2017 Year in Review

Dear everyone in the extended Psymposia community,

2017 was a special year for us. We want to thank each and every one of you who has volunteered, read an article, come out to an event, sent us a message, hopped on the phone, offered advice, schemed, supported us in any way, and everything in between. We were constantly on the move organizing as many events and attending as many conferences as we could. We’re not even sure how many cities and countries we’ve been to. We lost count.

We especially want to thank our team and all of our generous supporters on Patreon. None of this would be possible without your collective support. We’re continually amazed at where this is going and we’re just enjoying the ride.

So, here’s some of our favorite highlights from 2017.

Thank you!



January: Wisconsin

To kick off 2017, we hopped on a plane to freezing cold Viroqua, WI for the 2017 Driftless Psychedelic Therapy Symposium.

Steve the conference organizer invited Psymposia to host Psychedelic Stories at the dinner on Saturday night. Our favorite one was the ayahuasca story from the town’s chiropractor. And the next day we joined Dennis McKenna and got our backs cracked in his office. The Wisconsin trip was highly influential on the rest of our year.

Psychedelic Stories at the Driftless Psychedelic Therapy Symposium, Viroqua, WI; On stage: Lex Pelger


Dennis likes to scheme and so do we. He mentioned something about a 50th anniversary conference on psychoactive plants in a castle in England? Interesting. Ok. Let’s reroute our return flight and talk about this on the long car ride to Minneapolis.


Brian Normand, Dennis McKenna, Eric Storlie, Robert J Barnhart, John Harrison, Mike Margolies



April: Oakland, Psychedelic Science 2017

A big highlight of the year was participating in Psychedelic Science 2017. It was a historic six-day gathering in Oakland, CA that brought together the international psychedelic and scientific communities.

In late 2016 MAPS invited us to the conference. Of course we said yes, and we started to plan the Psymposia Stage. At first we thought it would just be a place to host all the freaks who don’t wear ties, but it turned into a conference-within-the-conference — a full weekend of talks, stories, live podcasts, and conversations about the future of psychedelic science, medicine, policy, and culture.

If you missed it, the whole livestream replay is still available on our Facebook page.


Psychedelic Science 2017


Leading partner aye? Cool.


Psymposia Stage at Psychedelic Science 2017


We set up shop in an airport hangar-sized conference room in the Oakland Marriott.


Psymposia Stage at Psychedelic Science 2017; Duncan Trussell, Android Jones, Bruce Damer


Friday night started off with a VR show with comedian Duncan Trussell and artist Android Jones, followed by a live podcast. Bruce Damer joined them. The stage and room were then transformed into a strange Marriott rave which the New York Times picked up on.

We’re not really ravers so were hanging off to the side with Duncan and a group of attendees curious about the rapé tobacco snuff. You can listen to Duncan describe what transpired here.


Psymposia Stage at Psychedelic Science 2017; Cosmic Sister Psychedelic Feminism panel with (from left) Katie Bain, Selma Holden, Faye Sakellaridis, Neşe Devenot, and moderated by Leia Friedman


Psymposia Stage at Psychedelic Science 2017; MAPS Podcast hosted by Zach Leary. From left: Lex Pelger, Shane Mauss, Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Zach Leary


Psymposia in San Francisco; Mike Margolies, Brian Normand, Daniel Shankin

A trip to Oakland is incomplete without a stroll around The Mission, San Francisco, to find vegetarian cheese steaks with our web guy Dan who helped us launch our new website just in time for the conference.



April-May: Blue-Dot Tour

A conference wasn’t enough. Lex convinced us to do a two-month 22 city cross-continent tour on the way there and back. Partially inspired by the January storytelling night in Viroqua, we planned to target blue cities in red states and called it the Blue-Dot Tour. As it turned out, we were also invited to red cities in blue states and everything in between. The name stuck anyway.

Each event was built in collaboration with the local psychedelic community, ranging from small groups around the campfire to hundreds in bars. Many of these evenings became episodes on the Psychedelic Salon podcast.

You can read all about the tour here in our recap.


San Diego

On the San Diego stop, we were joined by the father of the Psychedelic Salon himself, Lorenzo Hagerty.

Lorenzo Hagerty, founder of the Psychedelic Salon, shares a story about his time with McKenna, Shulgin, and friends from the Entheobotany conferences held in Palenque, Mexico in the 90’s.


The next day we ventured over to Lorenzo’s place and beautiful gardens.

Lorenzo Hagerty, Brian Normand, Matt Pallamary, Mike Margolies



June: England & Ireland

We mentioned scheming with Dennis McKenna in Wisconsin about a psychoactive plant conference in an English castle. It actually happened. After the January trip, we assembled a team and had endless Zoom calls.

Dennis had been strongly influenced by a 1967 San Francisco symposium called the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs. It was the first international, interdisciplinary group of specialists – from ethnobotanists to neuroscientists – who gathered in one place to share their findings on the use of psychoactive plants in indigenous societies.

On the 50th anniversary, we again brought together an international group of specialists in the UK to share their perspectives on ethnopharmacology. We called it ESPD50.




Tyringham Hall is an 18th century manor house about an hour north of London, replete with perfectly symmetrical rose gardens and statues of gods and goddesses spitting water, and oversized stone heads of historical figures.


Tyringham Hall


Following ESPD50, Mike hopped over to Ireland and then London for Breaking Convention 2017, a multidisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness, featuring more than 150 presenters from around the world.

