When University of Colorado Boulder student James Casey attended the Psychedelic Club’s first meeting, he cringed.
“It was like ten of us sitting in a circle under a tree,” Casey said. “And Nick says, ‘Let’s go around and say our names.’ And this other person is like, ‘Yeah, and your spirit animal.’”
The club’s president, Nick Morris, and Casey, who would later become vice president, wanted to change the image of psychedelic drugs and their users.
“We’re trying to remove the hippie, tie-dye perception and trying to point toward the medical effects,” Morris said. “We’re not just a drug club.”
Morris started the club to spread awareness about the drugs’ effects, both positive and negative, so that students can make informed decisions on their own.
“Psychedelics are different from other drugs, in that they can expand the way you think,” Morris said. “They don’t just destroy your brain.”
Casey was introduced to psychedelics after returning from combat in Afghanistan. He was successfully treated for PTSD with a process that combined MDMA and psychotherapy. He said that the treatment gave him his life back. (You can read more about James’ story here).
In its infancy, the club spent most of its time distributing information from research groups, like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). The club hung flyers, handed out pamphlets and engaged students on campus, hoping to change perceptions and encourage drug policy reform. It wasn’t working.
Early on, their $700 budget was being depleted, and they hadn’t yet gathered a solid membership base. They decided to focus inward on the psychedelic community.
The club called its new direction Project Community. In meetings, they focused on workshops, group discussions and presentations on topics ranging from neuroscience to sacred geometry. They found a niche at CU, creating a safe place for students to talk about psychedelics without being judged.
The club’s leaders made a point of promoting harm reduction. They began distributing test kits for LSD and MDMA. They also launched trip sitting and book sharing services through their website.
“While we don’t condone it, we do know that psychedelic use happens in this community,” Casey said. “Since it does happen, we’re making sure that it’s done responsibly. We don’t want people to harm themselves, others or this movement.”
In a few months, the club had attracted 160 members.
“Discussion spreads awareness,” Meghan Hargaden, the club’s student ambassador, said. “People that don’t know about this stuff just come in and listen. They learn a ton.”
Their discussions and presentations have helped the group pursue their original goals: engaging students and changing perceptions.
“Everyone’s kind of brought each other back to Earth,” Casey said. “We’ve made each other more logical and better able to communicate the idea of psychedelics to people that might not be open to it.”
The success of Project Community has allowed the club to turn outward once again. They’ve opened new chapters at the University of Colorado Denver and Michigan State University, and have filed to become a non-profit organization. In May, they’re leading a trip to a peyote ceremony in Crestone, Colorado, held by the Native American Church.
“All you’ve got to do is plant that seed,” Casey said. “And hopefully the seed can germinate and grow. But all you can do is plant it. You can’t grow it for them.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Billy Singleton at email@example.com.