Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Jon Lubecky

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a progressive champion. Matt Gaetz is a conservative firebrand. They don’t agree on much — except psychedelics.

Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, and Gaetz, a Florida Republican, have joined forces in Congress to try to make it easier for scientists to research marijuana and psychedelic drugs, including MDMA and psilocybin.

Such bipartisan cooperation will be needed to support the growth of psychedelic medicines and end the drug war, says Jonathan Lubecky, a retired Army sergeant and Iraq war veteran who now lobbies on behalf of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS.

“This isn’t a party line issue,” Lubecky says. “The polar opposites in the House came together on psychedelics.”

Voters are coming around as well. Last week, Oregon became the first state in the US to legalize a psychedelic medicine; about 56 percent of the state’s voters supported a ballot measure that will allow the medical use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms. Washington, D.C., decriminalized the growth and possession of psychedelic mushrooms.


You can read the rest of this story here at Medium. I am planning to stop posting to this blog at the end of the year, so please follow my work at this link at Medium.

It is hard not to feel despair this morning, but there was some good news out of the election. Drug reform is the rare issue that can bring the left and right together, as I wrote on Medium:

Led by voters in Oregon, Americans from coast to coast voted by decisive margins to take steps to end the war against drugs. We’re moving closer to making this a country where people are no longer punished for what they put into their bodies.

Oregon voters approved two historic ballot measures. One will decriminalize the possession of all drugs, from marijuana and ecstasy to LSD and heroin — a model pioneered, mostly with good results, in Portugal, which treats drug addiction as a disease, not a crime.

Oregonians also approved a measure that will allow the medical use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. This creates an opportunity to show that psychedelic drugs can help treat mental disorders.

New Jersey, Arizona and Montana all voted to legalize marijuana. You can read the rest of the story here on Medium.

The Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, which consists of two foundations with assets of more than $7 billion, is based in Eden Prairie, MN, a well-to-do suburb of Minneapolis. When Minneapolis was shaken by protests after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died at the hands of police, the Cargill Philanthropies, like so many others, felt a need to respond.

“The senseless killing of George Floyd is evidence of the underlying inequities and racism that continue to exist in our community and our country more broadly,” the philanthropies said.

Margaret Cargill Philanthropies promised to look at “equity and inclusion” in its grant-making and later directed more than $2 million to communities of color in the Twin Cities.

It did not, however, add any people of color to its all-white board of directors. The five board members are an insular group: An accountant, a financial advisor, an investment manager, a lawyer and an Episcopal bishop, most with ties to Margaret A. Cargill, an heiress whose wealth funded Cargill Philanthropies. Ms. Cargill died in 2006.

Cargill Philanthropies is by no means the only large foundation with an all-white board. Of the 40 biggest private, grant-making foundations, a dozen — that is, 30 percent — appear to have no BIPOC board members. [BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color.] It’s hard to be certain because no one collects data on the racial makeup of foundation directors, and most foundations approached for this story did not reply.

You can read the rest of this story at Medium.

Steve Wymer was fired from eBay for misconduct.

Last year, staff members who worked in “corporate security” at eBay set out to harass a husband-and-wife team who publish a newsletter that criticized the company. Things got ugly in a hurry.

The security staff sent them boxes of live cockroaches, a bloody Halloween mask, a funeral wreath and a book on how to survive the death of a spouse. They spied on the couple, had pizzas delivered to them in the middle of the night and tried to discredit them with neighbors. David Streitfeld, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, detailed these exploits in a long, colorful story last week.

When federal prosecutors charged six former eBay workers with cyberstalking and witness tampering, the arrests were reported widely and in great detail. Steve Wymer, eBay’s senior vice president, chief communications officer and board chair of eBay’s corporate foundation, was not charged with a crime, but the company says it fired him because of his role in the scandal. Published emails made clear that he encouraged the security team to intimidate newsletter publisher David Steiner and his wife, Ina.

