🫠 Psychonaut POV

[5-min read] Q&A with Brandon Deroche, Social Entrepreneur

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You might not have heard of Brandon Deroche, but you definitely know his friends. After working with massive artists like Justin Bieber and Lizzo to champion social causes, he realized he could apply the same playbook to psychedelics. Just like that, PORTAL was born.

We spoke to Brandon about how celebrities are destigmatizing psychedelics, a gamified approach to social change, and his vision for a global movement toward inner exploration.

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Brandon Deroche Psychonaut POV
What inspired you to become an advocate for psychedelics?

I got into psychedelics in high school—mainly mushrooms and LSD. I had black light posters all over my parents' basement, got into Pink Floyd, and even wrote my high school term paper on The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Growing up in central Pennsylvania in the late '90s, a lot of my friends were into it.

My use of psychedelics was pretty sporadic for about 10 years from my mid-twenties onwards. It wasn't until the past few years that it all came full circle. During the early days of COVID, a friend gave me mushrooms, and it reignited my passion. My wife tried them with me for the first time, and that set me down this path of exploration.

Now, in my early 40s, psychedelics have become something I prefer to do in the privacy of my own house, with an eye mask and headphones on. It's become this deep dive into my consciousness. I started doing Transcendental Meditation in 2010, and it’s very intertwined with my current psychedelic use. I see psychedelics as tools for turning inward, especially when combined with meditation practices.

I've become an advocate because I believe that consciousness is at the root of everything. So many of the world's problems could be diminished if people were to level up their consciousness, both individually and collectively. Psychedelics can be a powerful tool for self-inquiry and inner exploration. They've had such a profound impact on my life that I want to promote their responsible use and help remove the stigma around them.

How have you seen the attitudes of musicians and celebrities towards psychedelics change over the years? What role do you think artists can play in ending the stigma?

I think there's been a lot of usual suspects in the psychedelic space for a while. If you Google psychedelics and celebrities, you'll find lists mostly pulled from the Have a Good Trip film. But recently, more people are starting to come out of the psychedelic closet and talk openly about it.

Artists like Margo Price have said their albums were inspired by psilocybin. Seeing A-listers discuss psychedelics is making it feel safer for others to open up. As psychedelics are framed more in the context of mental health and healing, more people are sharing their stories.

In my work with musicians around social causes, I never thought of psychedelics as a cause you could support. It wasn't on the table as an option. But now, with organizations like PORTAL, people are realizing they can support psychedelics as a cause. I think this will trigger more people to become vocal about it.

It's in the zeitgeist right now because of the focus on mental health and the state of the world. People are starting to realize that change begins within, and psychedelics can really help with that. My theory is that we'll see more and more artists and celebrities supporting psychedelics as a serious cause, not just as a recreational thing. It's becoming a life force out there, and I see my role as helping to push that forward.

Is there a specific artist that comes to mind who’s done an exceptional job using their platform to discuss psychedelics?

To start, Justin Boreta from The Glitch Mob has been my co-pilot on all things PORTAL and has been an advocate for years. He was the initial light bulb for me on treating psychedelics as a cause we should support.

As for mainstream artists, Jaden Smith really cares and wants to do more in that world. Harry Styles and Kacey Musgraves also come to mind. Kacey made it part of her album rollout, talking about how psychedelic therapy helped her through her divorce. It's cool to see it ingrained into the PR and rollout of their albums and tours, not just as a side conversation.

The main takeaway is that it's safe to talk about these things. These bigger artists have shown you can speak about psychedelics in an open and honest way, and it'll resonate with fans. It might even inspire other artists or influencers to open up about their positive experiences.

The work I do with Propeller is all about reaching people outside the bubble. We partner with artists and influencers to inspire their fans to engage with issues they might not otherwise know or care about. Many of these fans might have tried psychedelics or seen them in the news, but haven't done much research. Our partnerships encourage them to learn more about the compounds, organizations, and people involved.

There's still a lot of work to do to spread awareness. I had a meeting last year with 15 music managers of popular current artists, and none of them had heard of MAPS. If the biggest organization in the psychedelic space isn't known in the mainstream, we clearly need to broaden the movement's reach.

Tell us about PORTAL. What is it, and how is it different from other organizations in the psychedelic space?

PORTAL started as an initiative on Propeller, a platform that gamifies collective action. We partner with artists, influencers, and music festivals to support causes through incentivized experiences. Fans take actions like donating or signing petitions to enter to win these experiences, earning points along the way.

With PORTAL, we initially partnered with organizations like Double Blind and MAPS to create a "choose your own adventure" in the psychedelic space. As I got more involved in the psychedelic community, I saw an opportunity to apply Propeller's approach to this field specifically.

In the last year, we made PORTAL its own entity. While it still runs campaigns through Propeller, it also has a life outside of that platform. Our goal with PORTAL is to help people turn inward, fostering consciousness as a root solution to many issues.

We're starting monthly events in Denver, which will be part psychedelic education with speakers, and part premium sound journey. These events will happen on "portal dates"—8/8, 9/9, 10/10, and so on—creating a monthly ritual for people to turn inward. Our plan is to refine this concept in Denver over the next year, and then expand to other cities, partnering with various organizations aligned with our vision.

What plans do you have for the future? What does your dream event look like?

My dream for the future is to have these events happening on the same day all over the world. They don't necessarily need to be big events, but rather a global movement of people focusing on inner and interconnection. I also have aspirations for larger, highly conceptual events—mini-festivals that are intimate, fun, and deep.

I hope it comes through that we're intending to be highly collaborative. There's this Ram Dass video where he talks about society moving from achievement through competition to achievement through collaboration. That's the spirit of what needs to happen in the world, especially in psychedelics.

We're in the early days, and I don't want to be part of any infighting. The psychedelic movement is fragile, and we need to foster collaboration to keep moving forward. Despite the challenges, I think there are many people in the psychedelic space with the right mentality and spirit. It feels exciting to be on the ground floor of something, even if that something’s been around for a long time.

Want more from Brandon?

Take action to support the psychedelic movement, earn points, and get rewards: Enter the PORTAL.

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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