Our Breaking Convention edition of Psychedelic Stories featured an all-star lineup including MAPS founder Rick Doblin, Hopkins psychedelic researcher Bill Richards, and former underground psychedelic therapist Friederike Meckel Fischer. You can watch some of the stories here.


Body & Soul Festival, Ireland; On stage: Mike Margolies and Ciara Sherlock of the Psychedelic Society of Ireland
Psychedelic Stories at Breaking Convention, London; On stage: Stefana Bosse of the UK Psychedelic Society


Rick Doblin has been our most featured storyteller. He’s always got a rabbit in the hat to pull out.




July: Baltimore

Back home in Baltimore, we met up with our friend Jeff Regis from Red Bull. In a nearby loft, they were hosting Red Bull Amaphiko, an ongoing project that works with entrepreneurs and social activists in areas that need it most, like the favelas in Brazil or right here in Baltimore. While we weren’t part of the project, we were invited to host a series of events at their loft about psychedelic science and the war on drugs. Awesome.

One of our events was Addiction & The Drug War, a conversation featuring Neill Franklin, Executive Director of LEAP, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), and David Fakunle and Deborah Pierce-Fakunle, who facilitate social trauma recovery through storytelling with DiscoverME/RecoverME.


Addiction & the Drug War, Baltimore; Right to left: Neill Franklin, Deborah Pierce-Fakunle, David Fakunle, Mike Margolies


Brian, Mike, Jeff. Thank you Jeff for always being awesome.



August: Oregon Eclipse

In August, Mike headed out to the Oregon Eclipse festival to host Psychedelic Stories and a conversation with the people behind the ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis in DC and psilocybin services in Oregon.


Psychedelic Stories at Oregon Eclipse; On stage: Melissa Warner of the Australian Psychedelic Society


Grassroots Legalization conversation at Oregon Eclipse; On stage: Adam Eidinger and Tom and Sheri Eckert



September: Vienna, Austria & Prague, Czech Republic

That first January trip to Wisconsin planted another seed: iboga/ibogaine. We had bunked with MAPS ibogaine researcher Thomas Kingsley Brown in a small cabin in the woods. Ibogaine doesn’t really come up too often, so naturally when in the presence of a leading researcher, we wanted to know more. Why does this work at treating opiate/opioid addiction? What’s it like? Is it neurochemistry or the subjective experience? Are they two sides of the same coin?

During the summer, we started talking more about ibogaine. It’s a fascinating molecule that sits in the middle of plant medicine, addiction treatment, psychedelic science, and harm reduction. People talk about its profound ability to eliminate opioid cravings and withdrawals. And unlike other psychedelics, ibogaine can be fatal.

So in September, we flew out to the European Ibogaine Forum in Vienna to learn more. Psymposia writer Jordan May met and interviewed ibogaine researchers, providers, and users from around the world and began laying the groundwork for The Ibogaine Conversation in Psymposia Magazine.

And naturally, we also hosted the ibogaine edition of Psychedelic Stories.


European Ibogaine Forum, Vienna


Psymposia in Vienna; Mike Margolies and Jordan May


At the end of September, we returned to Prague for the second year for another round of Psychedelic Stories at the International Transpersonal Conference. Psymposia editor Zoe Biehl even joined us! She’s based out of Tel Aviv and has been working with us for over a year, but we hadn’t even met in person. The weirdness of the internet…


Psymposia at the International Transpersonal Conference, Prague; Clockwise from bottom: Leia Friedman, Zoe Biehl, Mike Margolies



October: New York

For the last 3 years we’ve organized the “unofficial” afterparty for the Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference in New York City. Each year we try to make it bigger and better than the last. In 2016 we did Psychedelic Stories, so we needed to change it up. There’s a lot of buzz about microdosing and the opinions are all over the place: it works and it’s great, there’s possible issues with the heart from overuse, there’s really no scientific studies so be careful, why not just do a standard dose that has proven beneficial effects instead of taking tiny amounts? On and on and on. Everyone has an opinion.

Duncan Trussell was the headline storyteller in 2016, so we asked him to be the host this year. The idea was simple: a conversation in the middle of the room surrounded by a live audience. We also invited Hamilton Morris (VICELAND’s Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia), Katherine MacLean, Sophia Korb, and Paul Austin to be on the panel.

(Plug: Supporters at Patreon can watch the livestream replay and $5+ supporters can download the audio.)


Microdosing with Duncan Trussell & Friends, Brooklyn, NY


Brian entered the ring on the Duncan Trussell Family Hour to promote the event while enjoying organic yogurt covered almonds and the company of Duncan’s cute dogs.





October: Atlanta

Our travels continued onwards to Atlanta, GA for the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, a biennial event that brought together more than 1,500 attendees from around the world who believe that the war on drugs must end.

Psymposia writer Alex Lekhtman joined and interviewed speakers and attendees. You can check out his article and video covering the conference.




December: The Ibogaine Conversation

After several months of work and many interviews and planning, we officially launched The Ibogaine Conversation, a multi-part series that explores everything from iboga’s traditional use in Gabon, Africa, to its ability to treat opioid addiction and withdrawal, to its safety and very real risks.

The series features as many diverse perspectives as we could find, including Bwiti healers in Gabon, a MAPS researcher, above and underground providers, and people who have used iboga[ine] in both traditional and medical contexts.

Stay tuned for the concluding pieces the first week of 2018.



Thanks and see you in 2018!

P.S. Big announcement about Mexico in February coming soon.