Mind-Expanding World of Psychedelics with Joe Green on 'On with Kara Swisher'

January 19, 2024

In an era where the boundaries of science and consciousness are increasingly intersecting, "On with Kara Swisher" stands as a beacon of insightful discourse. Host Kara Swisher, a trailblazer in the world of tech journalism and media, has made an indelible mark across various platforms, from her co-hosting role on "Pivot" with Scott Galloway to her insightful appearances on CNN with Chris Wallace. Her podcast, "On with Kara Swisher," presented by New York Magazine and the Vox Media Podcast Network, offers a riveting blend of wit, wisdom, and a relentless quest for truth.

Swisher's recent episode, from January 18, 2024, featuring Joe Green, co-founder and President of the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative (PSFC), delves deep into the burgeoning world of psychedelics and their potential to revolutionize mental health treatment.

Check out the podcast here.

Who is Joe Green

Joe Green is a well-known serial social entrepreneur and investor from San Francisco, California. He holds the position of co-founder and President at the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative, a non-profit donor network dedicated to advancing research in psychedelic medicine. Additionally, Green co-founded Treehouse, a company that focuses on developing community-centric apartment complexes in Los Angeles, California.

Notably, Green collaborated with Sean Parker to co-found Causes, a company renowned for its Facebook app that aimed to promote philanthropy and socialize the concept of giving. Furthermore, he was the initial president and a founding member of, a bipartisan political advocacy group. This organization, co-founded with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, is committed to advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.

The Psychedelic Renaissance: A New Hope for Mental Health

The burgeoning field of psychedelic research, once a peripheral topic, is now emerging as a pivotal element in mental health treatment. This shift is characterized by a renewed focus on substances like MDMA and psilocybin, which historically have been associated with the counterculture movements of the 1960s. However, in contemporary settings, under strict regulation and therapeutic guidance, these psychedelics are demonstrating remarkable potential in addressing complex mental health disorders such as depression and PTSD.

The advocacy and insights provided by individuals like Green, who transitioned from a tech entrepreneur to a proponent of psychedelics, underscore this paradigm shift. His perspective highlights the controlled and mindful application of these substances, moving away from recreational use to a more focused, therapeutic approach. This methodological shift has allowed for a deeper exploration into the benefits of psychedelics, positioning them not as escape mechanisms, but as tools for healing and transformation.

The comparison of psychedelics' impact on mental health to the role of antibiotics in revolutionizing physical health treatment is particularly striking. Just as antibiotics brought about a significant leap in treating bacterial infections, psychedelics, in their regulated, therapeutic use, have the potential to bring about a similar leap in mental health care. This renaissance in psychedelic research could signify a new era in mental health treatment, where traditional barriers are broken, and new, more effective methods of healing are embraced.

Psychedelics and the Media: The Double-Edged Sword

The role of media coverage is a complex and double-edged sword, as highlighted by Kara Swisher and Joe Green in their discussion. On one hand, the media's attention to high-profile cases involving psychedelics, such as the incidents related to Elon Musk and the unfortunate passing of Matthew Perry linked to ketamine, casts a spotlight on the potential dangers and misuses of these substances. This kind of sensationalism, as pointed out by Kara Swisher, often paints a one-dimensional picture of psychedelics, focusing predominantly on their negative aspects or their association with recreational use and abuse.

On the other hand, as Joe Green emphasizes, there is a pressing need to differentiate between recreational and therapeutic uses of psychedelics. The latter offers a controlled, safe environment where psychedelics are used as tools for healing under the guidance of professionals. In this context, these substances have shown remarkable potential for treating a variety of mental health conditions, demonstrating life-changing benefits for many individuals.

The conversation around psychedelics requires a more nuanced and balanced approach from the media. It's crucial to educate the public about the multifaceted nature of these substances, acknowledging both the risks associated with their unregulated use and the significant therapeutic potential they hold when used responsibly. The media, as Kara Swisher and Joe Green concur, plays a pivotal role in shaping public perception and policy regarding psychedelics, bearing the responsibility to present a fair and comprehensive view of the subject, highlighting the promising aspects of psychedelic therapy alongside the cautionary tales.

Pioneering Strategies: From Cannabis to Psychedelics

In the world of drug policy reform, strategies and insights gained from the journey of cannabis legalization are now being channeled into the burgeoning field of psychedelics. This shift in focus represents a significant evolution in the approach towards mind-altering substances, reflecting a broader societal change in perspective.

