Amanda Siebert:

The plants are smarter than you (think): an open letter to firms in psychedelics

Photo: Morgan Housel via Unsplash

Some people are going to label me a loony for what I’m about to say, and that’s okay.

There is a common sentiment currently being expressed on social media that goes something like, “let’s not do the same thing with psychedelics that we did with cannabis.” As much as I agree, I know that even if the same mistakes are made, it will be those with the best intentions that rise to the proverbial top, and those who insist on repeating mistakes that fall by the wayside.

I feel this in my soul. Why? Because plants and fungi are too smart for greedy assholes.

Exhibit A: Giant, gluttonous companies that continue to pump out horrendous product pulled from sad plants by underpaid workers, who are ordered around by chest-puffing superiors and C-suite executives with seven (sometimes eight)-figure annual paycheques.

I believe that our favourite plant isn’t going to show up for this type of company, ever. At least not consistently or wholeheartedly, unless the intentions of its leaders are transformed. Isn’t it interesting that large, money-hungry firms that grow bunk weed almost always also have at least one, if not several other co-occurring problems?

Substandard cannabis. Regular company-wide lay-offs. White-collar crime that goes ignored. Executive staff making filthy sums of money while migrant workers trim plants for minimum wage in moldy facilities.

Of course cannabis isn’t going to perform well here. Any success these companies have seen has proven to be temporary, and that will continue to be true until they cease to exist (or they reassess their intentions, and make it more about care and attention to plants and consumers, and less about their bottom line). Not to mention the firms with a history of condemning those who came before them. You can hire all the scientists and head up all the progressive research projects in the world, but if you’re asking the government to criminalize illicit cannabis, growers, and consumers, it’s just lip service.

The same goes for companies that insist on patting themselves on the back on social media all day for being progressive, while ignoring staff and contractors who are awaiting payment for their work. Every week, I hear at least one new story from a friend or colleague dealing with an unpaid invoice. (This is not an exaggeration. In many cases, sums owed exceed $5,000.)

Why and how has this become acceptable?

I know that a large portion of readers are people who use cannabis and other mind-altering plants, so I hope that what I’m about to say won’t seem too outlandish: plants and fungi are intelligent. We know this to be true. We know that energy affects the way a cell, a human, a plant, exists in its environment. Quantum physics has taken our Newtonian and Darwinian ways of thinking and forced us to question them.

Is it so crazy then, to say that the plant will do better in environments with good energy, and for companies with good intentions? Surely the plants growing in these facilities can sense the materialism that permeates the greenhouse walls, and the frustration of the workers who have travelled thousands of miles to send their hardly acceptable wages home to their families, only to be sent back just a year or two into a six-year visa. I’d venture that she (that is, our beloved plant) would probably do better in environments around employees that are paid fairly and on time, by leaders that are passionate and show genuine care for their teams.

We are already seeing this to be true: large companies that have made expensive promises are burning through cash, while the little guy, humbly taking care of plants and being transparent with consumers, is starting to climb the ladder.

Exhibit B: This one will be short. How many companies put on an impressive “raise”, created and publicized brand line-ups, attended conferences with fancy displays in tow, and all but cease to exist today, without ever having sold a single product? In my mind, this is the strongest example of plant intelligence: Mary-Jane took one look at these top-heavy companies run by two-faced leaders and said, “Hard no. I’m not doing shit for you.”

Psychedelics are no different. Anyone who has ever worked personally with such medicines will understand that intention makes the experience. If your intention is ill-conceived, if it comes from a place of possessiveness or jealousy or any other negative space, the medicine will not show up for you. If you go in with the idea that you are in control, that it’s going to go your way no matter what, that you’re going to come out a winner, the plants will quite literally kick your ass into another dimension.

Think about the way you feel after smoking lousy cannabis. It’s unpleasant. It might make you feel ill or light-headed. Now think about what it would be like to consume a plant medicine or psychedelic sold to you by a company that doesn’t give a shit about product quality, or the effect said product has on its consumers. There is much more at stake for the consumer with psychedelics. Bad trips won’t make repeat customers.

The energy of these medicines, cannabis included, has always been one of resistance to control, and particularly to capitalism. When has monetizing healing for corporate benefit ever had a net-positive effect on society? All it takes is one look at the pharmaceutical industry to know that greed and healing do not mix.

Anyone jumping into the emerging space of psychedelics who does not understand this point clearly hasn’t had enough personal engagement with them, and ought to dive in head first (that is, into your pitch black closet with five grams of liberty caps) before continuing to chase dollar signs.

If you are the founder of a company and you see the opportunity before you as an excuse to step on others while you attempt to rise to the top of another burgeoning industry, you will (eventually) fail.

Learn from cannabis. Consider the ways the blind pursuit of shareholders and increased stock prices has been detrimental not only to companies, but to the public’s perception of the plant itself.

Do the work. Do your work. If you don’t, you can be sure that plant medicines will call your bluff.