1967 – First Ever Multidisciplinary Conference on Psychedelics Held
Participants of this landmark psychedelic conference in San Francisco included experts such as ethnobotanists Richard Evans Schultes and Robert Gordon Wasson, chemist Alexander Shulgin, Andrew Weil, Claudio Naranjo, Bo Holmstedt, and other pioneers of psychedelic science. It was the first time that a conference on the botany, chemistry, history, and pharmacology of psychedelics had been held.
The symposium volume included chapters on the chemistry of ayahuasca by Deulofeu, the ethnography of its use and preparation by Taylor, and the human psychopharmacology of the β-carbolines of B. caapi by Naranjo. At the time, the prevailing assumption was that the psychoactivity of ayahuasca was due primarily if not entirely to β-carbolines. Aside from ayahuasca and classic psychedelics, many traditional indigenous hallucinogens and practices were covered. Lectures included the chemistry, pharmacology, and use of: kawa (decoction from Piper methysticum), nutmeg, various South American snuffs, and fly agaric mushroom.
In 1998, ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna commented reflecting on the event, saying “it was certainly the last time that such a conference would be held under government sponsorship!”
Follow-up psychedelic conferences were intended to be held every ten years, but the UN-imposed psychotropic regulations made this difficult. Since the 1990s, there have been an increasing number of psychedelic conference. The historical juggernaut of psychedelic research conferences are those organized by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization founded in 1986 that “develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana”.
On the 50th anniversary of the symposium, however, in June 2017, an international group of specialists gathered again to share their perspectives on past, present, and future research in ethnopharmacology. The symposium was entitled ESPD 50 and it was held at the Tyringham Hall in Britain. In 2019, the third edition of the World Ayahuasca Conference in Girona (Spain) held a book launch with several of the original 1960s conference delegates present to announce the new edition.
Efron, D. H. (1967). Ethnopharmacologic search for psychoactive drugs Proceedings of a symposium held in San Francisco, California, January 28-30, 1967. Archive.org website
McKenna, D. J. (2006 ). Ayahuasca: An Ethnopharmacological History. In Sacred Vine of Spirits: Ayahuasca (pp. 187–213). Rochester Vt.: Park Street Press.