feeding communities and emphasizing access and education in food resources. She is a culinary creationist and kitchen alchemist, always connecting traditional food technique from around the world with the plentiful bounty of California. Her experience includes work in top-100 San Francisco restaurants, teaching at top cooking education programs, and hosting world class catering experiences with countless organizations. She served in culinary art residency with the Art Monastery project in Labro, Italy, studying the spiritual side of food and community living. She studied culinary arts at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She is deeply grateful to have organizations like the Women’s Visionary Congress for providing an opportunity to create food with sisters and share in the the land’s harvest.

Emma is available for cooking classes or catering and can be contacted via email.

Fresh Buckwheat Pasta


6 cups all-purpose flour

1 cups buckwheat flour

1 teaspoons salt

8 large eggs

1/2 c olive oil

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, create a well in the center of the bowl to mix in your oil and egg. Using a fork, slowly integrate in the wet to the dry surrounding it. Put your hand in the dough and try to lump together any stray bits. If the dough is super crumbly and not sticking together at all, add a teaspoon of water and knead a bit longer.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands until it starts to feel smooth. Allow the dough to rest for 20 – 30 minutes before rolling it out or processing through a pasta machine.You can do this by hand, too, but your pasta will be thick.

Roll your pasta to the desired shape and size, and dust heavily with flour. When ready to cook your pasta bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook for 2-5 minutes transferring directly into a pesto and vegetable of your choice with a smaller amount of pasta water immediately.

Pesto & how to make 100 variations of it.

Everyone knows of pesto genovese, considered “traditional” pesto, made with pine nuts and genovese basil. This is the cornerstone of understanding for what pesto is and isn’t. Most people don’t know that the many regions of Italy have many different variation of the classic sauce. Use of sicilian almonds, mint and dried tomatoes is a traditional variation of southern Italy, and the use of sage and hazelnuts in pesto is prevalent in autumn. Pesto can be both dynamic and seasonal. Let’s challenge that assumption of what we can do with this lovely technique to make the best pesto.


1/4 c Garlic

1 c Nuts or seeds

1/2 c Cheese or nutritional yeast

2 c Oil

4 c Herbs packed

1/2 c Lemon juice and zest

1 Tb Salt and spices

To make pesto: combine garlic, nuts and cheese in the bowl of a food processor;. With the motor running, add oil in a slow stream until emulsified; add in your herbs and lemon in batches until combined alternating between the two. Place in portioned containers or add directly onto your veggies or fresh cooked pasta. This recipe will freeze well and last in the fridge up to 1 week.

Greener Goddess Dressing

Yields ~ 6 cups

3 avocados pulp

1 c Oil

1 c Lemon or Vinegar

1/2 c water

1 Tb Garlic

2 Tb chopped herbs

Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir vigorously until well-combined. Or, put into a blender and blend until smooth. Toss salad use as dip or sandwich spread. Freezes well and last in the container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Suggested Additions: anchovy, flax or chia seed, citrus zest.

Chocolate budino with sea salt and olive oil

40 3 inch ramekins


7 c flour

2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 c sugar

1 tsp coarse salt

2 lb butter

8 egg yolks

. c Tb heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla


8 cups heavy cream

8 cup sugar

2 lb. bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped

16 egg yolks

Sea salt

Preferred oil

To make the pastry, sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl (the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt). Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or two knives. When the mixture has the consistency of oatmeal flakes, make a well in the center, and into it put a mixture of egg yolks, heavy cream and vanilla. Bring this together with the fingers of one hand and then press it out onto a board to blend. When almost mixed, wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 3/8 inch thick. Cut rounds from the dough, and line 3-inch little tart molds with the dough, pressing into the corners. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.

To make the custard, heat the cream and sugar in a medium-size saucepan, when it bubbles around the edges, turn off the heat, stir in the chocolates and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Let cool for about 10 minutes. With a wooden spoon stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Spoon this filling into the partially baked tart shells, and return them to the 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the filling is slightly firm but still trembling in the center when shaken. Let cool. To serve, Drizzle the tarts with the oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Social Justice in the Cannabis Industry

Learn about Social Justice in the Cannabis Industry and how you can take action – watch Danielle Schumacher, Amber Senter, and Danielle Barber speak at our Women & Cannabis Salon, March 4th in Oakland, and follow up with the list of resources that Danielle S. shared with her presentation.

Online resources

Drug Policy Alliance

What’s Legal Now – CalNORML

Dr. Lucido’s Prop 64 Recreational Cannabis in California FAQs

State of California Judicial Branch

SF Cannabis Task Force

THC Staffing Group

2 Dope Queens, a podcast with Phoebe Robinson & Jessica Williams

Further reading

Maude White Katz, “End Racism in Education: A Concerned Parent Speaks” from The Black Woman: An Anthology by Toni Cade Bambara (1970)

Human Rights Watch, Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs (2000)

Legal Action Center, After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry, a report on state legal barriers facing people with criminal records (2004)

Silja J.A. Talvi, Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System (2007)

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess (2010) > click here for Study & Organizing Guides

Phoebe Robinson, You Can’t Touch My Hair And Other Things I Still Have To Explain with foreword by Jessica Williams (2017)

“Managing Unconscious Bias”, Paradigm

Lawmakers have doubts that the system to license marijuana sales in California will be in place by deadline” Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2017

Oakland race and equity official reviews cannabis” Rachel Swan, San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 2017

How should California regulate pot? The Teamsters are weighing in” Taryn Luna, Sacramento Bee, February 1, 2017

The Green State Daily Briefing, David Downs, San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 2017 & February 28, 2017

“Women in Cannabis Have Twice as Much to Lose”, from Cannabis Now

“The Growing Movement for Marijuana Amnesty”, from New Republic

“Marijuana legalization must include justice reform”, from The Hill

Related organizations

Cannabis Cultural Association

CCA strives to involve underrepresented communities in the legal cannabis/hemp industry by providing informational workshops, cultural programs, and community events with an emphasis on issues disproportionately affecting communities of color: access to medical cannabis, adult use legalization, and criminal justice reform.

Hood Incubator

Founded in 2016, The Hood Incubator transitions underground cannabis entrepreneurs to legal markets by translating & augmenting their existing capacities,  catalyzing the community’s existing capacity to help each other rise to the next level of socioeconomic access in the cannabis industry.

Minority Cannabis Business Association

The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) is the first non-profit organization created specifically to progress the cannabis industry by increasing diversity. Their mission is to create equal access and economic empowerment for cannabis businesses, their patients, and the communities most affected by the war on drugs.


The Oakland Diversity & Equity Cannabis Coalition is building diversity and prosperity in the Oakland cannabis industry. OakDECC wants to ensure a prosperous cannabis-based community and a thriving model of social justice that sets the bar for this industry nation-wide.

Supernova Women

Supernova was formed by and for Women of Color in 2015 with the goal of empowering our people to become self sufficient shareholders in the evolving cannabis economy. Supernova was founded with the mission to foster community empowerment through holistic education, advocacy training, and skills acquisition.  

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. BLM advocates for dignity, justice, and respect, broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.

Critical Resistance                        

Critical Resistance is a national, member-based grassroots organization that works to build a mass movement dedicated to opposing the expansion of the prison industrial complex.