“I want her DONE,” Wymer told eBay’s former senior director of safety and security. “She is a biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN.”

So why, for goodness sake, was Wymer hired last month as the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley?

You can read the rest of this story on Medium.

As medical director of the Aquilino Cancer Center, Dr. Manish Agrawal has seen the progress made possible by cancer research.
Death rates from cancer have declined steadily among men and women, and for most common cancers, including lung, breast, and prostate cancers.
“The longer you’re in practice. you realize that we do a really good job with cancer-directed treatment,” Dr. Agrawal says.
But Dr. Agrawal has also seen patients struggle with depression and anxiety. Some cannot get the help they need.
“There’s so much emotional and psychological suffering that cancer patients and their families go through,” he says, “We never fully address that.”
Now, a small group of patients at Aquilino, an outpatient treatment center at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, MD, will have the chance to try something new — treatment that combines group therapy with a single dose of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug that is the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms. Psilocybin is illegal, but the government gives select researchers permission to use it in controlled clinical settings.


You can read the rest of this story on Medium

President Barack Obama and family help distribute Thanksgiving food items at Martha’s Table (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Martha’s Table, a widely-respected charity in Washington, D.C., provides healthy food to families and operates preschool and after-school programs for kids. It serves all comers, but many, if not most, are Black people. After all, more than 60% of Washington, D.C.’s poor people are Black people.

Yet a new report from the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) does not consider donations to groups like Martha’s Table to be investments in Black communities. The report is thus able to make a startling claim: That just 3.3% of the grants made by the Greater Washington Community Foundation between 2016 and 2018 went to Black communities, in a region where 27 percent of the population is Black.

Other community foundations fared even worse, according to the NCRP, a watchdog group. Its report, headlined BLACK FUNDING DENIED, analyzed 25 community foundations across the US and found that “only 1% of grant-making by some of the largest local community foundations goes to Black communities.” The NCRP says the foundations gave “13 times more for non-Black communities than they have for Black communities.”

That would be distressing, if true. It’s not.

You can read the rest of the story on Medium.

Alex Hershaft

This should be a moment of opportunity for the animal rights movement. The case against eating animals — for ethical, environmental and health reasons — has never been stronger. Covid-19 may have begun at a live animal market in Wuhan and, so far, the virus has infected more than 41,000 workers at US meat and poultry slaughterhouses, according to the Food and Environmental Reporting Network,

All of that and more could have been fodder for this year’s Animal Rights National Conference, which was going to be held, virtually, in July.

Then it was cancelled — largely because of the behavior of Alex Hershaft, who started the event nearly four decades ago.

That’s a shame for the movement. Conferences are places to learn, to network, to hash out ideas and to rejuvenate. For Hershaft, well, he has no one to blame but himself.

Hershaft, who is 86, is a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and a pioneer of the animal rights movement. He has a powerful personal story to tell. The Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), which he started in 1976, says it is the US’s first organization dedicated to protecting animals raised, abused and killed for food. When VegNews imagined a vegan Mount Rushmore, Hershaft’s face was carved into rock. This summer, Hershaft created his own Animal Rights Hall of Fame and installed himself as a member. Humble, he is not.

Unhappily, Hershaft failed to adapt to the times or listen to multiple warnings about his behavior. He ran FARM out of his home, repeatedly exposing staff members to pornography (and occasionally to his half-clothed torso). He has been hostile to feminists and supported men credibly accused of sexual harassment. He was slow to showcase women and people of color at the conference, and to respond to allegations of sexual harassment at the event.


You can read the rest of this story on Medium.

Veteran psychedelic researcher William A. “Bill” Richards

Pastor James Lindberg was unmoored by his first trip on psilocybin. “I’m a pretty normal middle aged white guy who found myself involved in things that were a bit larger than I intended them to be,” says Lindberg, who leads a Lutheran church in an Omaha suburb. He questioned his place in the church but, after some soul-searching, recommitted “to the tradition that has been entrusted to me.”

