Daniel Greig

The first ever 920 was a success! The 920 Coalition, a network of nonprofit organizations and like-minded individuals, coordinated over 30 events worldwide to raise awareness and inform the public about psilocybin’s properties. Hosted by CSSDP Toronto, the 920 Toronto event sold out, with many above capacity dropping in throughout the day. Many in attendance seemed motivated by their personal experiences, others by curiosity.

As psilocybin mushrooms are being investigated for their therapeutic effects, which are most often accompanied by profound spiritual experiences, it is hardly surprising that the first talk by pharmacist Wende Wood ended with a spontaneous and supportive story sharing session. Wende’s talk covered certain benefits that psilocybin could provide if incorporated into a psychiatrist’s medication repertoire and challenged some of the misinformation surrounding the compound. It could prove to be a promising treatment for a number of existential ailments such as anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, and OCD. Unlike psychiatric medications which require long-term, often daily use, psilocybin can exert lasting positive effects often after a single session.

The history of psychedelic prohibition was the topic of the second speaker, Zoe Cormier. She is a Toronto-born journalist and author of ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science,’ who now resides in the United Kingdom. Many were surprised to find that much of the early research into LSD was performed in a Saskatchewan hospital by Dr. Humphrey Osmond. Dr. Osmond was behind Aldous Huxley’s exposure to mescaline, the psychedelic compound found in the Peyote, San Pedro, and Peruvian Torch cacti, among others. This experience became the topic of Huxley’s influential book, ‘The Doors of Perception’. Though psilocybin mushrooms were introduced to the Western world in the 1950s by R. Gordon Wasson, they quickly faded into obscurity and out of the researcher’s grasp with the introduction of drug war legislation which classified all psychedelic compounds as dangerous to the public and lacking in any medical value. This legislation has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as scientists are once again bringing psychedelics into the mainstream of research in psychiatry, neuroscience, and consciousness studies.

To bring our audience up to speed with the current state of affairs, keynote speaker Teri Krebs discussed the need to reassess psilocybin legislation as a human rights issue. She is a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and co-founder of EmmaSofia, a nonprofit working from a cognitive liberty and human rights approach to protect the rights of people who use MDMA and psychedelics. As it is absurdly expensive to legally obtain any sort of psychedelic compound at present, with price tags as high as $12,000 per gram of psilocybin, EmmaSofia also aims to expand access to research quality MDMA and psilocybin.

The event ended with a screening of “Little Saints: Eat a Mushroom, Talk to God.” This documentary follows six travelers undergoing a shamanic ritual of the Mazatec tradition. The film aptly expresses the tendency of psilocybin to result in profound spiritual experiences. While 9/20 was a day of inspiration for anyone invested in the policy and research behind psilocybin, there is still much work to be done! Next year’s series of events will certainly be a thing to look out for as our scientific knowledge on psilocybin,and psychedelics in general, continues to expand.