About the speakers

Danielle Schumacher earned a degree in Anthropology in 2004 at the University of Illinois where she co-founded chapters of NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy in 2001. While still in college, she was appointed Executive Director of Illinois NORML and held the Youth Seat on the National NORML Board of Directors. She was named Freedom Fighter by High Times Magazine at age 22. Danielle was recruited by the Berkeley Patients Group in 2005 to head the Cannabis Action Network.  As the first Chancellor of Oaksterdam University, she worked with Richard Lee to establish America’s first cannabis college. She has served as office manager for internationally-respected authority on cannabis Chris Conrad and activist author Mikki Norris, and she is currently office manager for nationally noted physician Frank Lucido MD and nurse practitioner Maria Mangini PhD FNP. Danielle’s newest project, THC Staffing Group, is a boutique recruiting firm whose mission is to encourage diversity in the cannabis industry.

This workshop was dedicated to Alex Zavell, a beloved activist who died suddenly in January at the age of 25. Alex worked at the office of cannabis attorney Robert Raich, and was known around the state for working with social justice groups, grower’s organizations, and government representatives. Among many other issues, Alex understood how important inclusion in the cannabis industry is and fought for it every day.

Danielle Barber is a cannabis wellness consultant, that has been with Harborside since 2007. During that time, she has worked in several leadership roles, currently serving as the Ombuds Manager and local community engagement representative. Danielle grew up in Oakland, CA, as the daughter of a Baptist minister. This upbringing has allowed for a unique perspective on life and a tremendous amount of empathy and compassion towards others. Being one of the few people of color in a leadership role in the industry, Danielle has more recently become involved in vocalizing the need to create a more diverse leadership and ownership dynamic in the industry. She is the co-chair of OakDECC (Oakland Diversity and Equity Cannabis Coalition) and has organized several events focused on building diversity in the industry.

Amber E. Senter brings eighteen years of marketing and project management experience to Long Dog Consulting. A veteran of the United States Coast Guard, Ms. Senter’s pre-cannabis career was spent in the south and midwest providing high level design and marketing services to Fortune 500 companies, including Home Depot, Walmart, and Whole Foods. After years of successful employment in the traditional marketplace, Ms. Senter moved to California to work in the established medical cannabis industry full time. In her time in California, Ms. Senter went from Creative Director at a cannabis consulting firm to Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Magnolia Wellness. Her voice is trusted in the growing cannabis industry, as is her unsurpassed knowledge of the end medical and recreational user base. Ms. Senter also contributed to the Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective’s successful bid for a medical cannabis dispensary license in a highly competitive bidding process. Ms. Senter also co-founded and is Chief Executive Officer of Leisure Life, a lifestyle and infused edibles company, where she heads product development and marketing for the brand. Ms. Senter is a sought after coach and mentor, and a role model for new cannabis business entrepreneurs. She has spoken at several business conferences on various topics, including the High Times Business Summit, the International Cannabis Business Conference, and the New West Summit.

Videos from the Women & Cannabis Salon now online

On March 4th, our community gathered in Oakland, California at Oakstop to explore our relationship with cannabis in all her manifestations. We heard presentations by women who have pioneered cannabis research, cultivation, activism, and business.

Videos from the Salon are now available online for you to watch, share, and enjoy.

Looking Back At 2016 – A Busy Year for WVC Gatherings and Projects

Our journey through 2016 has come to a close and it’s been a memorable year. We are grateful to all of our WVC members and supporters for their contributions and support over the past twelve months. Our community donated their time, their expertise, and their resources to organize new projects and make the WVC tenth anniversary year epic in many ways. As we plan new gatherings for 2017, it’s satisfying to look back and take stock of work well done and the prolific creativity of visionary women and their allies.

The WVC began 2016 with our first east coast gathering in New York City from March 11th-13th. We kicked off three days of events with a party and private guided tour of the Himalayan art collection at the Rubin Museum. This was followed by a day of presentations at a WVC salon held at the Alchemist’s Kitchen, a hub of visionary community in the Lower East Side. The salon featured talks by three remarkable women, Katherine MacLean PhD, Julie Holland MD, and Allyson Grey.

A postdoctoral research fellow and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Katherine MacLean contributed to groundbreaking studies investigating the therapeutic use of psilocybin. She discussed her current work examining the role of psychedelics in preparing for death and healing trauma related to grief. Katherine’s talk was followed by a presentation by Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, and author who serves as a medical monitor for studies examining MDMA and cannabis in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Julie observed that one in four women in the U.S. takes medication for a mental health condition. She argued that cannabis can be used to reduce opioid dosages, mitigate opiod overdose deaths, and provide a less toxic alternative to alcohol and tobacco.

In keeping with WVC tradition, the scientific and research discussions at the NYC event were balanced by presentations from artists. The third WVC salon speaker, artist Allyson Grey, is the co-founder of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) a magnificent gallery and community center in upstate New York that houses the work of her partner Alex Grey and other visionary artists. Allyson showed images of her art and concluded her remarks by noting that her psychedelic experiences have provided insights useful to the management of her highly successful family business. The daylong WVC salon was followed by an evening visionary storytelling gathering in Brooklyn co-hosted by the WVC and Psymposia. On our final day in the city, WVC members made art of our own hosting a tea party and participatory theater performance at the statue of Alice in Wonderland and her friends in Central Park. Entitled “Alice Has Options,” the event encouraged participants to describe non-ordinary states of consciousness engendered by substances, Tai Chi, the dream state, and other experiences.

Just three months after the WVC salon in New York City, our community gathered at our home base in Northern California for the 10th annual Women’s Visionary Congress. Capping a decade of presentations by healers, researchers, activists and artists, the 2016 Congress featured a who’s who of visionary women who inspire us. The gathering included a discussion of activism around sustainable food systems. Urban homesteaders and herbalists Sophia Buggs of Lady Buggs Farm and Maya Blow of Soul Flower Farm talked about stewarding their land and teaching urban communities to grow their own food. Other activists who presented showed what it took to be pioneers in their fields. Veteran fundraiser Virginia Wright spoke about the practical work of making visionary initiatives financially sustainable. Marsha Rosenbaum, director emerirta of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance, reflected on her 44 years of educational initiatives around youth and drugs. Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of Cal NORML, who has been an hemp/marijuana activist since 1991, discussed then-pending cannabis legislation and her new book “Tokin Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.”

The artists who presented at the Congress included visionary trailblazers such as print artist Dana Smith, photographer Marc Franklin, visual artist samsara shmee, Jesse Jarnow, author of “Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America” and filmmaker Connie Littlefield who screened her excellent film “The Sunshine Makers.” We even had a fashion show courtesy of our friends at the Upcycled Fashion Collection.

Balancing, as always, art with science, the 2016 Women’s Congress featured researchers and healers on the leading edge of inquiry and practice. Alchemical healer Nicki Scully, Moon Dancer Katherine Silva, behavioral therapist Wendy Ludlow, body worker Raz Ma, mindfulness teacher Flora McCloud, and cannabis educator Sara Payan offered their visions of health and wholeness. Shannon Clare Petitt, who leads staff development for the Multi Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), provided our annual update on MAPS research projects. Dr. Dana Blu Cohen, who works with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy researchers at MAPS, discussed feminist approaches to psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Spanish psychologist Ana Elda Maqueda shared her investigations into salvia divinorum and ayahausca. Those present at the 10th annual Congress also received direct care and blessings from yoga teacher Yoga Ma and Eda Zavala Lopez, a spiritual leader in her tribal community in the Amazon. Botanist Jane Straight brought a living altar of power plants from her garden to remind us that we are indeed people of the plants.

