The article Decentralizing the Future: Crypto and Psychedelics was originally published on Microdose.
Psychedelics have long been a decentralized network. For the past 50 years of prohibition, psychedelics were largely distributed through a global, informal network, and the psychedelic-cryptocurrency connection has been growing since the birth of Bitcoin.
Should we really be surprised? Both psychedelics and Web3 notoriously move faster than regulators can keep up with, and could be a match made in heaven for those looking for alternative funding methods and organizational structures.
The Crypto-Psychedelic Landscape
The journey began as the digital currency was used to buy psychedelic drugs on the dark web — but cryptocurrencies are maturing and continuing to be allies to the psychedelic renaissance.
A casual google of “crypto and psychedelics” or cruise around crypto Twitter reveals a ton of hype, scams, NFTs of questionable value, alongside ambitious ideals and endless jargon.
It really is the wild west, but if you dig deep, an appreciation for the intersection of technology, science, and mental health can be found in the Web3 landscape. There are certainly projects worth following, but before going too far with crypto-speak, here are some essential concepts.
What are NFTs?
NFT stands for non-fungible token. These “tokens” are smart contracts (code on the blockchain) that serve as digital proof that someone owns something.
Many of us have witnessed crypto enthusiasts spending perplexing amounts of money on jpg files of questionable artistic value. Some digital artists like Beeble or AI-generated pieces are clearly a new wave of art, but NFTs have also been criticized as a speculative bubble. While some collectors are certainly toeing that line, the potential of NFTs is far beyond visual art.
Creators can use NFTs to earn commissions on sales of their work, access funding for projects, or self-publish videos, songs, books, and articles on emerging platforms. NFTs can also be ID, medical records, datasets, event tickets, or even intellectual property (IP-NFT).
Some NFTs can be stored on the blockchain or verified by it. Ownership of NFTs can also be shared or “fractionalized” amongst a community — which is becoming an important detail for DAOs in the psychedelic space.
What Are DAOs?
DAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization. DAOs are also smart contracts that run elements on an organization with code, often with the goal of removing or watering down centralized power and creating immutable, “trustless” organizations. Influence is transferred to stakeholders owning a DAOs token who gain the opportunity to vote on decisions.
Electronic democratization of an organization’s structure ideally allows for inclusive and collective ownership — instead of decisions exclusively being handled by a small group.
DAOs are experimenting with organizational structure, but like many concepts in crypto, the ripple outward has yet to be realized. A variety of use cases are developing, from investment groups, service directories, money management protocols, and even social causes, which are all still in largely experimental stages.
In relation to psychedelics, several DAOs are involved in research, education, funding, and providing services related to psychedelics.
The flagship example of how Web3 can be used to fund, market, and provide access to services is Psychedelics Anonymous, perhaps better known as “PA.”
The somewhat mysterious frontrunner of the crypto-psychedelic landscape, the PA hype machine does tend to draw criticism or questions about exactly what tangible impact the project has. But few following crypto would debate that the project is a masterpiece of marketing powered by social media, game theory, and the utility of NFTs for funding projects.
Initial exploration of the project is met with dark imagery and cryptic website copy. There’s no doubt that, at first, PA seems confusing — but that’s the point. PA encourages connecting with the community to learn how to collect sets of NFTs, unlock future play to earn opportunities, access in-person and metaverse events, and score merchandise.
It’s a digital labyrinth, but to PA’s credit, the hype has been grounded in real-life events and a coaching app for psychedelic integration for NFT holders — a lot more real-world impact than many crypto projects can boast. The roadmap is ambitious, with a vague mention of a DAO and the metaverse, and notably some donations to psychedelic research, which thus far has manifested as $25,000 to MindMed Australia.
Like many high-profile crypto projects, PA is rife with criticism and drama. But the project’s success speaks volumes of the potential of NFTs, the enthusiasm of the crypto community and the attraction to projects trying to make a meaningful impact.
