Everyone benefits when women are involved in research. Canndora had a chance to interview some of the top women in psychedelics. Join us with Sarah Hashkes, Advisor at Red Light Holland & CEO Radix Motion and Ann Barnes, Director at Red Light Holland & CEO Edica Naturals as they speak to the current state of women in psychedelics.
Sarah: Working with RLH is more like creating a revolution than work. They bring with them production abilities, specialists in distribution, marketing and branding and I bring with me a team of immersive technologists and my neuroscience research in psychedelics. Together we are trying to take psychedelics in general, and microdosing in particular from underground to mainstream. We are trying to create informed consumers that have access to the latest expert data and best technological tools to make the most out of microdosing.
The benefits from the recent partnership, where Radix Motion is going to build a Digital Care Program for people interested in microdosing is immense. We will accompany customers from the first time they encounter iMicrodose products in Smartshops via the iMicrodose Media Information Centre ("iMIC") with educational interactive virtual and augmented reality apps that showcase the latest science in super fun ways and let people get a glimpse into the psychedelic state even before trying any truffles. The core of the digital care program is a privacy first iMicrodose Journal, a web app where people can anonymously document their microdosing and receive data driven analytics that will help them make informed choices around their usage. The app will use Radix Motion's expertise in biometric human pose data to give people feedback on whether microdosing has measurable effects on reducing their physiological tension or influences other features of their body posture. People using the digital care program will be able to opt in to share their anonymous data with the wider community allowing for substantial advancements in research.
Ann: I’m a “reformed” Corporate Securities Counsel and a serial entrepreneur. My passion is “plant-based everything”, so I founded a number of plant-based businesses, namely: Source Salba (Branded Chia), Mum’s Original Inc. (Plant-Based Hemp and Superfood Line), Peace Naturals (Medical Cannabis – now Cronos) and Edica Naturals (Plant-Based Supplements). Just over a year ago, I was travelling back home on a redeye from a Vegas Cannabis Conference when I met the ever-effervescent Todd Shapiro, Red Light Holland’s CEO. The “Psilocybin-Bug” was borne!
I am honoured to be an active Director of RLH since its launch into the capital markets in August of 2020. My role as a Director is based upon two principal duties—a fiduciary duty and a duty of care. My responsibility is to help guide RLH based upon its shareholder and management goals and to act honestly and in good faith, with a view to the best interests of the corporation. I meet with Todd and the management team regularly, along with other Directors and professional advisors, to help attain the management business goals set while maintaining regulatory, legal and corporate compliance. I am also the appointed Chair of the Compensation Committee at RLH which requires me to assist in the review of Senior Management level compensation packages and various senior level human resource issues.
Within these two roles, I help to provide advice and strategy on moving the business constructively forward. I believe that my corporate and legal training, coupled with my capital markets skills and grass roots cannabis entrepreneurial experience helps to provide RLH and its Board with greater strategic diversity.
What do you think the best outcome for psychedelics would be in the next couple years?
Ann: I believe that the psychedelics industry is at a tipping point. Although the psychedelic industry has had serious science behind it for decades, much of it was unfortunately discarded, dismissed or discontinued due to political pressure and collective cultural myopia. Unlike the cannabis industry, that had very little research and science to back it up, the psychedelics are at the forefront of the mental health movement.
Mental health issues have been elevated as a social concern – much due to the staggering increases of mental issues including anxiety, depression and PTSD. The opioid pain medication crisis has also led to an understanding of the foundational mental health issues attached to pain management. The pandemic and its effects have also been a major catalyst in raising awareness for mental health issues. With greater scientific results identifying the mental health benefits of psychedelics and increased mental health awareness, I believe that this psychedelic industry is going to ignite.
Reviewing the cannabis model and what went “wrong” or “right”, I believe that the science based community that is established and rich in psychedelics will be what propels them forward at lightening speed. My hope is that the governmental regulators can review the substantive scientific data and understand the incredible potential that is right in front of us. I am also hopeful that plant-based medicine is understood on its very own merits, and that each psychedelic is approached with the respect that is due to each on its own merits and specific applications.
What effect has your research had on the psychedelic space since you began?
