Voting is officially open for the 2024 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival—and this time, there are more than 100 marijuana and psychedelics panels that are up for consideration.
Drug policy reform issues have been regularly featured at the Austin-based event over the past several years as the cannabis legalization movement has spread and interest in psychedelics reform has boomed at the local, state and federal levels.
Psychedelics-related panels have especially boomed during recent SXSW festivals, reflecting the rapid pace of the reform movement and research around substances like psilocybin, MDMA and ayahuasca. This year, there’s a panel track designated for psychedelics—but not marijuana, even though there are a comparable number of events up for votes for both topics.
This is first time that proposed psychedelics panels, of which there are 56 this year, have outpaced those for cannabis, which has 49 proposals for the upcoming festival.
Here are some examples of the marijuana panels that voters are able to select from:
From Prison to Prosperity: How Advocacy Can Impact Cannabis
The Last Prisoner Project will host this panel on the importance of “storytelling, activist collaborations, and direct policy change” for advocates working to reform marijuana laws and repair the harms of prohibition. Attendees will learn about “how to navigate direct lobbying to policymakers, build a grassroots movement, and translate advocacy to real policy change.”
Cannabis & The Campaign Trail: Promises, Politics, & Potency
The panel will discuss the evolving politics of cannabis and the the “motivations behind politicians’ support or opposition” for reform, delving into the complex dynamics that go into the industry’s work to influence legislation. Politico reporter Natalie Fertig, VS Strategies’s Mason Tvert, Useful Strategies’s Justin Strekal and Verano Holdings Corp. President Darren Weiss will speak at the event.
Designing the Future of Cannabis Consumption
Rolling Stone culture editor Elisabeth Garber-Paul and cannabis entrepreneurs will talk about how consumers trends are shifting as the legalization movement evolves and states open the doors to novel license types like social consumption lounges. They will go over how design intersects with consumer experiences and preferences, while also examining the influence of women in the marijuana space.
Stigma to Success: Embracing the Cannabis Boom in the South
An appropriate panel for the Texas-based event, this discussion will focus on the “booming cannabis industry in the southern United States, where a diverse group of successful leaders will converge to explore the unique challenges and opportunities faced in cannabis operations.” Leafly senior editor David Downs, Virginia Minority Cannabis Coalition Founder Paul McLean and cannabis industry executives will participate.
Redressing the War on Drugs’s Impact Through Business
Weldon Angelos, the founder of the Weldon Project who received a presidential pardon for his own federal cannabis conviction during the Trump administration, will speak with Makr House CEO Amber Senter about that role that businesses can play in enacting positive change in the cannabis space and uplifting communities that have been disproportionately impacted under prohibition.
— SXSW (@sxsw) August 8, 2023
Here are some psychedelics panel options:
Psychedelic Leadership and Systems Change
“Can psychedelic experiences improve leadership by fostering qualities such as creativity and open-mindedness? Can they help us live in balance by encouraging prosocial behavior and empathy? Or are they likely to amplify narcissism and extractive behaviors?” Those are some of the questions that this panel—which will feature Google vice president of Transformation Labs Isadora Tang, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation CEO Amy Emerson and others—will try to answer.
Psychedelics for Mental Health: A Framework for the Future
Professors at the University of Texas at Austin will discuss the “numerous unanswered questions and controversies that remain to be addressed” when it comes to psychedelic-assisted therapy. They will consider issues such as dosages, routes of administration and the function of subjective experiences in the therapeutic setting.
Psychedelics and Preventing Deaths of Despair
Executives at the non-profit Reason for Hope will share their personal experiences losing loved ones to diseases of despair and the therapeutic potential that certain psychedelics hold in treating severe mental health conditions that can contribute to such losses. They will also discuss their advocacy work to secure funding for clinical research into these psychedelics that could inform future drug development.
The Future of Psychedelics: Drug Development & Policy Reform
MAPS Founder Rick Doblin will “present an exploration into the future of psychedelics, focusing on both drug policy reform and sponsoring cutting-edge psychedelic research.” The panel will examine policy frameworks for regulated access to psychedelics and the findings of studies looking at how these substances affect conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
FDA Approved Love? Exploring MDMA’s Psychedelic Journey
This panel, which features MAPS representatives and Palo Santo Fund co-founder Daniel Goldberg, will look at the history and future of MDMA, which has been designated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a “breakthrough therapy.” They will talk about why MDMA is at the forefront of the psychedelics reform movement and examine the research behind the growing interest in the substance.
These are just a few of the more than 100 drug policy panels up for consideration for SXSW 2024. After the votes are submitted and the panels are reviewed by event staff and an advisory board, the selections will likely be announced by the end of the year.
Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.