Just as we were dusting ourselves off from the Women’s Congress, the WVC directed its focus to the online world and launched a new initiative to help our members and other organizations support digital privacy. Keenly aware of the sometimes controversial nature of the discussions at our events, the WVC has taken steps to prevent visitors to our sites from being tracked or surveilled through member lists, our website, or our social media outreach. We assembled a list of suggestions based on steps we have taken to modify our use of MailChimp, Paypal, and Google services. Written by WVC board member Anne Tara Szostek, this initiative provided suggestions for concrete action and a list of resources including Privacy Badger, a browser plug-in from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that blocks spyware and invisible trackers. The WVC believes in proactively supporting the safety and security of our members and anyone who wishes to access our digital resources.

After releasing our privacy recommendations, the WVC launched a second public outreach campaign in July focused on risk reduction skills. Observing the increasing rate of opiod overdose, the WVC took action to address this widespread public health emergency. In the interest of preventing future deaths, the WVC decided to provide often difficult-to-acquire information about how to prevent overdose. The WVC partnered with the San Francisco Psychedelic Society to organize a free workshop at the Internet Archive to teach critical risk reduction skills. At the start of the workshop, WVC board member Mariavittoria Mangini PhD, FNP reviewed past risk reduction initiatives. She was joined by Internet Archive Administrative Coordinator Michelle Krasowski who read remarks by librarian Andrea Mitchell, a member of the Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS) who have developed a collection of digital resources at the Internet Archive for ongoing risk reduction education.

The second part of the WVC risk reduction workshop featured Dr. Gantt Galloway, Executive Director of the New Leaf Treatment Center who provided training in the use of Naloxone or Narcan which blocks the effects of opiods, especially in cases of overdose. Dr. Galloway trained participants how to use Naloxone and gave us kits that we could use to reverse a potentially fatal overdose. The risk reduction workshop closed with a presentation by Earth and Fire Erowid, founders of the Erowid archive, one of the world’s most comprehensive digital libraries documenting interactions with psychoactive materials. Using water and baking powder as demonstration tools, the Erowids demonstrated how to prevent overdose by accurately measuring liquids and powders, demonstrating the proper use of a milligram scale and showing techniques to improve the accuracy of measurement. The Erowids also showed how to use commercially available reagent testing kits to test of the presence of psychoactive substances and potentially deadly adulterants. The WVC held a second similar risk reduction workshop a week after this initial event. Both workshops were presented at no cost for maximal accessibility.

As 2016 drew to a close, the WVC ended a busy year with its first workshop focused on traditional food skills and celebrating our connection to the Earth and her bounty. We began this adventure on November 6th with a free tour of City Slicker Farms in Oakland, CA. We learned how this project launched an urban farm park that provides fresh produce to neighborhood residents and others. Our visit included a presentation by Imperfect Produce which provides affordable fruits and vegetables to consumers by sourcing cosmetically imperfect food. Both groups are central to the evolving revolution of food systems and addressing the large quantities of California-grown produce that is discarded. The workshop day concluded with a cooking and canning class led by visionary chef Emma Sanchez. Using fruit and vegetables from Imperfect Produce, we learned how to can as our thrifty grandmothers did making applesauce, pickled vegetables and canned squash. We concluded the work with a delicious feast and gave thanks for another year of visionary gatherings and the community that creates them.

How to Make the Most of the 2016 Women’s Visionary Congress


Today, I hiked to the labyrinth at Hillside Park in El Cerrito.  I’m starting to feel what it will be like to once again retreat to a profoundly inspiring and safe space – the Women’s Visionary Congress at IONS in Petaluma.  It was during my first time there 4 years ago that I learned how to walk a labyrinth as meditation.  

 Today’s mediation inspired me to write a list of ways to make the most of the WVC retreat:

– Get as much rest as possible before and after the retreat.  There is not much time for rest during the event, because you will probably want to attend late night AND early morning activities.

 – Make a list of tasks that can wait till after the retreat, so you can focus 

 – Let staff know if you need assistance – financial, transportation, etc

 – Plan for traffic and carpool if possible

 – Behold the knowledge contained in the What to Pack list and Safety Suggestions

 – Set a goal to sit with new people at one meal (or more) each day

 – Walk the labyrinth

 – Star gaze from the hot tub

 – Attend as many sessions as possible, but remember to rest and hydrate

 – Consider bringing a small notebook instead of your cell phone for part of each day, to get phone numbers and email addresses of people you’d like to stay in touch with.  A notebook is also handy for reflecting on the 10th anniversary theme of persistence, as you listen to speakers, eat, meditate, trip, dream

 – Find time to listen to at least one person’s story, 1-on-1 and ask questions about their philosophies, fears, and survival tactics.

The 10th Annual Women’s Visionary Congress


The 10th annual Women’s Visionary Congress (WVC) will gather in Petaluma, California next month to present the work of visionary women healers, scholars, activists and artists who study consciousness and plant medicines. WVC supports the transfer of knowledge among women of all generations who apply their research and personal insights for the betterment of communities around the world.

The 2016 Women’s Visionary Congress will take place Friday, June 17th through Sunday, June 19th at the IONS Earthrise Retreat Center. The gathering will feature discussions, presentations, film screenings, music, a fashion show of upcycled clothing, and visual art. People of all genders are welcome.

Presenters include Denis Berry, Sophia Buggs, Dana Blu Cohen, Jodie Evans, Marc Franklin, Ellen Komp, Flora Lintern, Connie Littlefield, Eda Zavala Lopez, Wendy Ludlow, Ana Elda Maqueda, Mariavittoria Mangini, Annie Oak, Sara Payan, Shannon Clare Petitt, Janis Phelps, Marsha Rosenbaum, Anne Tara Szostek, Jane Straight, Nicki Scully, and Virginia Wright. Jane Straight will bring a living altar of plants from her garden. Urban homesteaders and herbalists Sophia Buggs of Lady Buggs Farm in Youngstown, Ohio and Maya Blow of Soul Flower Farm in El Sobrante, CA, will talk about their urban farms. Meet our speakers here.

WVC is organized by the non-profit Women’s Visionary Council. Tickets for the 2015 WVC sold out and participants are encouraged to reserve their spot at this year’s gathering as soon as possible. Tickets are $475 which includes delicious food and comfortable accommodations for the entire weekend. For more information contact Annie Oak at info@visionarycongress.org.

Join us for an illuminating summer weekend of conversation with old friends and new.

Consider becoming a visionary patron and purchase a ticket for a woman who could not otherwise attend the event.  All donations to WVC are tax deductible.

Women’s Visionary Congress Gathers for First Event in New York City

The Women’s Visionary Congress held its first gathering in New York City this month which featured three remarkable women from our east coast community. Katherine MacLean PhD, Allyson Grey, and Julie Holland MD each presented their work at an afternoon salon held Saturday, March 12th at the Alchemist’s Kitchen, an event space on the Lower East Side run by our friends from the Evolver Network. The WVC NYC weekend also included a party at the Rubin Museum where a guide led a private tour of the galleries for WVC members. We had great fun on our visit to the Big Apple and welcomed many new friends from throughout the east coast who came to hear the presenters and meet each other. The rising awareness of psychedelic research and therapies continues to draw an increasingly large number of participants to WVC gatherings and our events in NYC were full of thoughtful and interesting people.