Sarah: My paper was published in 2017. It took around 2 years for many of the experts in the field to start citing me (14 citations, but who's counting) and agreeing with the idea I put out there. The theory is that the main mechanism of psychedelics is that top-down predictions in affected brain areas break up and decompose into many more overly detailed predictions due to hyper activation of 5-HT2A receptors in layer V pyramidal neurons because psilocybin binds to these receptors. My paper was a unified theoretical account that explained the various and sometimes contradictory effects of psychedelics such as hallucination, heightened sensory input, synesthesia, increased trait of openness, ‘ego death’ and time dilation by showing that all these effects are happening due to an up-regulation of a variety of mechanisms the brain can use to minimize the increased prediction error under the constraint of decomposed prediction.
Despite academic recognition, the theory isn’t known to most people which is why I’m so excited about collaborating with RLH and creating the VR experience that will put this knowledge in front of a lot of people. I think this theory is especially helpful for people who take psychedelics as well as their caregivers, mental health practitioners and therapists.
We understand that Red Light Holland is currently producing in the Netherlands. With your international experience, who else is making great advancements in the psychedelic industry, and what are they doing?
Ann: The psychedelic industry is currently going in a number of directions.
The first is the “retail model” or the “RLH model” as I like to call it. RLH was the first company in the world to legally sell psilocybin as a retail product. So I have an enormous amount of respect for Todd Shapiro and his Red Light Holland (TRIP) team for accomplishing this. Other national jurisdictions will likely legalize as international awareness and education increase on this emerging industry.
Many businesses are combining the retail aspect of medicinal (not Medical/Magic) mushrooms in an effort to be front and centre when the psilocybin market opens up with legalization. Companies I love in this space are Mydecine Innovations (MYCOF) which is focusing on getting a medicinal mushroom manufacturing plant up and running. Like my own company, Edica Naturals, they are also pursuing medicinal mushroom based supplements with Health Canada and FDA claims attached to plant-based supplements.
Other business models include the “bricks and mortar” treatment centers to administer psychedelics in an institutional or treatment centre setting. Some companies are expanding with an international focus for on site treatment centers with a mental health focus. I am closely watching Field Trip (FTRP) for this reason and think highly of their management team.
The fourth business opportunity is the intellectual property strategy whereby there is an owned protocol or compound that will be pharmaceutically based and requires long-term clinical and medical studies. In this space, MindMed (MIND) is the one I am watching due to their strong management team, excellent science/IP and long term strategic plans.
Can you tell us if research has found sex differences regarding the effects of psychedelics?
Sarah: I’d be a crappy scientist if I didn’t first say how much the boxes of “male” and “female” are over simplifying the biodiversity in our human population. When we do science we always ask what we are measuring. Are we measuring hormonal differences? Chromosomal differences? External genitalia differences? Because these things are not always overlapping. Most papers do not find differences in the effects of psychedelics based on external genitalia or hormones, although a few papers do. I’ll be talking about this in more detail on the panel along with anecdotal evidence regarding how psychedelics are helping people feel comfortable with their gender identity.
Who else has been down the road before you? Share who’s inspiring you in the industry.
Sarah: I was inspired by meeting Amanda Feilding at one of the conferences. She was so energetic. She’s been researching psychedelics since the 60’s. She founded the Beckley Foundation that has funded much of the latest research in psychedelics and is a co-author of 50 papers herself. She lived through the rise and fall of the first psychedelic wave and it’s inspiring that she faced all the negative bias that has come with “the war on drugs” since the 70’s and has kept pushing forward never giving up.
Ann: I have had a pretty unpredictable career path so there are not many people that have “been down the road” before me. Although I would acknowledge the really early management teams at LP’s that started out in Canada – we all had a terrible time in the beginning. I also acknowledge the many pioneers in the early years of hemp licensing / sales and the plant-based health and wellness community.
In terms of who is inspiring me in the industry – I would say that Paul Stamets is a hero to me.
I think that the work that he has done to educate and inform people about the magical world of fungi and the incredible world beneath our very feet is outstanding. I think he should run our planet – or at least Canada. This man is a wondermind of the wildest kind and I have the utmost respect for what he and his team of scientists have accomplished. He also has been able to identify how you can make great money being green (or brown) – for example his incredible discovery of fungi and how it can naturally eat through oil and mop up oil spills. He is the best example of natural brilliance.
I am also inspired by all of the grass roots activists that have been fighting for years in their own backyards at various levels for a voice: local council, state, province, municipality and city. They have paved the way for this to all become real.
Catch Ann & Sarah at WWC Conference May 26-27th, 2021.