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Law & Ethics: The Psychedelics Industry & Indigenous Peoples, A PBA Four-Part Series

This 2023 forum series brings together some of the world’s most engaged Indigenous scholars and psychedelic lawyers to explore legal and ethical frameworks of Indigenous Peoples and Western psychedelic medicine and business. Non-lawyers are also encouraged to attend. The cross-cultural issues addressed in this series are foundational to all spokes of the psychedelic economy. Developing a relationship with them is valuable for any professional seeking to competently guide their psychedelic organizations.

Part 2

The Psychedelics Industry & Indigenous Peoples

This week at Psychedelic Science 2023, PBA will present Part 2 of the Law & Ethics series, Opening Our Toolbox for Ethical IP. If you are unable to join us in person, don’t worry, this discussion will be recorded and up on the website here after it has taken place!

June 20, 2023 @ 4:55 pm MT

Psychedelic Science 2023, Denver CO (a live recording will be available post-event)


Dr. Joseph Barsuglia

Dr. Joseph Barsuglia is a clinical psychologist, psychedelic researcher, clinician, and advisor with expertise in iboga, ibogaine, and 5-MeO-DMT. He was a co-investigator in the MAPS-sponsored MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD phase 2 trials in Los Angeles. He serves as an advisor to multiple psychedelic treatment clinics, retreat centers, non-profits, and investment funds at the forefront of psychedelic innovation and ethical stewardship, which include Journey Colab, The Mission Within, Beond, Psychedelic Journeys, Woven Science, Lionheart Ventures, and Tandava Retreats.

Chris Byrnes, JD, MTS

Chris Byrnes, JD, MTS (he/him) is an intellectual property lawyer advising cannabis and psychedelic initiatives on patenting, web3, commoning, and ethical licensing. He is an attorney at Calyx Law, a Member of the Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants at Chacruna Institute, and general counsel for Copyleft Cultivars.

Rebecca Lee Whiting

Rebecca Lee Whiting is the founder of Epigram Legal P.C., where she provides legal services and advice to early stage tech startups, founders, nonprofits, and individual tech employees and executives across multiple industries, including psychedelics, pharmaceutical development, software, and artificial intelligence. Rebecca also serves as the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Journey Colab, a psychedelic biotech startup based in San Francisco. Over the course of her career, Rebecca has represented and advised a variety of individuals, organizations, and state and local public entities in contract negotiations, legislative matters, and high-stakes impact litigation at all levels of the state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. A graduate of Yale College and the UC Berkeley School of Law, Rebecca began her legal career as a federal law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Graham Pechenik

Graham Pechenik is a registered patent attorney and the founder of Calyx Law, a law firm specializing in cannabis and psychedelics related intellectual property. Graham has a BS from UC San Diego, where he chose his Cognitive Neuroscience and Biochemistry majors after his first psychedelic experiences inspired deep curiosity about the bases for changes in consciousness, and a JD from New York University, where he initially pursued interests in bioethics and cognitive liberty. After a decade at large law firms defending and challenging patents for Fortune 500 companies across the agricultural, chemical, pharmaceutical, biotech, and technology industries, including working on several landmark patent cases both at trial and on appeal, Graham started Calyx Law in 2016 to help cannabis and psychedelics ventures design and implement their IP strategies. Graham is also editor-at-large of Psychedelic Alpha, where he writes about psychedelics IP, provides data for patent trackers, and maintains a psychedelics legalization and decriminalization tracker, and he is a member of Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants. Graham was raised in Oakland, CA, and currently lives in San Francisco.

Patents by their very nature provide mechanisms for exclusion and extraction. By their design, patents erect fences and annex value for the benefit of the few. And where what’s patented has centuries or millennia of Indigenous and traditional use underlying it, “invention” might rather seem appropriation. Strong patent rights also risk chilling practices which are properly in the public domain. All the while, those developing psychedelic medicines through the Western medical model claim that without patents, patients may never see new treatments. In Part 2 of this series, we ask if there are ways to address these concerns, and ask how they can (and should) be balanced. We take steps along a path toward what we might call “ethical IP,” and start setting out some tools that could be used along the way. We will first discuss the creation and use of patent “pledges,” and the circumstances in which they might dispel certain concerns around the ownership and use of IP. We will next discuss IP “commoning,” and how it could offer a legal framework to construct an ethical IP community. We will explain how IP commons are built, teach techniques for making IP commons ethical, and discuss certain emerging possibilities around web3-enabled commoning and “decentralized science.” While some may still seek to abandon the system of patent rights entirely, we aim to address the most apparent conflicts by providing a set of tools and the means to develop additional ones, so that participants in the psychedelics space can work toward a system of ethical IP that could respect and honor all stakeholders.

Part 1

Indigenize Your Legal Competency

Part 3 & 4

To be announced

Parts 3 & 4 (details & dates to-be-announced) will present on International laws, US state-level law reform, and companies and organizations that are on the forefront of stakeholder engagement, consent, access, and benefit-honoring.

Law & Ethics Resources:

International laws, treaties, frameworks & tools, helpful databases, relevant articles & interesting reads, as well as Indigenous-led organizations to know about & support – all in one place for you to easily reference and enhance your own knowledge on the topics at hand.

Series Orientation & Invitation:

This series is a response to the ongoing need of paramount importance to educate lawyers and the rapidly growing numbers of participants in the psychedelics community, so that the well-intended and critically important healing efforts of the current psychedelic resurgence might be conceived with the appropriate orientation of harm-reduction and benefit-honoring.

The convergence of psychedelics and plant medicines and mainstream Western culture is cause for appropriate concern and hypervigilance, in light of the harms and erasures of Western colonial dominance upon Indigenous Peoples, traditions, and lands. This era of psychedelics decriminalization and regulation is inherently an opportunity to reorient from having adverse interests and dominating paradigms to ones of respect, ethical actions, and shared destinies. The historical tension between the Western and Indigenous cultural worldviews and the people holding them necessitates a calling in before moving ahead, for each of us to embrace a process of continuing education and realigning our actions with mutual commitments to ethical, decolonized, and harm-reducing goals that empower rather than threaten Indigenous communities and the ecological systems upon which Western and Indigenous lives depend. This series aims to offer this type of restorative process as the orientation with which to approach one’s commitment to ethical behavior, Indigenous reciprocity and benefit-honoring.

The “restorative” orientation encourages lawyers advising clients in the psychedelics ecosystem, and anyone approaching the question of how to get involved in psychedelics ethically, to view respecting Indigenous Peoples, traditions, and communities as not simply being for the benefit of Indigenous people or, in the case of applicable laws, as not simply another box-to-check in the race to business. Rather, consulting with, listening to, and ethically partnering with Indigenous Peoples (where appropriate and consent is sought and given) initiates the cultural and ecological healing that is a prerequisite for ethical and sustainable healing of the minds, bodies and spirits of human beings and the systems we create.