🫠 Psychonaut POV

[5-min read] Q&A with Wendy Tucker, Artist & Publisher

Welcome to Tricycle Day. We’re the psychedelics newsletter that’s so easy to read a child could sing along. Old McShulgin had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. And on that farm he had some drugs, E-I-E-I-O. 🎶 

When her mother Ann married Sasha Shulgin, Wendy Tucker joined one of the most important families in American psychedelic history. Now as the executor of her parents' estate, she’s launched a campaign to preserve the Shulgin Farm and all the memories it holds.

We spoke to Wendy about testing out new psychedelics with Sasha, how the Shulgin Farm became a regular gathering place for the psychedelic community, and her vision for the future of the farm.

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Wendy Tucker Psychonaut POV
When your mother Ann married Sasha Shulgin, did you already have a relationship with psychedelics? How did joining the Shulgin family change it?

Yes, I did. My mom was the type of parent who encouraged us to explore things in a safe space. She didn't say, "don't do drugs," but rather, "if you want to try anything, come home and try it here." So, as a teenager, that gave me a good core message about altering my consciousness, and I had fun exploring and experimenting with psychedelics.

When Mom met Sasha and told us what he did, it was pretty mind-blowing. Getting to know Sasha was interesting because at first, as a 17-year-old, I didn't get his dry sense of humor and felt a little protective of my mom. But once I got to know him, I really liked him and appreciated who he was and the work he was doing. I respected it.

Joining the Shulgin family shifted my perception of psychedelics from things you’d take recreationally with friends, to tools that could be used intentionally within a container. Hearing about the research group, the reports they wrote, and their scientific approach was fascinating. I got to see that there's something about working with these compounds in a conscientious way that felt really good and different.

The Shulgins are best known for their work with MDMA and 2C-B, but Sasha synthesized hundreds of novel psychedelic compounds. Do you have a favorite molecule or story from the lab?

I did get to try some of the things that Sasha was inventing. Just the other day, I found one of my reports in the pharmacology notebooks from when I was 18 or 19 years old, which was pretty funny to read. I don’t know if I had a favorite, but the whole 2C series—not just 2C-B but 2C-T-2, 2C-T-7, and others—were special. Testing all these molecules at the farm with Ann and Sasha was an amazing experience. There was always a lot of laughter because Sasha was such a funny person. My mom was always so happy around him.

One standout memory I have is trying 2C-B for the first time. We took a big dose, and it was very psychedelic. The sense of openness you get with 2C-B is similar to MDMA, where your heart is very open, but it also has that super psychedelic visual component. It was a beautiful and intense experience.

What are your thoughts on the Shulgins' philosophy around self-experimentation? Could the same approach work today?

I believe self-experimentation is the way it should be done when it comes to creating new compounds. You can't ask a rat how they're feeling or what they're going through, so it's critical that people bioassay the substances they create. It only made sense to me that that's what Sasha did, but when I first learned about it, I remember thinking, "Oh my God, how brave. What kind of things could go wrong?"

I recently came across a report in the pharmacology notebooks where someone, possibly Sasha, had a terrible experience. The handwriting was different from normal, but whoever it was wrote something like, "I'm going to be sick. I'm not sure I’m going to make it through this." Reports like these go to show that these substances shouldn’t be taken lightly.

However, Sasha was meticulous in his work and had a sense of how to do it right. He knew the physiological signs to look for that could indicate danger. Not everyone is trained or aware of themselves in that way.

To do this safely, you have to start at minute amounts and work up slowly, staying far below the level you think is active. Then, you have to give your body time to clear out the drug between each trial, so it's a long process. Of course, you also need medical knowledge to understand the potential risks and what warning signs to look for.

The Shulgins built a special community of scientists, scholars, and practitioners at their farm. What were those famous Friday Night Dinners like?

The dinners started when my mom and Sasha got together. Initially, they were just family dinners, but then we started inviting extended family and friends. It grew until, for years, it was every other week at my dad's house, sometimes with up to a hundred people.

It became like a salon, with people like Jaron Lanier who developed virtual reality, Buzz Aldrin, NASA folks, therapists, chemists, and more. It was a great, eclectic group. Mom had a ritual of standing up to announce that there should be no smoking pot and no drug dealing, as the house could be lost if law enforcement got wind of it.

Easter and Fourth of July were always the big gatherings at the farm, which had been happening even before my mom was in the picture. Mom and Sasha got married on Fourth of July at one of these parties. It was a surprise wedding! Even after the Friday night dinners stopped, these holiday gatherings continued and are still happening now.

Mom and Sasha were so open with their home, often inviting total strangers over for lunch if they expressed admiration for their work. People would come and sit around the dining room table, ask questions, talk, and get advice. Sasha encouraged many young people to get educated and earn their degrees.

Besides the gatherings, there were always people coming through the farm to see Sasha and Mom to talk about chemistry or therapy. My mom held a regular group for psychedelic therapists called the Tea Party, where they would discuss challenging issues they faced in their work.

Tell us about your vision for Shulgin Farm. What’s next and how can our readers support its preservation?

The Shulgin Farm is a great place with a rich history of experimentation, research, and therapy. I felt strongly that we couldn't just sell it after my mom passed away. So, we created a non-profit last fall called Shulgin Farm to maintain, preserve, and care for the property.

The farm has different spaces, including the lab (a working facility), the house (suitable for smaller meetings, trainings, or session work), and the Barn (a blank canvas for events with up to 100 people). We're currently working on getting the property ready to rent out to vetted organizations that align with the Shulgin ethos. We want it to be a place for serious inquiry, education, and information sharing.

Right now, we're running a campaign called the Seed Crystal Steward Campaign, where people can donate to help preserve the farm. The idea is to spread ownership among many people in the community, rather than just a few wealthy individuals. The goal is to raise $3 million to secure the farm, make improvements, and have a reserve account. After that, the farm should be able to maintain itself through rentals and events.

In the next few years, I'd like to see organizations using the farm for fundraising, lectures, small conferences, and workshops. I'd love to see chemistry lessons in the lab, therapist groups utilizing the space, and the property being used for weddings. Art is also a big piece of the vision; I want to create an art walk on the hillside with contemplative spaces.

Most importantly, the farm is for and about the community. It's a neutral space where people can have difficult conversations, and I believe it can be a place for conflict resolution within the psychedelic space. The homey and welcoming feel of the place should help with that. It's going to take the whole community to make this happen. The farm really is for everyone.

Want more from Wendy?

Browse the Shulgin Farm photo gallery, and consider donating to the Seed Crystal Steward Campaign to preserve the farm.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

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DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. The use, possession, and distribution of psychedelic drugs are illegal in most countries and may result in criminal prosecution.

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