Rabbi Zac Kamenetz’s first journey on psilocybin led him to “light, connection, warmth, gratitude and the sense that all is well,” he says. “I left that experience inspired, energized and grounded, in the sense that the path that I was on was a noble one.” His next trip brought “darkness, emptiness and a void.” Nevertheless, Kamenetz, who lives and works in San Francisco, has become an evangelist for psychedelics.

Pastor Lindberg and Rabbi Kamenetz are participants in an FDA-approved study to examine the effects of psilocybin-facilitated experience on the psychology and effectives of religious professionals. The research aims to deepen understanding of what are called mystical, transcendental or awe-inspiring experiences because, some argue, such encounters can have profound benefits for those who experience them, their family and friends and, ultimately, for the world as a whole.

The man helping to guide this mashup of science and the sacred — William A. “Bill” Richards, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research — is uniquely qualified to do so. A clinical psychologist who has investigated psychedelics since the 1960s, Richards is an ordained minister (though he never pastored a church) with advanced degrees from Yale Divinity School and Andover-Newton Theological School. He has for many years been guiding volunteers on drug trips on weekdays at Johns Hopkins and singing bass in the choir on Sundays at the Episcopal church where he worships in Baltimore.


You can read the rest of this story at Medium.

Photo of David Bronner, courtesy of Dr. Bronner’s

Civil rights. Feminism. Gay rights. Environmentalism. Meditation. Yoga. Natural childbirth.

Much of the politics and culture of the 1960s has been absorbed into mainstream America.

Not psychedelic drugs — not yet, anyway.

That will soon change if David Bronner, the CEO of family-owned soap-maker Dr. Bronner’s, has his way.

“Psychedelic medicine is the last and arguably the most powerful gift of the counter-culture that hasn’t been integrated,” says Bronner, who has put millions of dollars of his company’s money behind drug policy reform.

Bronner, who is 47— he came of age in the 1990s, not the 1960s — is a pony-tailed vegan and an enthusiastic user of psychedelic drugs who says his life was transformed by a three-month sojourn in Amsterdam after college. Amidst growing evidence that psychedelic medicines can help alleviate an array of mental ailments, he’d like to see them become more widely available. He also believes that the wider use of psychedelics can help heal the world.

To that end, Bronner recently put $1 million of his family-owned company’s money behind a ground-breaking ballot initiative in Oregon….


You can read the rest of the story here on Medium.

MDMA

MDMA, the man-made drug often called ecstasy or molly, has a colorful history. It was patented in 1914 by the German drug company Merck, and set aside for decades. The US Army studied it during the Cold War, perhaps seeking a chemical weapon or interrogation tool. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, an iconoclastic chemist, rediscovered MDMA during the 1970s and gave some to a psychotherapist friend, who in turn shared it with hundreds of therapists around the world; some called the drug “Adam” because it returned patients to a more innocent state. Only after MDMA gained popularity as a party drug did the US Drug Enforcement Administration ban it in1985, declaring that it had no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Now MDMA is on the verge of making history again — as the first psychedelic drug to become available as a prescription medicine.

First, though, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Science, a nonprofit seeking to develop psychedelic medicines, must raise about $7.5m by September as part of what it calls the MAPS Capstone Challenge. The funds are needed to unlock a challenge grant of $10m and to complete a final round of clinical trials, now underway in the US, Canada and Israel, that are designed to demonstrate that psychotherapy assisted by MDMA is safe and effective for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

FDA approval, which could come in 2022, is important for two reasons. First, MDMA-assisted therapy will almost surely bring relief to millions of people suffering from PTSD: Military veterans, victims of sexual assault, first responders, perhaps even doctors or nurses who today are treating COVID patients.

Second, FDA approval of MDMA will open the door for other psychedelic drugs, particularly psilocybin, that, when combined with talk therapy, can alleviate the suffering from a remarkable range of mental ailments, including depression and anxiety.

—–

Which donors are stepping up? Which are not? You can read the rest of this story on Medium.