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Second Annual Exploring Psychedelics to Bring an Academic Focus to a Blurry Topic


Southern Oregon has been somewhat of a psychedelic hotbed in recent years. Groups like the Santo Daime and Native American churches of Ashland have both won Federal Court cases for the right to use psychedelic substances during their religious ceremonies, and then there is the booming green economy. And despite stereotype, psychedelics are no longer just about parties in an elaborately painted bus. There is a renewed push in academia, medicine and the arts for open, honest and informed discussion about their use and potential.

Building off that, Southern Oregon University will be hosting the second annual Exploring Psychedelics Conference Thurs., June 4 and Fri., June 5.

The conference will be a 2-day event that aims to present diverse and accurate information about psychedelics with presenters from the United States, Mexico, Canada and Australia. It’s free and open to the public, and the schedule is available online.

Conference organizer Martin W. Ball Ph.D is particularly excited about speakers who are breaking down the stereotypes, such as Dr. Octavio Rettig Hinojosa, MD who works for the United Nations using 5-MeO-DMT to help drug addicts with recovery and withdrawal.

“He is a man working at the International level successfully using psychedelics as therapy,” says Ball.

Therapeutic potential is the legal argument that is perceived amongst advocates as the most legitimate and also more likely to lead to legalization, or at least decriminalization. However some fear that would undercut the shamanic, religious, spiritual or lifestyle models of use.

“There is a fear among some people that psychedelics will become institutionalized,” says Ball. “You shouldn’t have to have something wrong with you in order to take psychedelics. They are so much bigger than that. Sometimes you just want to take them.”

Ball will be giving the conference’s opening lecture on the topic of different models of use, including religious and shamanic, as well as scientific.

But are psychedelics appropriate for recreational use outside these models? Ball says yes.

“Psychedelics can be used as contemplative tools, useful in visionary art and music,” he says. “They enhance experiences like concerts, dancing, massage, hiking, really most anything. It’s all about dosage and the effects of particular medicines.”

Other presentations at the conference will include a roundup of the current scientific research from SOU psychology instructor Matt Vogel, a History and Overview of the Santo Daime Church, numerous presentations on spirituality a presentation on “psychedelic parenting” from writer Jonathan Thompson and more.

Ball argues one of  the reasons a conference like this is required is that we must have an open and honest conversation about psychedelics is to educate others on how to use them safely.

“In higher doses it can become difficult for someone to distinguish what’s going on in their mind compared to out in the world but by having people around you who know what is happening and how to take care of you these risks can be minimized, just like wearing a helmet,” he says. “If psychedelics become legal then we could offer things like safety training courses on how much is safe and what are safe experiences.”

For example: using psychedelics at Burningman can be a wonderful and magical experience but there is danger in becoming lost and dehydrated in the desert.

Ball believes that Psychedelics will eventually be taken off the federal schedule because of landmark cases where churches won the rights to use their psychedelic substances under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“With a conference like this, we can help to highlight contradictions and irony in the law,” he says. “5-MeO-DMT and Ibogaine are legal for therapeutic use in Canada and Mexico but here in the United States they are not.”

Martin believes that they are bringing in people with real, practical, hands on knowledge.

“From a medical perspective these psychedelics are far safer than vast amounts of prescription drugs,” he says. “They are non-toxic, non-addictive, and provide some people with the most important experiences they’ve had in their lives, so what’s wrong with that?”


Exploring Psychedelics Conference

9:30am, Thur., June 4, 6pm, Fri., June 5

Rogue River Room, Stevenson Union, Southern Oregon University, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland


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