2017 has been a year deep reflection for the Women’s Visionary Council (WVC). After a decade of organizing our annual Women’s Visionary Congress and other gatherings in the U.S. and Canada, we took a step back this year to reexamine our mission. The WVC was created to provide a platform for women who were treated as second class citizens in vital discussions about non-ordinary states of consciousness. When the WVC first began inviting female researchers, healers, activists and artists to speak at our events, there were few women included in public conversations about these topics. While women made up a large proportion of research subjects for investigations into the therapeutic uses of MDMA, psilocybin and other substances, there were few female researchers invited to speak at gatherings where these studies were crafted and examined. Female investigators pursuing qualitative versus quantitative research were often sidelined. As women’s use of alcohol and opiates began to escalate, few people examined women’s use of cannabis and other alternative substances. Women activists, who stepped forward to change cannabis laws, as they did historically to end alcohol prohibition, did not receive the same recognition and support as their male counterparts.

The WVC was created in 2008 to provide a platform to redress the longstanding imbalance of opportunities between women and men to present their research and perspectives in vital discussions about non-ordinary states of consciousness. When the WVC first began inviting female researchers, healers, activists and artists to speak at our events, there were few women included in public conversations about these topics. While women made up a large proportion of research subjects in investigations into the therapeutic uses of MDMA, psilocybin and other substances, and were often the member of the research team working most closely with subjects, there were few female researchers invited to speak at gatherings where these studies were developed and examined.

As quantitative research is generally recognized as a standard for rigorous investigation, the pervasive failure to appreciate the value of qualitative research, which is more frequently pursued by female researchers, undervalued the contributions of these women. Little attention has also been paid to the use of of alcohol and opioids by women and few people have examined women’s use of cannabis and other alternative substances. As it was with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, pioneering women activists, who stepped forward to change cannabis laws did not receive the same recognition and support as their male counterparts.

The WVC has stepped forward to push for the inclusion of women’s perspectives in these discussions – and we have succeeded and prevailed. Today at academic and professional conferences where these topics are discussed, women make up at least half the speakers – and many got their start presenting at our events. A growing number of female researchers are entering this field and there is more respect for the rigor of qualitative inquiries. Women are now recognized as leaders in changing laws that support a racist drug war. There is still much to be done in equalizing the role of women in these efforts, but the past decade has seen substantial progress in the inclusion and recognition of female voices.

Other topics that the WVC championed have now also been embraced by mainstream culture. Years before the revolution sparked by the #MeToo movement, WVC spoke out about the sexual abuse and harassment of women participating in ceremonies that use psychedelic substances. In 2014, the WVC membership began collectively developing a series of Safety Tips that were translated and republished by organizations around the world. As increasing number of women participate in these ceremonies, the WVC continues to receive messages from people of all genders seeking safety advice and support after abusive encounters.

The WVC has also been on the forefront of education about the safe and effective use of cannabis, which will become legal for recreational use in our home state of California on January 1. In March of this year, we held our first annual Women & Cannabis Salon creating a platform for respected women leaders in this industry to share their experiences and wisdom. We heard from nine women pioneers in the fields of cannabis medicine, business, cultivation, activism and research in Oakland, CA. The following day we gathered for a cannabis oriented recipe exchange and cooking class. Click here to view videos of the presentations made at the event.

The WVC has also led educational efforts to help address the opioid crisis and the impact of adulterated substances. In July 2017, WVC launched its second annual workshop series on risk reduction and drug safety skills. Participants received training in the use of Naloxone/Narcan, which blocks the effects of opioids and helps prevents overdose deaths. WVC trainers also provided instruction in accurately measuring liquids and powders to help prevent overdose and the use of reagent testing kits to check for the presence of potentially deadly adulterants. As the only organization to provide training in all three of these skills, we are seeking support to continue to offer these workshops and Naloxone kits at no cost to participants.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to WVC to help fund our upcoming programs. When you donate $75 or more, you will become a member of the organization and will have access to our membership newsletter and the ability to nominate speakers, scholarship recipients, and grant recipients to the board.

A Focus On Inclusiveness

In the coming year, the WVC will continue to focus on health and safety initiatives. We plan to extend our risk reduction workshops and discussions around sexual assault in psychedelic ceremonies. The WVC is also planning our second weekend-long Salon in New York this year. Our last gathering in 2016 was extremely successful and we look forward to reconnecting with our east coast community once again. The WVC is also planning to organize another women and cannabis event in the near future to create an opportunity for women – especially women of color – to thrive in the rapidly changing cannabis industry. We’ll be working to ensure that these conversations include non-English speaking communities and will begin to translate the WVC website into Spanish.

