Corporate Social Responsibility in the Emerging Psychedelic Industry

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Psychedelics Refuse “Business as Usual” Rhetoric with Corporate Social Responsibility

Psychedelics are etched in human history as a sacrament, political catalyst, and groundbreaking therapeutic. But for the first time, these intense psychoactive compounds, and their subsequent effect on the human psyche, are transforming into a legitimate industry. Indeed, the psychedelic research and development renaissance is expected to be incredibly profitable. As was the case with cannabis, Canada has quickly geared their efforts towards embracing this new industry. 


Unlike cannabis, however, the emerging psychedelic industry demands an unprecedented and unique call to corporate social responsibility (CSR) – one that mirrors the radical shift in consciousness these drugs bring about. In other words, the sensitive nature of these drugs calls for an especially careful and ethical execution of business.


Different Avenues of Psychedelic CSR

Psychedelic CSR starts with a corporate respect for the origins of these drugs. Dennis McKenna, Director of Ethnopharmacology at Heffter Research Institute, illustrated this concept nicely last year at an XFuture conference: 


“Psychedelics are unlike any other kind of medicine that’s ever been introduced into biomedicine…they can’t be reduced to ‘just another pill,’ because they are connected with history and a cultural context and even a co-evolutionary aspect.”


This history and cultural context can be interpreted as a call for CSR. For example, Psychedelic R&D company Entheon Biomedical is committed to putting profits aside to preserve the Amazonian region, where many traditions surrounding psychedelics originate. “Without the work of psychedelic forebears, none of this would be possible,” said Timothy Ko, founder of Entheon Biomedical.


One avenue of Amazon preservation that psychedelic companies can explore is donating to McKenna Academy, headed by Dennis McKenna, who also serves as a scientific adviser to Entheon. McKenna Academy is largely dedicated to facilitating sustainability, fair trade, and benefit sharing as psychedelic medicine reaches local and global markets.


Ensuring Access to Psychedelic Medicine

Which brings up another vital CSR effort for morally solvent psychedelic companies – overseeing the balanced accessibility of psychedelic medicine. The fact that psychedelics are inching closer and closer to the clinical world is phenomenal, but less so when only the rich can afford these treatments. This is something to consider for Canadian companies who plan to work with U.S. markets, where healthcare insurance tends to neglect mental and behavioral treatment. 


Of course, new and novel psychedelic treatments are likely not to be covered by public health insurance in Canada, as is the case with ketamine treatment for depression.

Conversations surrounding psychedelic accessibility, and psychedelic CSR in general, have yet to take center stage in Canada’s growing interest towards psychedelics. The CSR initiative, though, is not lost on the psychedelic community.

Psychedelic CSR Conversations Gaining Momentum

In the last decade, many psychedelic conferences have dedicated time to speaking on the environmental and social responsibility companies ought to prioritize as this industry emerges. These events and conversations are largely occurring thanks to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). 


To be optimistic, it seems like the psychedelic CSR message is gaining momentum. For example, Field Trip Psychedelics Inc. announced earlier this year their adoption of “triple bottom line” operations, referring to “people, planet, and profit.” A triple bottom line approach to business “requires an organization to assess and account for its social and environmental impacts.”


However, we ought to be careful in our evaluations of such messages. Though Field Trip, like MindMed, is utilizing psychedelics for the psychopathological benefit of the patient, this is not inherently a CSR effort. Special protection of the communities who yield psychoactive plants, the environment that allows these plants to grow, and the working class citizens who would benefit from psychedelic-assisted treatment must be a part of this new business. The good news is this business is still developing, and we have a real chance to promote and implement these ideas.


Ali Shana

Ali Shana

Ali Shana is a Palestinian-American writer and grad student studying clinical mental health counseling. He tends to report on a variety of drug-related topics, such as policy reform, psychopharmacology, and medication-assisted therapies.