Psychoactive substance summit set for the weekend in Gainesville

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There is no better place in Florida to hold a Sacred Mushroom Summit than Gainesville.

The city gave rise to the famed Gainesville Green marijuana strain. People gladly squished through pastures mined with cow patties in search of mind-altering fungi. Joints were regularly smoked at college football games. And ecstasy-fueled raves at Simon's downtown drew elite techno DJs from Europe.

The summit, set for Friday through Sunday at the Thomas Center, will feature lectures and presentations on the use of hallucinogens of the Americas including ayahuasca, cannabis and peyote.

Topics will include medical use, psychological, anthropological and historic aspects of the drugs, religious freedom and legal issues.

“There is a whole lot going on right now in this area,” said organizer Tom Lane, who has written books on historic use of psychoactives. “This type of medicine pre-dates the colonial days. Indigenous sages were using this in Mexico way before the colonials got here.”

Demonstrators ask for the legalization of marijuana during protests on June 2, 1980, in Gainesville. [The Gainesville Sun/File]


Hallucinogens are going through a revival. They were widely studied through the mid-1900s for medical and therapeutic value but got ground up in the war on drugs later in the century after LSD, marijuana and mushrooms were used recreationally.

Now medical marijuana is legal in many states and recreational marijuana increasingly so. Oregon voters approved a measure to legalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms in a therapeutic setting and cities such as Denver, Oakland and Santa Cruz, California, have decriminalized possession of psychoactive plants and fungi.

Take the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research for instance. It has $17 million in funding to study psilocybin — the compound that makes some mushrooms "magic" — for new treatment of psychiatric and behavioral disorders, its website states.

Research indicates its effectiveness in treating depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.

Session topics will include shamanism and the historic use of substances in Mexico and Central America. 

“We are not doing anything where there would be a reason to arrest anybody,” Lane said of the summit. “There is going to be nothing illegal.”

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