A critique of indigenous reciprocity.

As the psychedelic treatment industry has grown, there have been calls for a fair share of the profits from the exploitation of indigenous knowledge. The concept of indigenous reciprocity appeared relatively recently in a number of academic papers, conferences and websites in the global psychedelic space. Now, with psilocybin being by far the most important molecule used in clinical trials, Westerners who discovered (or rather rediscovered) the sacred mushrooms of Mesoamerica are sometimes seen as biopirates. Where they ? Indeed, as soon as psilocybin was identified and synthesised, patents to protect psilocybin and psilocybin were filed. This raises the question of intellectual property. Are the companies that continue to file patents on synthetic psilocybin and psilocin and that seek profit from their trade despoilers of Native Mexican people? By the way, the ethnographer Wasson is often described as having betrayed the trust of the curandera Maria Sabina and as being responsible for the decline of the traditional cult of sacred mushrooms in Huautla de Jimenez, where he was initiated, for having brought these practices to the attention of the Western world. In this respect, it is interesting to carry out a historian's work by delving into sources such as the correspondence between Wasson, the mycologist Heim and the chemist Hofmann, to clarify what their intentions were. Anyway, who are the repositories of therapeutic knowledge on psychedelics? I suggest that this question is based on ethnocentric thinking that implies the acceptance that everything in the world is a commodity. If, as a result of globalisation, all societies are forced to fit into our way of life through the market, this does not mean that they share its values. Moreover, it is impossible to identify the owners of the intellectual property rights of psychedelic plants and mushrooms, unless we simplify things and essentialise people. A little historical and anthropological approach calls for nuance before endorsing discourses that victimise Native American peoples, when it comes to analysing the naturalisation by European and Euro-American cultures of American psychedelics: peyote/mescaline, mushrooms/psilocybin, ayahuasca/DMT. More generally, we would do well to consider different ways of thinking about cultural diversity, and also to be aware of ethnocentric biases and a certain form of condescension towards indigenous peoples.

Vincent Verroust is a PhD candidate in the history of sciences at the Université Picardie - Jules Vernes (Amiens, France) and an associate researcher at the Paul Brousse hospital. His investigations focus on the discovery of psilocybin fungi and are based on the archives of Prof. Roger Heim (1900 - 1979), which are kept at the French National Museum of Natural History, and contain a large volume of correspondance with R. Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann.

For the past four years, he has been coordinating the first academic course in psychedelic studies in France. Vincent Verroust is involved in the recognition of the therapeutic value of psychedelics in France.

He took an active part in the creation of a working group for the resumption of clinical trials with psilocybin, gathering researchers from different public hospitals, and he assists various doctors, psychologists and students in their discovery of the field. He is the founder and a board member of the French Psychedelic Society ("Société psychédélique française"), a NGO of scientific mediation aimed at the general public, health professionals, journalists and politicians, which advocates for the reasoned integration of psychedelics in the society and which brings together activists as well as patients, doctors, and researchers from different disciplines.

He is currently working for the Network of Health Establishments for the Prevention of Addiction in France ("Respadd"), where he coordinates the work on psychedelics in the framework of a research-action partnership with the PsyCommAdd team at Paul Brousse Hospital.