One of our primary reasons for journeying to NYC was to hear Katherine and Julie discuss their groundbreaking research. We had invited both women to speak at our annual event in California for several years and finally determined that we needed to bring the WVC to their hometown. Katherine, who is one of a small number of women conducting research with psychoactive substances, served as a postdoctoral research fellow and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She worked with researchers who examine the impact of psilocybin on personality change and how this substance could enhance mental health and creativity. Her current focus is the role of psychedelics and meditation in preparing individuals for death and healing trauma related to grief.

Katherine is now the director of the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care program at the Center for Optimal Living in New York City. We attended the Center’s monthly public psychedelic group meeting on March 10th which took place at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. As a complement to the WVC Salon, the Center focused on the topic of “Psychedelics and Gender” for this month’s meeting which offered an excellent opportunity for participants to integrate their psychedelic experiences.

Dr. Julie Holland is a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist with a private practice in New York City. Julie is a former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and serves as the medical monitor for multiple therapeutic studies investigating the utility of MDMA or cannabis in ameliorating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She is the author of “Weekends at Bellevue,” and the editor of “Ecstasy: The Complete Guide. A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA,” and “The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to the Risks and Benefits of Cannabis.” Her new book is “Moody Bitches: The truth about the drugs you’re taking, the sleep you’re missing, the sex you’re not having, and what’s really making you crazy.”

Katherine and Julie’s presentations at the WVC Salon focused on how to integrate insights from explorations in expanded consciousness. Katherine began by discussing her research at Johns Hopkins which examined the impact of psilocybin on mystical experiences. 60-70% of the participants in this study reported that it had lasting effects. Katherine argued for more research in this area and noted that therapeutic psilocybin sessions in natural settings can promote fuller bodily healing. She said she believed that psychedelics can help us adjust to and prepare for potentially stressful life events and also for our deaths. Both she and Julie observed that their experiences with psychedelics prepared them well for motherhood. Katherine honored the contributions and sacrifices of Mexican curandera Maria Sabina who brought psilocybin containing mushrooms to western awareness. She concluded her talk by thanking her trainers at Johns Hopkins, especially Mary Cosimano.

Julie began her remarks by pointing out that the U.S. Government has consistently blocked research into the therapeutic effects of cannabis. She noted the current epidemic of opioid use in the U.S. where she said pain medications are overprescribed. While the U.S. consumes 80% of the pain medications worldwide, she points out that many people in other parts of the world don’t have access to pain meds. Julie observed that one in four women in the U.S. is taking some sort of medication for a mental health condition. She believes that cannabis can be used to reduce opioid dosage, mitigate the increase in opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., and offer a less toxic alternative to alcohol and tobacco. Julie noted that cannabis can be a powerful anti-inflammatory and that there are medicinal benefits to recreational use. According to Julie, micro dosing and vaginal absorption of THC, can mitigate the effects of chemotherapy for those undergoing pancreatic cancer. She concluded her comments by noting that the pharmaceutical industry and alcohol producers will likely continue to keep undermining drug law reforms, but that concerned citizens must push back.

Our third WVC salon presenter, Allyson Grey is a painter and social sculptor. She holds an MFA from Tufts University and is a long-time art educator, arts organizer and muse to artists worldwide. Since 1975, Allyson has collaborated with the visionary artist Alex Grey. Together they founded the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM), a spiritual retreat center for artists outside of New York City. Allyson and Alex paint on stage for thousands of people at gatherings around the world. She began her presentation by showing images of her art and discussed how her first LSD experience inspired her recurrent artistic themes of sacred symbols and secret writing. Allyson also showed images of her lesser-known performance art with Alex. She described her visioning of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, their current Full Moon Ceremonies, and the fundraising campaign that she and Alex have launched to create the Entheon building at CoSM that will house visionary art. Allyson concluded her remarks by noting that her psychedelic experiences have provide insights into running a successful business including emphasizing the importance of imagination, possibilities and forgiveness. For every action pertaining to CoSM, Allyson says she considers the benefits, costs and risks to the project. “Business is social, said Allyson. “Make more friends!”

The WVC Salon was followed a visionary storytelling gathering in Brooklyn co-hosted by the WVC and Psymposia. Emceed by journalist Lex Pelger, the event attracted a sizable crowd and offered participants an opportunity to share compelling experiences, scientific or academic research, and underground explorations with psychedelics and other psychoactives. We contributed own stories and had a fine time meeting members of the Psymposia community. If you have an opportunity to attend one of their storytelling events in a town near you, we suggest you go.

On Sunday, March 13th, the WVC concluded its weekend of events by hosting a tea party and participatory theater performance at the statue of Alice in Wonderland and her friends in Central Park near East 74th Street. Entitled “Alice Has Options,” the event encouraged participants to personify and describe different non-ordinary states of consciousness (SOC). The intention of the piece was to acknowledge that there are many ways to access expanded states of awareness – and to look at how some of these states are more culturally accepted than others. Participants described a variety of SOCs including caffeine, the dream state, cannabis, touch, MDMA, Tai Chi, and mushrooms containing both psilocybin and muscarin. Many people visited the statue of Alice during our performance and a number them stayed to share our theatrical moment. Alice, who explores a number of altered states during her journeys in Wonderland, smiled from her perch atop a mushroom.

Women’s Visionary Congress Hosts Weekend of Events in New York City

The theme of the 2015 Womens’ Visionary Congress was “Rising from the Underground.” Next month, the WVC will travel east and ascend further by gathering in New York City for a weekend of events from March 11-13. Our conversations in NYC will focus on how we integrate insights from our explorations in expanded consciousness and share them with the world. As with all WVC events, people of all genders are welcome to join us.

The WVC gatherings in New York City will begin in Manhattan with a party on Friday, March 11th from 6-10 pm at the K2 Lounge inside the Rubin Museum at 150 W 17th Street. The party and museum admission is free, as is a guided tour of the museum galleries. On Saturday, March 12th, from 11 am to 5 pm, the WVC will host a Salon at The Alchemist’s Kitchen, on 21 East 1st Street. The Salon will feature talks by three of our favorite local visionaries, Katherine MacLean PhD, Allyson Grey, and Julie Holland MD. Tickets to the Salon are $50 and benefit the WVC which is a 501C3 nonprofit organization.

Always on the frontier of investigations into consciousness, Dr. MacLean received a fellowship from the National Science Foundation to study the effects of intensive meditation training on well-being and brain function. As a postdoctoral research fellow and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she worked with researchers who examine the impact of psilocybin on personality change and how this class of medicines could enhance mental health and creativity. Her current focus is the role of psychedelics and meditation in preparing individuals for death and healing trauma related to grief. Dr. MacLean is now the director of the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care program at the Center for Optimal Living in New York City. As a complement to the WVC Salon, the Center has chosen the topic of “Psychedelics and Gender” for their monthly public psychedelic group meeting which will take place at The New School at 7 pm, Thursday, March 10.

