Women in Psychedelics: Building a More Inclusive Industry

Ryan Allway

January 27th, 2021

Psychedelics, Top Story

The psychedelics industry has become one of the fastest-growing markets in the world as promising research highlights its potential to treat conditions ranging from depression to eating disorders, chronic pain, PTSD, fibromyalgia and beyond. With the FDA onboard, several psychedelics companies have successfully raised capital and are in the process of completing clinical trials designed to bring these therapeutics to market.

Women have played a key—and often underappreciated—role in the industry’s development. While they were intimately involved in counseling sessions, recruitment and other key areas, they were very rarely identified in published work since the 1950s. The psychedelic renaissance has created an opportunity for women to take the reigns in the industry’s rebirth in the 2020s.

Women Taking Senior Roles

The #CanndoraConnect: Women in Psychedelics conference on December 2, 2020 brought together eight leading women in the industry to share their expertise on critical psychedelic topics, including the science behind psilocybin and its role in women’s health. The panelists included women holding titles ranging from senior executives to research scientists.

“To me, using plant-based psychedelics for mental health is the best gift we could have been given by nature to improve the predicament we have found ourselves in by relying on non-plant based medicines, such as opioids and narcotics,” said Anne Barnes, Director of Red Light Holland, and participant in the December conference.

Barnes was drawn to the psychedelics industry by her passion for plant-based health solutions. With a background in corporate law, business and public speaking, she founded Peace Naturals, the first company to receive a license to produce medical cannabis in 2013. She has since become Director for Red Light Holland, which is focused on the production and distribution of magic truffles in the Netherlands.

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The complete list of panelists included:

  • Ann Barnes, Director of Red Light Holland
  • Sarah Hashkes, CEO of Radix Motion
  • Terri Smith, Chief Mycologist of WAKE & CEO of WAKE Jamaica
  • Dr. Olga Chernoloz, Chief Scientific Officer of WAKE
  • Susan Chapelle, President of Havn Life
  • Irie Selkirk, Co-founder & Director of Rise Wellness Retreats
  • Salimeh Tabrizi, Co-Founder Canadian Psychedelic Association
  • Sabrina Ramkellawan: COO & Co-Founder Knowde Group Inc. & President Clinical Research Association of Canada

Of course, these women aren’t the only women that are playing a key role in the psychedelics industry. Dr. Jillian Hagel is Chief Technology Officer of MagicMed Industries Inc. (CSE: MGIC reserved), which is focused on developing and patenting psychedelic derivative molecules that it plans on licensing out to third parties to develop into approved therapeutics.

Diversity Improves Research & Outcomes

The psychedelics industry is keen to avoid some of the diversity issues affecting the cannabis industry—another business that made the jump from illicit to licit in recent times.

The cannabis industry has been widely criticized for its exclusion of women and minorities. Despite the disproportionate level of cannabis enforcement against minorities in the past, minority-owned businesses have struggled to participate in the legal industry’s upside. Gender equality has been another challenge facing the industry as it evolves.

In addition to overcoming these challenges, the psychedelics industry has also struggled with limited female-focused research. Studies examining women independent from men are scarce even though meta-analyses suggest that women experience more intense effects than men—possibly due to the susceptibility of the serotonin-releasing effects of some drugs.

“Psychedelics can directly help women deal with mental health issues to become more empowered,” says Ann Barnes. “Reviewing mental health history and how women have been treated and diagnosed in the last 100 years, medical treatments have been very much to the detriment of women.

“Their symptoms have been whisked away as previously a woman’s mental pain was ‘justin in their mind’ or worse, dealt with using opioids and narcotics to numb the issue. Currently, with the massive amount of research being done by the psychedelics community, I believe that psychedelics will be an imperative part of women’s health.”

Looking Ahead

The psychedelics industry would be wise to keep in mind that gender equality is correlated with a higher return on equity and average earnings. In addition, the inclusion of women-focused psychedelics studies helps everyone by better understanding the nuances of psychedelics and how they affect potential patient populations.

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Ryan Allway

About Ryan Allway

Mr. Allway has over a decade of experience in the financial markets as both a private investor and financial journalist. He has been actively involved in the cannabis industry since its inception, covering public and private companies.

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