Letter From Mark Haden RE Community Issues

March 10, 2021

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As many of you know, I am in the midst of transitioning from my role as founder and Executive Director of MAPS Canada and taking on a new role at Psygen Labs Inc., a Calgary-based manufacturer of psychedelic products for therapeutic purposes and clinical research.

This transition in leadership had been in consideration for over a year.  I am confident that now is the right time for a renewal of leadership at MAPS Canada, as the organization is stable and thriving.  It is led by a strong and committed Board of Directors and it is moving forward thanks to our highly skilled and dedicated staff members and volunteers.

It has been an honour to have founded and led MAPS Canada since 2011, and I thank everyone I had the pleasure and privilege to work with during this time. I will continue to support MAPS Canada’s work in my new role, and as a continuing member of the psychedelic academic, research, and clinical therapeutic communities. 

I am also taking this opportunity to address, for the final time in my role as Executive Director at MAPS Canada, a number of serious issues that have arisen during my tenure that have impacted the organization, me personally, and the psychedelic research and treatment community at large.

My goal with this statement is to ensure my views on these issues are clear and unequivocal, and to address any factual inaccuracies which have appeared in a recent article which is circulating.

These issues are:

  • My involvement with Martin Ball who was the publisher of my Manual for Psychedelic Guides.
  • My role on the Goop Show with Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • MAPS Canada’s representation of a specific therapist’s credentials.
  • The problem of sexual and physical abuse in the field of psychedelics, psychedelic therapy, and psychedelic research.
  • MAPS Canada’s response to the issue of diversity.

My book, the Manual for Psychedelic Guides [Amazon, 2020] is intended to provide a contribution to the ongoing development of ethical and clinical best practices for currently unregulated psychedelic supervisors. This manual was published by Kyandara Books, which is owned by Dr. Martin Ball.  Dr. Ball has a PhD in Religious Studies and was a professor at Southern Oregon University and has written and published many books on psychedelics.  The reason I chose him for the role of publisher was because I have read a number of his books, and all of them were well written, and in a style that is similar to my own.  He assisted with the editing and publishing of the manual, but this was the extent of his involvement. A video has been circulating recently showing Dr. Ball describing some bizarre practices of his historical guiding work.  None of his books that I read described any disturbing or unethical practices and at no point were his past practices discussed with me. I was not aware of the disturbing video about his psychedelic practices until recently.

Although I appreciated his publishing skills, I have made the decision to republish the Manual for Psychedelic Guides, removing any reference to Dr. Ball to make it very clear that I do not endorse the behaviours described in the video.

I have been asked why I agreed to be interviewed by Gwyneth Paltrow and represent MAPS Canada on the Netflix series, The Goop Lab. This interview was a tremendous opportunity to present the science of psychedelics to tens of thousands of global viewers. In no way should it be construed as an endorsement of the privately-held Goop corporation, its products, or the views and opinions of its owners.  The Goop product line was never discussed, as we focused exclusively on the topic of psychedelics.

In 2018, MAPS USA contended with ethical violations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by a research therapist.  This involved a subject at the Vancouver study site, and occurred after completion of the phase 2 trial for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD.  MAPS USA reported the violations as soon as they became aware of them to MAPS Canada, the US FDA and Health Canada. The full statement from MAPS USA can be read on the MAPS USA website (search term: ethical violation).  MAPS USA has since discontinued its association with the therapist and the co-therapist. A civil claim by the subject against the therapist was settled out of court.

MAPS Canada never misrepresented (or even represented) the credentials of this therapist. This therapist was vetted and hired by MAPS USA.  All communication about this violation was from MAPS USA who responded with complete transparency with both regulatory authorities and the public.

With respect to the problem of sexual and physical abuse within the psychedelic research and treatment community, I and MAPS Canada condemn all forms of abuse between researchers, therapists, guides and supervisors, and their subjects and clients.

Currently, there is no governing body in Canada or the US that regulates, licenses, trains, or provides oversight of those who call themselves psychedelic guides, psychedelic therapists, and psychedelic supervisors.  In 2016 I advocated for just such a regulatory college for psychedelic supervisors in a paper published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs calling for the legalization of psychedelics (google: “regulation of psychedelics Haden”).

MAPS Canada made a public statement regarding diversity (blog post: Oct 27, 2020) and we are continuing to build on this commitment.  We have a new Indo-Canadian physician on our board and continue to work with our diversity committee to move this agenda forward.  For example, watch for a variety of documents translated into different languages on our website.

MAPS Canada has been in the process of drafting its own Codes of Ethics, Privacy and Confidentiality, and Practice documents to make clear its own zero-tolerance stance on all forms of abuse, assault, and other violations, and to provide clear guidelines for the organization.  When these are complete, they will be announced and published on the MAPS Canada website.

On a personal note, although these are often unprecedented and divisive times, I remain an optimist. I am optimistic about the future of psychedelic research and the movement towards the legalization of psychedelics as therapeutic treatments. I am optimistic that as a community of healers and psychedelic researchers we can understand with compassion those who spread misinformation.  I am optimistic that we can stay focused on real issues and work at building and maintaining positive and constructive relationships, as we are all working toward the same goal – of legal and safe access to psychedelic medicines.

Thank you, once again, to the volunteers, staff, Board Members, partners, and supporters of MAPS Canada for the past eleven wonderful years. I wish everyone at MAPS Canada an even more successful ten years ahead, and beyond.

Collaboratively yours,

Mark Haden

Soon to be ex-Executive Director – MAPS Canada

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