Allyson Grey, a painter and social sculptor will present the second talk at the WVC Salon. Grey holds an MFA from Tufts University and is a long-time art educator, arts organizer and muse to artists worldwide. Since 1975, Allyson has collaborated with the visionary artist Alex Grey. Together they founded the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM), a spiritual retreat center for artists outside of New York City. For the first few years of the WVC, Allyson flew to California to speak at our gatherings and offer her wisdom and support. We can now reciprocate by bringing the WVC community to her hometown. Allyson and Alex paint on stage for thousands of people at gatherings around the world and act as ambassadors for the visionary realm. As she has done in the past at our request, Allyson will talk about how she applies her psychedelic family values in the business world to sustain transcendent art.

The final WVC salon talk will be presented by Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist with a private practice in New York City. Dr. Holland is a former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and serves as the medical monitor for multiple therapeutic studies investigating the utility of MDMA or cannabis in ameliorating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. From 1996 to 2005, Dr. Holland ran the psychiatric emergency room of Bellevue Hospital on Saturday and Sunday nights which is chronicled in her excellent book, “Weekends at Bellevue.” Dr. Holland is editor of the book, “Ecstasy: The Complete Guide. A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA,” and also edited “The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to the Risks and Benefits of Cannabis.” Her new book, “Moody Bitches: The truth about the drugs you’re taking, the sleep you’re missing, the sex you’re not having, and what’s really making you crazy,” was published in 2015. If you’ve never read, Dr. Holland’s books, especially “Moody Bitches,” I strongly suggest you do so before hearing her talk. The presentations will include time for Q and A and I will be lined up with everyone else to ask questions prompted by her groundbreaking work.

The WVC Salon will be followed on the evening of Saturday, March 12th by a visionary storytelling gathering co-hosted by WVC and Psymposia which will take place from 8 pm to midnight at the Hell Phone Speakeasy at 247 Varet St. in Brooklyn. There is no charge for admission. We’re delighted to be setting sail with Psymposia’s “Psychedelic Stories” series which they describe as “The Moth Radio Hour… On Acid.” The event will be emceed by drug writer Lex Pelger and will give participants an opportunity to share compelling experiences, scientific academic research and underground explorations with psychedelics and other psychoactives. We’re getting our own stories ready to contribute.

And finally, on Sunday, March 13th, the WVC will host a tea party and theatrical experience from 10 am to 2 pm at the statue of Alice in Wonderland and her friends located in Central Park north of the Conservatory Water at East 74th Street in New York City. Entitled “Alice Has Options,” the event will offer a San Francisco-style immersive art narrative intended to disrupt cultural conditioning. Participants are invited to bring a teacup and an open mind.

2015 Women’s Visionary Congress Speakers

The 2015 Women’s Visionary Congress is fast approaching and we the organizers have had the great pleasure of inviting an especially wonderful collection of speakers this year. The best part of getting ready for our annual gathering is corresponding with healers, activists, artists and researchers whose work inspires us. Tickets for this year’s event are almost gone, so please get one soon if you wish to join us – click here to register. If you won’t be able to attend the gathering this year, or if you will be there and want a preview of the fine discussions to come, allow me to introduce you to the speakers as they will appear on the schedule.


The 2015 WVC will begin Friday, June 19th with a presentation by Valerie Corral, the co-founder and director of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), the longest running medical marijuana collective in the U.S. Founded in 1993 in Santa Cruz, California, WAMM serves seriously ill and dying people with organic cannabis grown in a collective on a donation basis. Valerie is also acting director of WAMM’s sister non-profit, the Raha Kudo, Design for Dying Project, a hospice organization that addresses the concerns of dying WAMM members and their families. Valerie’s talk will be followed by a presentation by Meriana Dinkova, MFT, a San Francisco-based psychotherapist, speaker and workshop facilitator. Meriana will talk about the development of her psychological and neo-shamanistic inner-space navigation tools designed for exploring non-ordinary states of consciousness. The final speaker of the evening will be Eleonora Molnar, a health professional and independent researcher, who will hold a workshop on kinesthetic knowing. Participants will examine the ontology of consciousness and explore an “Oh Wow” experience developed by master clown Richard Pochinko to help his students encounter a feeling beyond rational explanation and discover trust through impulse.


The first full day of the WVC, Saturday, June 20th, will begin with a yoga class taught by Yoga Ma, also known as Barbara Powell. A long-time yoga practitioner with a deep personal practice in the meditative arts, Yoga Ma leads retreats and offers Wild Yoga wilderness hikes in the forest near Santa Fe, New Mexico and other locations. After yoga and breakfast, the first presenter of the day will be Sitaramaya Sita, a PlantWisdom Practitioner trained in the Shipibo tradition. Sita has founded several organizations including PlantTeachers, Conscious Path Creation, and Quantum Path Creation as well as the Convergence conferences. Her commitment to deep ecology has led to the development of “Fundo Sitaramaya” a preservation project of privately held Amazonian land to steward and protect old growth trees, waterways and rainforest flora and fauna. Sita will report on the use of dietas and other traditional Shipibo practices in urban North America including discovering and dieting Master Plants native or local to California.

The second presentation on Saturday will be offered by Kathleen Harrison, M.A., an independent scholar and teacher of ethnobotany. An esteemed researcher in the WVC community, Kat has initiated and participated in recurrent fieldwork, mostly among indigenous people in Latin America, since the 1970s. She is the president and co-founder of Botanical Dimensions , a non-profit organization that has worked for 28 years to collect medicinal and shamanic species and the lore that helps us understand how to regard them. Kat will be introduced by anthropologist Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Ph.D. who studies psychoactive substances, drug policy, shamanism, ritual, and religion. Bia is a Visiting Professor at the Center for Research and Post Graduate Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), in Guadalajara, Mexico. She is author, co-author, and co-editor of twelve books, one special-edition journal, and several peer-reviewed articles.

The midmorning discussion will be led by Jennifer Dumpert founder of the Oneironauticum, an international dream group that meets in physical and dream space. Jennifer will discuss ways in which this group explores the use of oneirogens — herbs, medicines, scents, auditory experiences, and practices that promote vivid dreaming. Participants will choose from a variety of oneirogens that will be supplied as part of the session, journey together in the dreamscape overnight, and gather again on Sunday to share stories about their dreams. The final presentation of the morning will be offered by Jane Straight, a true pioneer in the realms of collecting, preserving, and disseminating rare medicinals. Jane has played a central role in the important cultural shift back to plant-based medicines, and speaks eloquently about the relevance of intentional connection to the botanical world around us. She will bring us a beautiful living altar of plants to admire and will share heart based stories.

After lunch, we will hear a talk given by Veronica Hernandez, a Peruvian clinical psychologist and shamanic practitioner. Veronica is completing her doctoral degree at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco where she is carrying out research on the healing and transformative benefits of entheogens, especially ayahuasca. Her talk will undertake a comparative analysis of entheogenic shamanism and Jungian Psychology and look at ways in which entheogens have been, and are being used, in shamanic practice as catalysts for exploring inner psychic realities.

In the mid-afternoon, we will have the great pleasure of hearing from pioneering climber and guide Doug Robinson, founder of the American Mountain Guides Association. Doug considers climbing a physical meditation that hones the attention and nudges us into visionary experience. He first explored these thoughts in an essay entitled, The Climber as Visionary. Between guiding trips, Doug studied biochemistry. He investigated the delicate transformations deep in the brain that lie behind our bright, visionary eyes, and crystallized these observations into a remarkable book entitled, The Alchemy of Action.

