#520: Michael Pollan – This is Your Mind on Plants | The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • “What happens in the garden is a microcosm of our engagement in the entire natural world”Michael Pollan
  • One of the great mysteries of nature is how we use plants to transcend consciousness, alter our minds
    • Pollan tells stories and analyzes Opium, Mescaline, and Caffeine in his new book
  • It is technically legal to grow opium poppies unless you have the knowledge that you’re growing a scheduled substance – “proof of intent” makes it problematic
  • Drug criminalization should be based on toxicity, not addiction
  • The drug scheduling system is flawed and an “artifact of politics” – Michael Pollan
    • Against scientific evidence, Cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug and opiates are schedule 2 drugs
  • A Mescaline experience doesn’t take you “out of this world”, it takes you “deeper into this world”
  • As with tobacco and alcohol, culture and social stigma will give psychedelics the correct path to grow and develop, both medically and recreationally
  • Caffeine has been a vital part of capitalism
    • Coffee was the original substitute for alcohol which was casually drunk during the workday as it was cleaner than water
  • Fortunately, the stigma around beneficial drug and psychedelic medical research is improving with increased research in universities and higher acceptance in publications

Intro

  • Michael Pollen (@michaelpollan) is a professor at Harvard University and the University of California Berkeley and a well-known author for his research in the intersection between Botany and Psychedelics. Tim Ferriss and Michael Pollan discuss gardening, drug policy & progression, and his new book focused around Opium, Mescaline, Caffeine
  • More podcast notes with Michael Pollan
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Books & Opportunities Mentioned

Early Childhood Gardening

  • Michael sold his fruits and vegetables to his mother; gardens and produce run deep in his family tree
    • Creating physical value was a satisfying experience
  • “What happens in the garden is a microcosm of our engagement in the entire natural world” – Michael Pollan

Intro to New Book

  • This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan
  • Combining his interests in plants and psychoactives
  • The book is a deep dive into a chapter from The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
    • Analyzes the symbiotic relationship between plants and humans, how we change plants and they change us
    • One of the great mysteries of nature is how we use plants to transcend consciousness, alter our minds
  • Chose to deeply analyze an upper, downer, and outer (psychedelic)
    • Caffeine, Opium, and Mescaline
    • These are a part of engaging in our natural world as much as eating is

Opium

  • Opium for the Masses: Harvesting Nature’s Best Pain Medication by Jim Hogshire
  • Jim Hogshire was arrested for possessing dried poppies and his book simultaneously – “proof of intent”
    • It is technically legal to grow opium poppies unless you have the knowledge that you’re growing a scheduled substance
    • Really, by reading this note, you have the knowledge to be used against you…
    • You can grow them for “scenic looks” but if you open up the seeds, the DEA will bust down your door
    • The DEA would constantly harass florists about their poppies
  • Michael produced a research article called Opium Made Easy
    • Had to get massive legal backing to publish the article due to the potential for incredible federal punishment
    • The legal team was pursuing an opportunity for justice
  • At this same time of strict regulations on poppies, Purdue Pharma was ironically introducing Oxycontin

Drug Policy

  • It’s not fair to criminalize things based on addiction, rather toxicity
    • Information and regulation is the answer
    • Contaminated liquor during prohibition led to many deaths
  • Policy tends to criminalize drugs that are used by the underprivileged in society
    • Cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug, meaning there is no accepted medical use and at high risk for abuse (which has scientifically been proven inaccurate)
    • Opiates are schedule 2 drugs; they have their place in medicine but the negative impact on society doesn’t match the scheduling and overall political conversation
    • The drug schedule system is an “artifact of politics” – Michael Pollan
  • Fortunately, the stigma around beneficial drug and psychedelic medical research is improving with increased research in universities and higher acceptance in publications

Mescaline

  • The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley – Michael’s introduction to Mescaline
  • Mescaline characteristics:
    • A Mescaline experience doesn’t take you “out of this world”, it takes you “deeper into this world”
    • If we tried to identify all the sensory details around us, we would be overwhelmed. Mescaline helps you focus on these details more closely and accurately.
    • “Here and now” feeling, very aware of surroundings and have full capability of communication
    • The oldest known psychedelic occurring in the peyote cactus used widely among natives in Mexico and America
      • Native cultures used to have highly regulated rituals around using psychedelics to cope with trauma and problems
  • Downsides of Mescaline:
    • The trip lasts roughly 14 hours, which is difficult for medical research
    • Short supply and extremely slow-growing
    • Ethical question surrounding harvesting peyote cactus from the native soil in which it has so much history
      • Fortunately, it also occurs in San Pedro cactus which is legal to grow, while the peyote cactus is not

Cultural Drug Movement

  • The drug war is subsiding:
    • Oregon decriminalizing all drugs, and legalizing psilocybin therapy
    • Traditional ‘red’ states legalizing cannabis
  • “When the drug war ends, our confusion and problems around drugs are not going to end, they will intensify” – Michael Pollan
    • What are the cultural and medical containers for each drug?
    • What will the perceptions on psychedelic use be if you are neither religious or sick?
  • We’ve established social stigmas and accepted rules around alcohol and tobacco
    • culture will establish the peaceful opportunities and boundaries around modern psychedelic use
  • For-profit companies, as always, will most likely exploit a business model in psychedelics for repeatable treatment rather than healing solutions

Caffeine

  • In England, coffeehouses were a place to gather news, not really about the product
    • Tea took over due to the ability to grow and produce it locally
    • The tax on tea offended the colonist so much that they switch to coffee – The Boston Tea Party
  • Caffeine has been a vital part of capitalism
    • Makes us better and more efficient workers
    • People were simply drunk before coffee, alcohol was the drink of choice throughout the entirety of the day
      • Alcohol was technically cleaner and healthier than the water at the time
    • Allowed for the possibility of a night shift, switching from a downer to an upper
  • Caffeine has a quarter-life – no matter how much caffeine you drink, 1/4 of the caffeine will still be in your bloodstream after 12 hours
    • This has negative effects on sleep
  • It is the only drug that we recreationally give our children

Gardening Advice

  • Figure out what you want to grow and how you will benefit
  • Build a single raised bed – ideal circumstances for the plants being able to choose soil and its conditions
  • Herbs and garlic can do very well on their own
  • Become aware of your local pests
  • How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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