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

This 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.

Featured Event: 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

Friday, April 14, 2023 at 11:30 am – 1 pm PST; 2:30 pm – 4 pm EST


Riccardo Vitale

Riccardo Vitale is an Italian “liberation anthropologist”, with more than 15 years of continuous fieldwork experience in Latin America. He obtained a PhD from Cambridge University with a thesis about the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. His expertise covers human rights, armed conflict, social movements, indigenous politics, gender relations within social movements, sustainable development, resilience, climate change adaptations and indigenous practices of yagé medicine, spirituality, and resistance. Riccardo is a former adviser of a plethora of international humanitarian and development agencies: Oxfam America, the UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, ICG and GIZ, amongst others. Since 2016 Riccardo works as a fulltime adviser for the Union of Indigenous Yagé Medics of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC). He is also a member of the ayahuasca technical team of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund (IMC), an indigenous led fund. 

Keith Williams

Keith Williams is the Director of Research and Social Innovation at First Nations Technical Institute, an Indigenous community-based higher education institution based on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario. Keith writes about humanity’s relationship with the more-than-human, psychedelics, traditional knowledge, and more. Keith has a Ph.D. in educational studies, and an M.Sc. in mycology. Keith has Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) ancestry and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Troy Sia

Troy Sia, The Last Captive of the Comanches, taken in the old way by Eviyah and brought into the Ohnononuh band of Numunuh. As an Eagle Priest and a Founder of Sia: The Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative we serve the people by upholding the spiritual integrity of all historic Numunuh forms of worship. CNAC proclaims Sia as Piah Puha Kahni (Mother Church) and official repository and archive for our documents, photographs, songs and material culture for our history, culture and spirit of the Comanche people. Benefit Honoring is an alliance building process created by Sia which supports a cultural restorative governance for business with a verifiable financial outcome using the Nagoya Protocols. We are giving access to corporate entities and private interests to honor indigenous synergy that support on the ground worldwide restorative action for sacred plants, animals and our climate.


Ariel Clark

Ariel Clark (she/they) is an attorney, activist, and co-founder of Clark Howell LLP, a women-steered law firm focused on cannabis, hemp and psychedelics. Clark Howell LLP is actively engaged in conversations regarding interconnectedness-driven law reform, psychedelic lawyering, and helping to shape policy emphasizing ethical business models that reimagine a new role for capitalism in commercialization. Prior to founding Clark Howell LLP, Ariel worked at California Indian Legal Services and captained her own firm to be of service to the plants and communities with whom she is in deep connection. Ariel is co-founder and board member of the Psychedelic Bar Association, serves as board steward of the Religious Use Committee, and participates in the Ethics Committee. Ariel is biracial, Odawa Anishinaabe and French American lineages. Ariel holds a J.D. from University of California Berkeley School of Law, and a B.A. in Religious Studies from University of Michigan.

Roman Haferd

Roman Haferd (he/him) has been working on the front lines of restorative justice and drug policy reform for nearly a decade. He serves as the first Restorative Justice Coordinator at the Attorney General’s Office for Washington DC, where he has helped build the nation’s largest restorative justice program inside the prosecutor’s office. Roman was a Steering Committee Member of the successful campaign to pass the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act, which made certain medicines among the lowest law enforcement priorities in Washington DC. Roman is a founding board member of the Psychedelic Bar Association, serving as the board steward of its Ethics Committee. He also serves as board member and Director of Community Engagement for the Plant Medicine Coalition, a non-profit hub and advocacy organization that promotes safe, equitable access to psychedelic and plant medicines. Roman is a founding partner of Roots to Sky Sanctuary, a BIPOC-owned community farm located at the headwaters of the Potomac River. Roman has also represented civil rights plaintiffs in cases around the country involving deprivations of Constitutional rights and law enforcement misconduct. Roman is Black American with mixed ancestry, African American and European American lineages. Roman holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA from Bucknell University.

Part 1 provides framing for Western-trained professionals engaging Indigenous systems of medicine. You’ve heard about “Indigenous reciprocity,” “benefit-sharing” and “benefit honoring” in the context of psychedelics and you know it’s important with respect to your own work and advising clients. You’ve heard these concepts are more than philanthropy. So what are they? What ethical frameworks and structural protections can Western lawyers, practitioners, and companies working with psychedelic medicine employ with respect to Indigenous Peoples, and the plants, land, and knowledge they steward? What are Indigenous communities thinking about with respect to the psychedelic “renaissance” and what are respectful ways Western psychedelic stakeholders may move forward? How can different ways of knowing and seeing the world, relationships, and plants co-exist meaningfully, and in a way that allows for the different ways to co-exist equally? What do existing laws require? What might emerging law require of the psychedelic medicine industry in order to build an ethical framework that includes all stakeholders?

Celidwen, Y., Redvers, N., Githaiga, C., Calambás, J., Añaños, K., Chindoy, M., Vitale, R., Rojas, J., Mondragón, D., Rosalío, Y., & Sacbaá, A. (2022) Ethical Principles of Traditional Indigenous Medicine Guide to Western Psychedelic Research and Practice. The Lancet, Vol. 18. Elsevier, Ltd.

Goodchild, M. (2021) Relational Systems Thinking: That’s How Change Is Going to Come, from Our Earth Mother. Journal of Awareness Based Systems Change, Vol. 1., Issue 1, 75-103. PI Press.

Williams, K., Romero, O., Braunstein, M., & Brant, S. (2022) Indigenous Philosophies and the “Psychedelic Renaissance.” Anthropology of Consciousness. American Anthropological Association.

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.