Jacqueline Patterson and Mara Gordon will present together during the next scheduled WVC presentation, giving a talk entitled, “From Disability to Diversity: Can Cannabis Compliment Conventional Condition Based Therapies?” Jacqueline Patterson educates legislators, patients, and the public as a patient ambassador for the medical cannabis patient’s group Patients Out of Time. While cannabis has great medical utility, state cannabis laws are not acknowledged by federal authorities putting patients at risk of prosecution. Jacqueline will focus on how these laws create obstacles to optimal health and create social stigmas for cannabis patients. The founder of Aunt Zelda’s, Mara is a cannabis alchemist and process engineer who helps patients customize their cannabinoid and terpene dosage. The former head of Methodology at a Fortune 50, Mara will look at how patients can be best served with precise cannabis delivery.

The late afternoon tea time presentation will be given by Alicia Danforth, PhD who serves as a co-investigator on a current FDA-approved phase 2 pilot study looking at the effect of MDMA-assisted therapy on social anxiety in autistic adults. Alicia also served as a study coordinator and co-facilitator on a Heffter Research Institute-sponsored clinical trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy for existential anxiety related to advanced cancer. She will provide an overview and progress report of the MDMA-assisted therapy study, which is sponsored by the Multidisiciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and share insights into how being in community with visionary women has supported her in her research career.

Before dinner on Saturday, there will be two concurrent events. The first at 4:40 pm, will feature Dr. Gantt Galloway, who served from 1989-2005 as Chief of Pharmacologic Research for the Drug Detoxification, Rehabilitation & Aftercare Project of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics in San Francisco. Now a Senior Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in its Addiction and Pharmacology Research Laboratory and co-founder of the New Leaf Treatment Center, Gantt studies medications and psychosocial treatments for addiction to methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. He will discuss the nature of addiction and the rationale for using psychedelics as treatments for addiction. Gantt will also present information about opioid overdose prevention and will be available during the weekend to train anyone who has a need for an overdose prevention kit.

The second concurrent event at 4:40 pm will be a Walking Tour Performance entitled “Here Come the Ecosexuals!” Presented by artists Beth Stephens, Annie Sprinkle, and their scouts, the tour will begin at their sparkly blue “Pollination Pod” and will guide participants on a wondrous journey around the IONS grounds. The adventure begins with Ecosex Orientation, followed by the location of our E-spots (ecosexy spots) and an exploration of ways to make love to the Earth through our senses. Ecosex switches the metaphor from “Earth as mother” to “Earth as lover.” Local environmental issues will be brought into the open, drama will ensue, and by the end of the tour, participants will have developed the ‘ecosexual gaze.’ Annie Sprinkle is an internationally known multimedia artist whose performance pieces based on her life as a sex worker, “Post Porn Modernist” and “Annie Sprinkle’s Herstory of Porn,” toured for nine years throughout the US and to 21 countries. In 2001 Sprinkle fell in love with artist Beth Stephens and together they produced the documentary film, “Goodbye Gauley Mountain—An Ecosexual Love Story.” Beth Stephens is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and a professor at UC Santa Cruz. Her visual and performance work has explored themes of the body, queerness, and feminism for over 25 years. She has exhibited and performed in many museums, galleries and theaters across the US and Europe. Sprinkle and Stephens will head up the first ecosexual contingent in the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 28th and invite all Earth lovers to join them.

The Ecosex Walking Tour will continue until 6 pm, but for those who would prefer to remain inside and look at visionary art, Clancy Cavnar will present images of her art work beginning at 5:30 pm. Clancy has a doctorate in clinical psychology and works at a dual diagnosis residential drug treatment center in San Francisco. She is co-editor, with Beatriz Caiuby Labate, of three books The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca (Springer, 2014); Prohibition, Religious Freedom, and Human Rights: Regulating Traditional Drug Use (Springer, 2014) and Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2014). Clancy also has a master of fine arts in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and will show images from her body of work, many of which appear on the WVC website.

After an excellent dinner prepared by the IONS chefs, the evening portion of the WVC Saturday program will begin with more art presented in the amphitheater by artist Dana Smith. Dana founded a fine arts digital press to create limited edition artwork in a project called Dana Dana Dana. The press focuses on very small edition, hand-made books and digital prints with an emphasis on working collaboratively with other artists. Dana’s longest collaboration has been with Mark McCloud, artist and renowned overseer at the Institute of Illegal Images, a massive collection of LSD related art in San Francisco. Together Dana and Mark created “LSD Barbie” in 1993, and later in 2003, started The Blotter Barn, an ongoing project to document Mark’s extensive collection of blotter papers.

The final presentation of art Saturday evening will be offered by Marc Franklin, a self taught photographer, media artist and psycho-activist. Since 1975 Marc has been immersed in experimental photography, painting and sculpture incorporating advancements in digital image making. In 1984, he designed and co-published the seminal “High Frontiers,”, a wildly experimental underground magazine, and diligently photographed nearly all the key figures of the psychedelic subculture: chemists, clinicians, researchers, artists, poets, writers, musicians, and activists. Marc’s talk, entitled “From Laura Huxley to Ina May Gaskin,” features photographic encounters with twenty prominent women explorers along with the stories behind them. After this presentation, participants who choose to may adjourn to the Full Circle Tea House for tea, stories and conversation with Carol and Michael Randall, visionary activists, artists and historians.


The final day of WVC will begin with another sublime yoga class with Yoga Ma, followed by breakfast and a reading by TEDx Poet Rachel Kann. Rachel is a modern-day mystic: irreverently reverent and exuberantly human. Rachel has performed her poetry with artists such as daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra, Marianne Williamson, Sage Francis, Saul Williams, and Rahzel, at venues such as Disney Concert Hall, Royce Hall, The Broad Stage, The San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, and the Vans Warped Tour, as well as spiritual and sacred spaces like Jewlicious Fest X aboard The Queen Mary, Agape Spiritual Center and Sinai Temple. She is a shamanic apprentice, dancer, teacher and DJ. Rachel will perform poetry entitled, “The Poetry of Transcendence: Get High, Get Off, Get Free!”

Rachel’s poetry will be followed by stories about gender, community, and spirituality presented by Jae Starfox. A queer, trans, psychedelic visionary, Jae is studying to be a radical accountant and is an experienced coordinator of restorative spaces, a lover of tea, yoga teacher, and bicycle delivery person. Jae’s transmasculine gender involves paradox and non-duality, two of the essential characteristics of unitive or mystical experience. Their personal work focuses on deepening awareness through the joyful practice of yoga, meditation, critical theory, and self love.

Each year at WVC, we invited a member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to present an update on current MAPS research. This year, the update will be presented by MAPS Public Benefit Corporation Clinical Study Assistant Allison Wilens. Allison’s talk will cover preliminary data from MAPS’ Phase 2 clinical trials in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, current timelines for FDA approval, and the rationale for formation of the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MPBC). Allison’s presentation will be followed by a second presentation from Vancouver, Canada-based Eleonora Molnar who organizes an annual WVC salon in Vancouver, BC at Simon Fraser University. Eleonora will look at the impact of international drug tourism in the Amazon basin and the appropriation of traditional indigenous practices in North and Latin America. She will explore possible ways to mitigate problematic behaviors arising from this events in North America.