While the WVC privileges the voices of women, all our activities will continue to welcome people of all genders interested in the expansion of consciousness through many means including the dream state, art, spiritual, and physical disciplines. Our new focus on sustainable food systems and traditional cooking skills that support our internal psychobiome will continue in 2018 with another presentation of our annual home canning class and community dinner. Twenty-six participants joined us at Cybele Farm in Grass Valley, CA in November of this year, where chef Emma Sanchez taught us how to make applesauce, sauerkraut and pickled vegetables as our grandmothers did.

The Women’s Visionary Congress will again return in the fall of 2018 with a focus on these topics – and also more up to date information about the therapeutic and spiritual uses of expanded states of consciousness. We’ll examine both qualitative and quantitative research as well as indigenous and experiential ways of knowing. The WVC is emphasizing its commitment to work for the inclusion of people from many cultures whose insights into the use of sacred plant medicines are essential for social and scientific understanding of these substances. The WVC is currently determining a location and date for the 2018 Women’s Congress and we’ll be in touch to let you know more information.

Donations and Grants 

None of the projects that the WVC has created and shared with our members over the last decade would have been possible without support from our donors. We would like to thank the River Styx Foundation, Pilar Starr Woodman, and the Sarlo Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund for their generous donations to the WVC in 2017. We would also like to thank our WVC members for their support and all those who have attended WVC events. A portion of the ticket sales to these events goes toward WVC programs. We would also like to thank the many volunteers who have donated their time to help organize, manage and webcast WVC events. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to WVC and becoming a member of the organization to support our work in the new year.

Thanks to the generosity of our community, the WVC continued this year to award grants to exceptional women and organizations who advance our mission. In November, we awarded a grant to Dr. Julie Holland to host a Women in Psychedelic Research networking event at the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Atlanta, GA. The event was attended by approximately 40 women and men including many young and transgender people. Dr. Holland is a psychiatrist, psychophamacologist, and former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. She is the author of several books and serves as a medical monitor for multiple therapeutic studies investigating the utility of MDMA and cannabis in treating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The WVC also made a grant in 2017 to the Upcycle Clothing project in New Mexico founded by visionary artist and WVC presenter Jean Nichols The WVC has a long history of supporting and promoting the work of women artists who serve their communities. Upcycle Clothing creates opportunities for women in Mora County, New Mexico to earn money by creating fashionable garments from used clothing. This project helps women learn new skills, work at home, and provide for their families in a small county with few jobs. The WVC grant will help the organization rent space where the ladies can work together a few days a week and mentor young women who are launching themselves the larger world.

Hello and Goodbye to WVC Staff

As the WVC continues to reach out to new communities of friends and allies, our own team here in the San Francisco Bay Area is undergoing changes. After significantly expanding our programing and digital communications, Anne Tara Szostek will be moving on to a new job in the health care sector in the new year. She will continue to use her sound judgment and digital acumen as WVC’s Secretary and webmistress. Kati Silva, a graduate student and community leader has now stepped into the role of WVC’s new Program Coordinator. Kati’s insights into the vital role of ceremony in healing traditions were shared in her presentation at the 2016 Women’s Congress entitled The Importance of Ceremony on the Spiritual Path. She will be using her extensive organizational skills for WVC program administration and digital promotion, and will be sending updates about upcoming events and projects in the new year.

Kristel Peterson, who has served as our events registrar, is also leaving the WVC. Kristel brought her solid ideas and fine management skills to our events. We will miss her deft hand and tremendous positive energy. The WVC also saw the resignation of Denis Berry from our board of directors in 2017. Denis offered wisdom, gravitas and nonprofit expertise that greatly benefitted the WVC. She will continue as an emerita board member together with a group of extraordinary women including former board member Diana Slattery, and our first board president Carolyn Garcia.

Together with our group of senior women advisors and our allies, the WVC is setting a clear course for the next decade. Thank you for your continued support for our community, our projects and our gatherings. We wish you all joyful holidays, peace in your hearts, and a visionary New Year.

With love and gratitude,

The Women of the WVC

Board Members
Annie Oak, President
Mariavittoria Mangini, Treasurer
Anne Tara Szostek, Secretary

Kati Silva, Program Coordinator
Eleonora Molnar, Director WVC Canada

Emerita Board Members
Carolyn Garcia
Diana Slattery
Denis Berry

Emerita Financial Wizard
Patricia Tierney