Green's colleague, Graham Boyd, plays a pivotal role in this shift. Boyd, known for his instrumental role in driving a majority of the cannabis ballot initiatives, is now applying his wealth of experience and strategic acumen to the world of psychedelics. This transfer of knowledge and strategy is crucial, as it brings a seasoned understanding of navigating the complex legal and societal landscapes that surround controlled substances.

The parallels between cannabis and psychedelic movements are striking. Both have journeyed from the fringes to the forefront of public and scientific discourse, challenging long-standing stigmas and legal barriers. The cannabis movement's success in altering public perception and policy provides a blueprint for psychedelics. It showcases the power of sustained advocacy, research, and responsible regulation in shifting the narrative from prohibition to medical and therapeutic potential.

This strategic pivot is not just about changing laws; it's about changing minds. The lessons learned from cannabis are being used to foster a more nuanced understanding of psychedelics, emphasizing their potential therapeutic benefits over recreational use. As the psychedelic movement gains momentum, it's clear that the foundational work done by cannabis advocates has laid a crucial groundwork, offering a path forward that blends scientific rigor with compassionate policy-making.

The Tech Connection: Silicon Valley's Role in Psychedelic Funding

The influence of Silicon Valley, as discussed by Joe Green and Kara Swisher, is notably significant. Green, representing the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative (PSFC), has been instrumental in mobilizing a network of philanthropists, many of whom hail from the tech industry, to finance research and advocate for the legalization of psychedelics in therapeutic settings. This collaboration underscores a growing trend where tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are turning their attention and resources towards this emerging field.

Kara Swisher, with her incisive questioning, delves into the underlying motivations driving Silicon Valley's interest in psychedelics. It becomes evident that a combination of personal healing experiences and the potential for groundbreaking advancements in mental health care fuels this engagement. For many in the tech sector, psychedelics represent more than just a new frontier in health and medicine; they offer what Green describes as "big leveraged unlocks" - opportunities to catalyze significant, transformative changes in how mental health issues are understood and treated.

This partnership between Silicon Valley and psychedelic research points to a broader convergence of technology, finance, and healthcare. It highlights a shift in the perception of psychedelics, from taboo substances to promising tools capable of reshaping the landscape of mental health care. Through their dialogue, Green and Swisher bring to light the crucial role of funding and support from the tech world in propelling psychedelic research forward, marking a pivotal chapter in the journey towards mainstream acceptance and utilization of these substances for healing and therapeutic purposes.

The Path to Legalization: Regulatory Challenges and Innovations

In their discussion, Kara Swisher and Joe Green delve into the multifaceted challenges and innovations surrounding the legalization of psychedelics. They explore the nuances of state-regulated models, particularly referencing the approaches taken by Oregon and Colorado. These models, as Green points out, are pioneering efforts in creating a legal framework for psychedelic use, focusing on the delicate balance between ensuring safety and maintaining accessibility.

Swisher, known for her probing questions, brings to light the critical role of guides and facilitators in the therapeutic use of psychedelics. Green emphasizes the importance of establishing rigorous standards and certifications for these professionals, highlighting the necessity of safeguarding patient experiences in these settings. The conversation also addresses the potential risks associated with unregulated recreational use of psychedelics, underscoring the need for careful consideration and regulation.

Green acknowledges the complexity of crafting policies that support safe, accessible, and effective psychedelic therapy. They discuss how these policies must navigate the fine line between over-regulation, which could hinder accessibility and therapeutic potential, and under-regulation, which could lead to misuse and safety concerns. This segment of their dialogue underscores the significance of thoughtful and informed policymaking in the realm of psychedelic therapy, a field that promises profound implications for mental health treatment, but also requires cautious and well-structured regulatory approaches.

Conclusion: Looking Towards a Psychedelically-Informed Future

Green shares his vision of a world where psychedelics are integrated into mental health care, emphasizing the need for responsible use, education, and reverence for these powerful substances. The podcast concludes with a contemplation on the deeper existential questions that psychedelics help to explore, such as our relationship with death and the interconnectedness of life.

In sum, this episodes offers a profound exploration of the psychedelic landscape, guided by the insightful dialogue between Swisher and Green. This episode not only sheds light on the scientific and therapeutic potential of psychedelics but also navigates the ethical, regulatory, and societal implications of these mind-expanding substances.

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