The last talk on Sunday morning will be offered by Patricia Shaw Savant, aka Khats, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology and behavioral medicine, and works as a clinical psychologist in private practice. Khats leads shamanic ceremonies and sacred medicine journeys and has conducted workshops and individual shamanic healing at the Shamandome at Burning Man for the last 10 years. She will compare and discuss medicines, holotropic breathwork and shamanic techniques for entering and traveling in “inner space” to achieve healing, transformation and expanded awareness of the multiverse at large.

After lunch on Sunday, Jennifer Dumpert will lead a followup discussion of the previous day’s Oneironauticum dreaming practice where we will discuss our adventures in the dreamscape. This conversation will be followed by a presentation by Danielle Schumacher who began her career as an activist when she was appointed Executive Director of Illinois NORML and held the Youth Seat on the National NORML Board of Directors while she was a student at the University of Illinois. As the first Chancellor of Oaksterdam University Danielle worked with Richard Lee to establish America’s first cannabis college and is currently office manager for nationally noted physician Frank Lucido MD and nurse practitioner Maria Mangini PhD FNP. She will talk about the history of the cannabis movement and her newest project, THC Staffing Group, a boutique recruiting firm whose mission is to encourage diversity in the cannabis industry.

The 2015 Women’s Visionary Congress will close, as it traditionally does, with talks by community elders. The first elder will be Carolee Waidelich, founder of the Nayeli Nature Retreat in New Mexico, who lived for several years in her RV in the desert of eastern New Mexico. Carolee now resides in her RV in the woods of Northern California and will talk about how her commitment to the medicine has created a life that is utterly simple and close to the earth, animals and plants, without a lot of stuff and money. She has been working with plant medicines and their allies since 1989 when she became an apprentice and partner to a Native American medicine man and graduated from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 1995 with an M.A. in East/West Psychology. She has used her shamanic training in private practice and to offer elder wisdom to festival participants at “grandma’s cozy corner for resting.”

The final WVC presentation will be given by Rhoney Stanley, who will share stories of the visionary women of the Grateful Dead community and how their expressions of culture and family offered a different view from the complacency and materialism that they grew up with. Rhoney will talk about how these women learned from their LSD experiences to expand their artistic creativity, value the handmade, and expand their spirituality and sense of oneness with each other and with nature – then used these insights to create a community that transformed the counterculture into mainstream culture. She will draw from interviews with women who worked for and influenced the Grateful Dead and the Merry Pranksters as well as stories from her book, Owsley & Me: My LSD Family.

You can read more about each of the 2015 WVC speakers on our biography page. We look forward to seeing you at the Congress and hearing your thoughts on these remarkable presentations.

Do Not Depend On Others To Keep You Safe: Knowledge is Power in Visionary Ceremonies

For the past several years, presenters and participants at WVC gatherings have been engaged in a very interesting discussion about the ongoing mass-market commercialization of psychoactive substances and efforts to regulate them. As an increasing number of people travel to Latin America to participate in ayahuasca ceremonies, we have also heard from a growing number of women who have been abused by shamans leading these ceremonies – and other rituals involving non-ordinary states of consciousness. These stories are amplified by those who seek to create regulatory structures for these experiences. I expressed my own thoughts on these issues in my presentation at the November 2014 WVC salon in Vancouver Canada.

As the debate over the proposed regulation of these substances and ceremonies has raged on during the last few months, WVC decided that the most useful contribution our community could offer is to directly assist users of psychoactive materials to become more careful and discerning psychonauts. WVC sustains itself with very little funding and does not have the tens of thousands of dollars raised by groups who claim that they will protect the visionary community. What WVC does have is a wealth of knowledge and experience freely offered by the wise women and men of our community. After consulting with our elders and others with deep knowledge of these matters, WVC has posted a list of thoughtful and practical Safety Tips for those participating in ceremonies that use psychoactive substances.

We firmly believe that the best way to secure your safety when entering non-ordinary states of consciousness is to take steps to educate yourself and develop your own plan to address potentially hazardous situations. You should cultivate your own power and knowledge instead of depending on outside groups or individuals who offer promises of safety. The unseen world is full of potential perils, but you have it within your ability to take proactive measures and effectively address potential threats. If you would like to share your knowledge to expand on our suggestions, please contact us. If you would like to help support our gatherings where this information is shared, donate your funds or your energy.

WVC will continue to discuss these important issues at gatherings throughout the year. Our next conversation will take place February 21st in Santa Cruz, California at a book launch for Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond, a collection published by the Oxford University press and edited by WVC community members Bia Labate and Clancy Cavnar. I will be joining Bia and Clancy together with long-time WVC presenter Val Corral, co-founder of The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), the first openly operating cannabis collective in the U.S.  Moderated by Janis Phelps of CIIS, the discussion we will examine the parallels between cannabis, ayahuasca and psychedelic cultures and the current models of commodification and regulation of plant medicines. See you there.

This page contains affiliate links. When you purchase a book through an affiliate link, your costs will be the same, and WVC will receive a small commission. This helps us to cover some of the costs for this site. Thank you so much for your support!

The Shaman Woman, Plant Medicine and Psychedelics Salon

I have just returned from Canada where I attended WVC’s third annual Shaman Woman, Plant Medicine and Psychedelics Salon at Simon Fraser University in downtown Vancouver. Organized by Eleonora Molnar, the Director of WVC Canada, the event included a series of thoughtful conversations about the use and misuse of power in ceremonies that include psychoactive materials. The gathering also featured presentations by speakers who looked at the history of these substances and ways in which they shape culture, politics and our own personal search for self-knowledge. It was great fun to reconnect with a community of people in Vancouver who care deeply about these topics and have a well of insights to offer.

The salon began November 14th with a roundtable discussion. Everyone present was invited to take three minutes to introduce themselves and share their thoughts on strategies for maximizing the benefits of these ceremonies – and practical steps that participants could take to protect ourselves from potential harms and abuse of power. A number of participants recalled having beneficial experiences that supported lasting positive change in their lives. Others expressed grief and anger while reflecting on circumstances where they had been abused by shamans and others they had turned to for healing. Concrete suggestions were offered to hold such people accountable, conduct due diligence on prospective practitioners, and structure ceremonies in ways that could reduce the potential for abuse. We have posted a list of these recommendations on the WVC website which summarize many of the points made during this conversation.

The round robin format gave those in attendance several opportunities to speak. WVC events are open to people of all genders and one of the men present offered his three minute allotment for a group meditation to practice creating a circle of energetic protection around ourselves – a skill that is useful in many day-to-day situations as well as during ceremonies. I called on my own departed family members to be my guardians during this meditation and reflected that there are few spiritual traditions that do not honor ancestors in some way. This is an example of how the spirit world remains a part of our lives and can be called on when we use tools such as meditation or plant medicines to help heal and strengthen ourselves.

