Plants as Psychoactives and Medicines: Touring Allen Centennial Gardens

On a sunny, fall day in Wisconsin, the “Psychedelic Pasts, Presents, and Futures” Borghesi-Mellon working group teamed up with the Allen Centennial Gardens to host an event where participants were exposed to the role of plants as the basis of psychoactives and medicines. Specifically, those who attended were given the opportunity to learn about and interact with tobacco, poppies, catnip, cannabis, salvia, morning glory, castor bean, wormwood, and numerous medicinal plants in the Hmong Garden. The event was facilitated by Dr. Lucas Richert, Amanda Pratt, and Reba Luiken, and each specific plant was overseen by a faculty member, staff member, or graduate student who offered educational information on the plant, including Reba Luiken (Allen Centennial Gardens), Ryan Dostal (Horticulture), Shelby Ellison (Horticulture), Lucas Richert  (Pharmacy), JJ Strange (History), and Isaac Zaman (Horticulture).

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Points Interview: Christopher Hallam

Editor’s Note: Christopher Hallam is an independent researcher working in academia and civil society organisations, and a Research Associate at the Global Drug Policy Observatory, Swansea University. He is also the author of ‘White Drug Cultures and Regulation in London, 1916-1960‘ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). In this ‘Points’ interview we ask him about his book and then his broader research interests in the history and culture of illicit drugs and the regimes that have sought to control them.

Please tell readers a little bit about yourself.

Depending on the context, I usually introduce myself as either a marginal academic or an independent researcher. Either way, I possess a remarkable skill for conducting research that no-one is willing to fund. By discipline, I am a historian who emerged, intellectually speaking, out of the cultural studies debates of the late twentieth century. I like to use a mix of conceptual tools drawn from heterogeneous theoretical frameworks, and I study drugs primarily as cultural substances – symbolic things that people consume, talk about, try to control, fear and celebrate.

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Psychedelic Baselines

Editor’s Note: Gabriel Lake Carter continues his commentary on a series of Borghesi-Mellon workshops titled ‘Psychedelic Pasts, Presents and Futures‘, funded by UW-Madison’s Center for Humanities. The second of these, below, reflects on discussions that took place during the ‘Psychedelic Baselines’ roundtable. Points’ Pharmaceutical Inequalities feature is funded by the Holtz Center and the Evjue Foundation.

What are the implications of the rampant media coverage, public awareness, and hype occurring about psychedelics? How is it possible to address the medical needs of people who want psychedelic therapy given the systemic impediments that deny access to medications? What is the most ethical way to promote psychedelics when they remain criminalized? How can current biomedical research be operationalized to help increase access to psychedelics for those in most need? During a recent panel for the “Psychedelic Pasts, Presents, and Futures” Borghesi-Mellon workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, audience members raised these questions to the panel. The aim of the panel was to offer an overview on the current state of psychedelics in order to set a baseline for further discussions. In my reflections on the event, the panel and the subsequent discussion demonstrated a distinct need for transdisciplinary research and education on psychedelics, as well as more critical discussions about the best ways to improve access to psychedelics for those most in need.

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Points Interview: Cannabis and control in South Africa with Thembisa Waetjen

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Today’s post features an interview with Thembisa Waetjen, a professor at the University of Johannesberg. She is a historian focusing on South Africa, who looks at twentieth century South African political and social history, with two main interests: medical humanities in South Africa and transnational Indian Ocean histories.

Thembisa recently authored ‘Apartheid’s 1971 Drug Law: Between Cannabis and Control in South Africa‘ in the upcoming Fall 2022 issue of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Find out more about Thembisa’s background, article and future research plans in this interview.

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Points Interview: Cocaine and nightlife in late 19th century Rio de Janeiro with Athos Vieira

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Today’s post features an interview with Athos Vieira, a historian from Brazil, who recently completed a Ph.D. in sociology from Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. Athos recently authored ‘Cocaine and the night: The social life of a drug in Rio de Janeiro during Brazil’s First Republic, 1885-1920s‘ in the upcoming Fall 2022 issue of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Find out more about Athos’ background and article in this interview.

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Transdisciplinarity to Address Inequality in Psychedelic Studies

Editor’s Note: Over five posts, and as part of the Points Pharmaceutical Inequalities feature, Gabriel Lake Carter will provide commentaries on a series of Borghesi-Mellon workshops titled ‘Psychedelic Pasts, Presents and Futures‘, funded by UW-Madison’s Center for Humanities. The first of these, below, reflects on discussions that took place during the ‘Transdisciplinarity in Psychedelics’ roundtable. Points’ Pharmaceutical Inequalities feature is funded by the Holtz Center and the Evjue Foundation.

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Points Interview: ‘Born addicts’ in North Africa with Nina Studer

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Today’s post features an interview with Nina Studer, a UK-based historian. Nina focuses on the history of medicine and colonial medicine in Middle East and North Africa.

Nina recently authored ‘’The native is indeed a born addict, but so far he has not yet found his true poison’: Psychiatric theories on overconsumption and race in the colonial Maghreb‘ in the upcoming Fall 2022 issue of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Find out more about Nina’s background, article and future research plans in this interview.

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