Nathan Howard and his brother, Aaron Howard, founded East Fork Cultivars – and have since become one of the most respected craft Cannabis brands in Oregon, and in the United States. In recent months they have become vocal supporters of psilocybin psychotherapy, and have become strong supporters of the Oregon-based Psilocybin Science Initiative, which seeks to establish Oregon as the first state-run psilocybin therapy program. We connected with Nathan in February to discuss his experience and his goals with the mushroom-based medicine.
You’ve been vocal about your support for psilocybin therapy. What was your first experience with psilocybin?
I had my first of what I would call a macro-dose, or large dose of psilocybin earlier in 2018 – with my partner, Leslie, who was sober looking after me and essentially being what people call a shaman or a guide. She talked me through some stuff as I started to regain consciousness, and talked me through moderate discomfort toward the beginning and the end, when I was aware but in moderate paralysis.
And then, in the coming days, weeks and months now, she’s also talked with me and we’ve worked through some of the things that I realized in that moment and afterward. Patterns of behavior that I really dislike, ways of connecting with people that I really dislike or like – and want to foster more of or less of.
It was a game-changer. I felt immediately – and it sustained – that I was able to connect with people better. I looked at my time in (Mayor Ted Wheeler’s) office working on politics a little bit better. I talked more with my parents about my brother Wesley’s passing in 2017. It kind of unlocked some… I think some of it was cognitive distortions, and some of them were just really well-worn behavior ruts that I couldn’t get out of.
How do you think your experience could translate to a clinical setting?
That process that we went through – it would be infused with best practices and would be much more rigid, and I’d have a better understanding of what I was ingesting and the whole supply chain. That is essentially what we’re talking about doing through the Psilocybin Service Initiative (PSI) in Oregon, the first state-legal and run psilocybin-assisted therapy program in the world that we know about. The reason we got more involved with PSI was because of that experience, where I took the leap and I knew that smaller doses of psilocybin and psychedelics can be helpful.
We know that MDMA has recognized federal uses and benefit. We know that the federal government has been researching LSD and psilocybin and psychedelics since the 1950s, and clinical studies have remarkable rates of success when it comes to things like smoking cessation, or end-of-life anxiety treatment, drug-resistant anxiety and depression treatment.”
“We’re more excited about the space of plant-based medicine, generally, and psychedelics are essential to all of this, along with Cannabis.”
what is the mission behind the Psilocybin science initiative?
They’ve been working on what ultimately is a statewide ballot measure for no less than five years, with the goal of creating a program where people can walk in and get affordable psilocybin-assisted therapy. Our involvement, and my involvement, has been helping structure some of the campaign, helping staff. Tom and I talked about the possibility of me running the campaign.
I’ve consistently said no to paid political work, because I know it’s going to pull me away from East Fork, our family farm. I’d like to think that we’re at a point where it’s sustainable, and will survive until my children’s lifetime, but it still needs more work.
So my involvement has been as a volunteer, but helping with some of the politics of running a statewide ballot measure.
The campaign’s at the point now where we have several staff, several lead donors. Of course, you have Tom and Sheree, who are two of the best ambassadors for psychedelic medicine and the power of psychedelics and psilocybin in the world.
We’re collecting signatures to get it on the ballot, and we’ve got people out on the streets right now, talking to folks and getting the signatures. If we’re successful, we’ll have a campaign to win come November 2020. At the same time that we’ll be electing a new U.S. President … we’ll also be finding out whether or not Oregon has become the tip of the spear for progressive drug policy in the world.
What does your involvement – and East Fork’s involvement – mean to you and the company?
We’re more excited about the space of plant-based medicine, generally, and psychedelics are essential to all of this, along with Cannabis.
People on our team are public about their relationship with psychedelics. They’re public with the way that it has helped them with depression and anxiety.
The team and the East Fork founders, my brother Aaron and I, it’s personal to us. And it also aligns squarely in our mission around affordable plant-based medicine. We have people on the team that are excited about the Psilocybin Service Initiative.
Doing things like ending the war on drugs, creating affordable pathways for psilocybin therapy, educating around the benefits of psychedelics – that’s our mission. That’s who we are. If we just want to breed and grow Cannabis, that’s one thing.
But the fact that we’re focused on medicinal herbs generally, medicinal plants, requires us – if we’re going to stay true to our mission – to explore increasing access to psychedelics. The measure, the campaign, is not going to create a marketplace. It’s not going to create brands. At least I hope it doesn’t.
interview by Tom Bowers @propagateconsultants | photo by DANIEL BERMAN @BERMANPHOTOS
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