On November 15th, we gathered again at the university for an afternoon of presentations starting with an excellent talk entitled “Gender, Drugs and History: A Lesson in Power and Voice” by Connie Carter PhD, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. Carter reminded us how narratives about women corrupted by mind altering substances have been used for many years as the pretext for the prohibition of these materials – and how these arguments have been deployed to flame racist fears of white women being seduced by men of color. This presentation was followed by a lively talk by WVC’s emeritus advisor Carolyn Garcia which she titled, “What happened in the 1960’s? The story of how LSD became part of American culture.” Garcia, who was present at the Acid Tests and a member of the Merry Pranksters, recounted how she became one of the first people in North America to ingest Ibogaine which she accomplished by consuming a research sample at Stanford University where she worked as a laboratory assistant in the early 1960’s. The experience showed Garcia that after descending into a deep state of altered consciousness, she could cultivate the inner strength to manage the psychological impact and retain valuable information.

The third talk during the Saturday event was presented by Donna Dryer MD and Richard Yensen PhD who spoke about a research project in Vancouver that is studying the efficacy of MDMA assisted therapy for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Dryer and Yensen are serving as investigators in this important study that was initiated by psychiatrist Ingrid Pacey, MD and psychologist Andrew Feldmár. Dr. Pacey still remains the principal investigator. This research is supported by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), whose members participated in the Salon. We look forward to the findings of this important study which has the potential to develop powerful new therapies for people who have experienced trauma and have not been treated effectively with existing therapeutic tools.

The importance of addressing sexual trauma was emphasized by the next speaker, Lily K. Ross, a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School, who recounted her experience with a prominent ayahuasca shaman in Ecuador who she said drugged her with multiple transdermal and oral doses of scopolamine and sexually assaulted her for several weeks. The use of scopolamine in the commission of crimes is well-documented and by no means limited to those associated with ayahuasca. But this was certainly a cautionary story about the abuse of power. Ross views her ordeal as a perilous rite of passage and reflected on what she says has been the inclination of those who hear her story to either blame her or resist exploring the ethical dimensions. During the Salon, event organizer Eleonora Molnar made insightful observations that considered the potential for materials like ayahuasca to enchant those who use them in ritual contexts – especially people who are new to plant medicines and those who facilitate these experiences. She observed that it is important to honor the healing potential of these journeys and also to think critically about shamanic and neo-shamanic practitioners and others who present themselves as “healers” in this context.

The talk I presented at the salon looked at existing social science research into sexual misconduct by shamans and the conversations about this topic during past WVC events. I noted the rapid growth of the ayahuasca tourism industry and suggested that some of the resistance to discussing these challenging issues may be due in part to financial self-interest among the growing numbers of shamans, lodge owners and tour operators. I acknowledged that many shamans use this powerful medicine with integrity and noted the growing number of female shamans, neoshamans and ceremonies that address the need for safety during these rituals. Click here to read a transcript of this presentation.

After considering these very serious subjects, Michael Horowitz stepped up to offer a talk entitled “Antidotes to Everything” that made us laugh and remember the ego-puncturing irreverence than can accompany psychedelic experiences. The editor of books by Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary, he told a very entertaining story about visiting Leary in prison while under the influence of LSD. Horowitz co-founded the world’s first psychoactive drug library, operates Flashback Books, and produced with his wife Cynthia Palmer two groundbreaking anthologies of women’s drug experiences, Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady and Sisters of the Extreme.

The WVC Salon ended with a beautifully crafted talk by scholar Elena Andrade entitled,”The Poetics of Ayahuasca: Lessons Learned from César Calvo.” Andrade discussed how drugs can be a technology of control. She sparked an intriguing conversation about how the widespread use of anti-depressants, marketed heavily by pharmaceutical companies, may suppress our sense of outrage necessary for meaningful political reform. Andrade presented the idea that despair prompted by our present economic system increases dependence on these substances which in turn make citizens more docile and easily manipulated.

While we considered this observation, Eleonora Molnar skillfully brought the Salon to a close leaving us with an exquisite short film by Vancouver-based filmmaker Simon Haiduk. This piece of visionary art, entitled “Calling the Others,” reminded us how psychedelic experiences can renew our sense of wonder and our connection to each other and all life around us.

This page contains affiliate links. When you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your costs will be the same, and WVC will receive a small commission. This helps us to cover some of the costs for this site. Thank you so much for your support!

We the People

Welcome to Terra Firma, the blog of WVC. We are a community of thoughtful people who support investigations into non-ordinary forms of consciousness. We seek access to self knowledge and aligned, informed service to those around us. We recognize that there are many ways to cultivate our creative energy and connection to the natural world. We have named this blog Terra Firma because as we explore the world of ideas, we keep our feet firmly on solid ground. Expect measured, carefully considered commentary from contributors to this blog. And expect us to address challenging topics. Today we will look at the recent wave of measures by states to change laws governing cannabis. We support the right to cognitive liberty and look forward to the day when those who use this plant are no longer targeted for harassment or treated as second class citizens.

We are not alone. Voters in the 2014 U.S. mid-term elections acted decisively to disassemble the century-long war on drugs which has prosecuted millions of global citizens, many of them people of color. Voters passed measures to legalize cannabis for recreational use, decriminalize cannabis possession, and shorten prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Let’s begin by commending the voters of Oregon who legalized the possession, use and sale of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over. Oregon now joins Colorado and Washington which both ended the prohibition of cannabis in 2012. It will be interesting to see how Oregon spends the estimated $17 to $40 million in additional tax revenues from the sale of cannabis.

In Washington D.C., voters also sent a strong rebuke to federal prohibition by legalizing adult cannabis use, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, and home cultivation of up to six plants for personal consumption. While the sale of cannabis remains illegal in D.C., we have faith that the Council of the District of Columbia will pass a pending bill for cannabis regulation and taxation. Voters in South Portland, the fourth-largest city in Maine, removed all legal penalties for adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. They followed the lead of voters in Maine’s largest city, Portland, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2013.

Up in Alaska, voters legalized the possession, use and sale of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older who may also grow up to six plants. The Alaskan measure also legalizes the manufacture, sale and possession of cannabis paraphernalia. Not to be outdone, residents of the U.S. territory of Guam passed a medical marijuana bill by a margin of 56% joining 23 other states which have legalized medical cannabis. In Florida, 57 percent of voters supported a medical cannabis measure, but fell short of the 60% needed for passage.

My home state of California made me proud by passing Proposition 47, which reduced the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. This means that an estimated 40,000 nonviolent felonies a year for offenses like shoplifting and drug possession will now be downgraded to misdemeanors. As many as 10,000 people could be eligible for early release from California state prisons, striking a blow against decades of mass incarceration. California voters also turned down Prop 46 by 67.15% and I was among those who voted against it. Prop 46 would have created the first US law to require mandatory random drug testing of doctors. CalNorml has more information on the measure.

In New Jersey, voters passed a bail reform measure that will reduce the pre-trial incarceration of those accused of low-level drug violations. People who can’t afford bail, and are not considered a threat to the community, can now be freed through an alternative release system while awaiting trial. The Drug Policy Alliance, which championed the bill, found that almost seventy-five percent of the nearly 15,000 people in New Jersey jails are there simply because they could to afford to pay bail.

Cannabis and other materials such as LSD and psilocybin are still classified as Schedule I substances under federal law. But we expect more states to support the right to cognitive liberty by putting bills up for vote in the 2016 elections to end cannabis prohibition and by passing this legislation through actions by lawmakers. States are the laboratories of democracy in the political process. But the art and science of cultural discovery that these new laws make possible take many forms. Look to this blog for lively discussions as we continue our fight for fair governance and insights into the challenges and benefits offered by cannabis and other tools used in the exploration of consciousness.