Launch of the Psychedelic Society in London

Courtesy of the Psychedelic Society

Courtesy of the Psychedelic Society

The inaugural meeting of the Psychedelic Society (PS) – Mainstreaming Psychedelics – took place in Conway Hall, London on November 3. Nearly 400 people, representing different age groups and backgrounds, gathered together to watch four short talks. The speakers, and perhaps more importantly their fields, clearly indicated the ground on which the PS plan to operate.

Prof. David Nutt, psychopharmacologist and former chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, discussed some of the latest research on psychedelics, and it was a mark of how well attended the event was that a number of the scientists Prof. Nutt cited in his talk were sat in the audience. The scientific community has made great headway with psychedelics over the last few years, and PS is clearly keen to aid this effort.

Evidence-based approaches in the sciences were also coupled with those of activism, policy, and harm reduction. There were talks from Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation; David Babbs from 38 Degrees, the activism and petition website; and Arielle Nylander, a harm reductionist who conducted research in the festival scene.

There was a real sense of not only bringing about a change in law and science, but providing for the existing psychedelic community as well – even if a number of the more experienced trippers and harm reductionists watching winced at some of the clinical terminology. I might add that rummaging through my tent at three in the morning – i.e. not preparing a ‘trip bag’ – has led to some very enjoyable adventures trying to find my way out.

And while this was certainly no 1965 Poetry Incarnation, where the scattered tribes of the British Underground came together in mutual recognition of the others, there was a seed of this energy at Conway Hall and definitely a collective sense of purpose.

Grassroots activism in the psychedelic arena takes two forms by and large, chemistry and politics, and I’ve been led to believe we’ve been short of both for some time. The timing is right for an organisation to rally political causes, just as the scientific community has been doing for a number of years, and while it remains to be seen how this will manifest in the Psychedelic Society, they’ve certainly kicked off on the right foot.

Robert Dickins

Robert Dickins is a historian, writer and editor. He is the founder of the Psychedelic Press, co-director of the Psychedelic Museum, and is currently undertaking his PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. His research interests focus on the history and literature of psychedelic substances, and the role of writing in spiritual and magical traditions during the 19th century. He is also the author of the novel 'Erin', and has occasionally be known to perform a poem or two.

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