Decentralized Science and Psychedelics
Contrary to popular belief, the crypto world isn’t only about selling NFTs and making money. For many organizations, the potential of blockchain technology is an ability to sidestep systems many have become frustrated with.
An issue with the current structure of academia puts funding, peer review, and verification of certain hypotheses in the hands of a few — a very centralized power structure. Just getting published can cost thousands of dollars, with what does make it to publication typically remains behind paywalls.
The response is fresh ideas from DAOs like Deci World, Desci Collective, and others are building communities and drafting new structures. For example, research and experimentation with funding through NFTs and token sales are at the core of this proposed infrastructure, along with ideas for incentivizing transparency, peer review, and open science.
While the innovation being proposed can come across as idealistic and disruptive, the innovation behind these DAOs isn’t something to be ignored, nor is the potential capital such projects will have access to as they evolve.
Perhaps the most obvious perk of decentralized science is access to funding. Researchers can spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to access funding, with some specific niches, fringe ideas, or damaged reputations locked out completely.
However, DAOs create a beacon for groups to organize around and access funding to do the research important to them. One project pioneering the space is Molecule, where research proposals can be uploaded to a marketplace and voted on by token holders to access funding.
The resulting “IP-NFT” would be owned collectively by token holders who can vote on licensing for commercial gain as well. The vision is that profits will be invested into more research instead of being paid out to shareholders. In July 2022, Molecule raised 12 million in funding, and yes, psychedelic research is on the map.
Molecule has a growing list of partnerships, such as PsyDAO, which aims at using Molcecule’s model to create community-owned psychedelic IP-NFT in an attempt to move away from monopolies on research. Core developer Matt de Caussin explains:
“We see PsyDAO’s core mission as developing an IP asset class that can eventually support novel psychedelic research in perpetuity. We see all profits flowing back to the community to decide on what to fund. PsyDAO aims to harness the best aspects of for-profit and public benefit through the architecture of the DAO and its governance.”
It’s early days, and the project is starting with building a community, exploring how to support psychedelic research, and establishing DAO values and structure, with an eventual goal of real-life (IRL) community meetups and experiences.
SACRΞD GARDΞN NFTs
While plenty of crypto projects seem somewhat ethereal — big promises on a single webpage — Sacred Garden is finding ways to be as grounded as it gets by helping people grow psychedelic plants.
Amanda Reiman didn’t expect to get into crypto when she founded Personal Plants, a company that sells seeds and cuttings of legal psychedelic plants. But when major payment providers wouldn’t work with Reimen, she began looking for alternative payment options and landed in crypto.
Upon discovering NFTs, Amanda has begun to “weave together the physical and the digital” (something she calls phygital) and is building an experiential and educational platform, with 10% of all profits going to charity.
Users can access a virtual garden stoked with psychedelic plants whose seeds can be accessed through the purchase of an NFT. Token holders can also access a library full of 3D interactive models of psychedelic plants where plant owners can care (or not care) for plants to learn more about them.
The project aims to connect people with not just psychedelic plants but also awareness of their often threatened native environments. Sacred Garden looks to create virtual reality tours of where the plants come from with the intention of raising awareness about plant conservation and cultivation. In Amanda’s own words:
“We bridge the physical and digital worlds to help people develop relationships with psychedelic plants no matter where they live and contribute to plant abundance through enabling personal cultivation IRL.”
Web3 and Psychedelics
Web3 and the mainstream use of psychedelics are new concepts and tools. There are no doubt many technical difficulties and growing pains to be expected, and anyone interested in investing in the Web3 space should be ready for a few bumps in the road.
Exactly what is the potential for how crypto and psychedelics will impact individuals and society, we can only guess. But the unlikely pair — ancient sacrament and 21st-century tech — seem to be lightning rods for outside-the-box thinkers. The result is a mix of industry and thriving communities creating innovations that, when used responsibly, may deliver significant developments in both tech and psychedelics.psychedelics psychedelic investing funding capital new wave mindmed research