*This write-up of Jackee Stang was originally published in Daily Beast, written by Stephanie Theobold. Illustrated portrait by Elizabeth Brockway.
Meet Jackee Stang, founder of Delic Corp.
A blonde woman wearing a denim jacket saying, “Jesus is psychedelic” swaggered into her garage in Marina del Rey. Like the love child of Timothy Leary and Gwyneth Paltrow, Jackee Stang burst into the “psychedelic space” at the end of last year when she launched what she calls “the world’s first psychedelic wellness corporation.”
Next month, the 36-year-old goes live with an e-commerce platform, The Delic, which Stang told me is, “like the Goop of psychedelics. It’s a glimpse into my own personal curation of living a psychedelic lifestyle.”
Stang motioned for me to sit in a deck chair 6 feet away from hers. “I’m kind of like a punk who’s into safety,” she joked, offering me some hand sanitizer. It was the first week that the serious impact of the novel coronavirus was becoming apparent, and she wanted to follow the rules.
Caution pretty much sums her approach to rebranding the world of psychedelics which was sent spiraling into disrepute following the harum-scarum antics of goofy idealist Leary in the 1960s and 1970s.
“I’m not suggesting that people go out and experiment with really powerful substances in these high anxiety days,” she emphasized. “I would suggest they research and learn. People have tons of time on their hands right now.”
Unlike Leary, who advocated dropping out and refusing to “play the game” of mainstream society, Stang is all about embracing the mainstream. She even believes in inviting the government to the party and is adamant about the need to “regulate the industry.”
She cites Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), who believes he is on track to get FDA-approved MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD by 2021. This means that, unlike cannabis, you’ll be able to claim for it on your insurance.
Doblin will be one of the guest speakers at the “Psychedelic Wellness Summit” planned by TheDelic.com’s parent company, Delic Corp (formed with $850,000 of initial investment) this August—live-streamed if necessary. Other guests from the Enlightenment Hall of Fame will include her first-ever boss, Mr. “Bio-Hack” himself Dave Asprey, creator of the million-dollar Bulletproof empire.
In 2014, after leaving her job as producer of the Bulletproof podcast with the valuable bio-hacking lesson of “empowering the consumer to take his health into his own hands,” Stang went on to work at legendary weed bible High Times. She was the only woman on the board, and called out the boys’ club that the famous magazine had become: “I thought, ‘Well, that’s silly, we need the female consumer voice in here.’”
But the men upstairs didn’t entirely get it. In the summer of 2018, they pulled Stang’s cover showing a reconstructed version of Botticelli’s Venus lying on a bed of cannabis. “We didn’t show any nudity. A group of men can’t tell a group of women what ‘sexist’ is, and some of the covers had been very sexist in the past.”
Unbowed, she went to Burning Man where it struck her that, “there’s all this research being done about psychedelics from academics, but nobody is speaking to a mainstream audience.”
She’s convinced that Delic Corp has a future because if ever there was a time when we needed to think out of the box, it is now.
“The coronavirus is going to open up a ton of opportunities to address a load of problems we’ve been ignoring not just as a species but within ourselves,” said Stang. “And that’s what psychedelics do. They’re a super hack.”
That last sentence is classic 21st-century Leary-speak, but she stiffens when I mention his name. “‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ was the messaging that scared people into demonizing psychedelics in a modern age,” she said.
One of the main strategies in what Stang terms “the new psychedelic renaissance,” is to bring psychedelics from the shadows in order to model a new approach to mental health which would be a combination of psychedelics and psychotherapy.
She points to the opening of the $17 million Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University in September last year. She also talks up the significance of influential yet respectable characters to “coming out from the psychedelic closet.” Examples she gives are Asprey and bestselling author Tim Ferris who recently donated $3 million to “the movement” as she calls it—and was described by Fortune magazine as “the Pied Piper of psychedelics.”
Forget dropping out, Stang said. “In this new psychedelic era there is one key message: safety is cool.”
It’s slightly disappointing to hear such a cautious message because on paper Stang looks like such a wild child. Her husband, Matt Stang, a 20-year veteran at High Times and the chief revenue officer, became notorious following a 2012 arrest alongside the rap mogul, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, who helped launch Jay-Z’s career.
But then a glint appears in her eye, and she reveals that she met him in 2014, “on the day he got his ankle bracelet off for conspiracy to distribute large amounts of cannabis in the NY state area.” She jokes that because of her “super conservative, religious Republican childhood in South Texas,” she is sexually attracted to men who look like Jesus. “My husband is also Jewish!”
Stang is a bunch of contradictions which go back to this Texas childhood. Her paternal grandfather was a self-made millionaire in Ohio power lines, but she didn’t have an emotionally easy time. She is the daughter of an “alcoholic singer/songwriter who died in prison” and a “super anxious mother.” “I’ve never gone over the edge because I use psychedelics as puzzles—a way to create mind discipline for myself. It’s fun for me to go into a trip and work out.”
By day, Stang was the alpha cheerleader/class president with a secret eating disorder, and by night she turned into the naughty “tomboy” party girl who’d go to “Candy Raves” in San Antonio and Austin. She had her first LSD trip at 14. “It was a good experience,” she recalled. “In fact, I’ve never gone over the edge because I use psychedelics as puzzles—a way to create mind discipline for myself. It’s fun for me to go into a trip and work out.”
One of her happy memories is of her devout Christian maternal grandfather (and namesake, Jack) standing her on the pew at church and them both singing their hearts out. But in her early twenties, when Stang started “to think more for myself,” she lost touch with spirituality. Again, psychedelics came to the rescue. “They always got me into that headspace.” (Jesus is psychedelic, by the way, because, “walking on water, turning water to wine, being loving and aware and patient—these are all lessons that psychedelics teach you.”)
She underlines though that she’s not into using words like “spiritual” or “divine” in her new business venture, “because what I’m doing with Delic is speaking to a mainstream audience. Those words come along with a stigma of woo-woo or hippy-dippy and you lose an audience, right?”
Stang talks tentatively about “plant medicine,” which is another huge strand of the modern-day psychedelics story. She surprises me by saying she’s only had a hallucinatory experience “in a ceremonial or reverential way” twice. You sense she will go further down this path of using plants in a more therapeutic way. One thing that she repeats throughout this interview is, “I’m changing all the time.”
In terms of her psychedelic influences, she’s more into Hollywood than the author Aldous Huxley or any of the band of elite hallucinogen devotees of 1950s LA such as Christopher Isherwood and Gerald Heard who roamed Hollywood experimenting with Mescaline. (Like all of them though, Leary included, she has chosen LA as the ideal power hub to try and spread her passionate message.)
“I’m not studious in that way,” Stang said, adding that “People in the modern-day consume information through music and Netflix.” She mentions Sturgill Simpson, the country singer who just put out a Netflix animé film, Sound and Fury, pretty much dedicated to celebrating psychedelics.
This changing of the trip guru guard has inevitably ruffled a few feathers among the straight white men with big egos who Stang says traditionally inhabit the “psychedelic space.”
When the control of cult “consciousness culture” webzine Reality Sandwich was transferred to Delic Corp last year, one of its many contributors wrote a long piece on the independent site psymposia.com saying they felt “deeply violated.”
Reality Sandwich was co-founded in 2007 by author Daniel Pinchbeck, whose fans include Russell Brand and Sting. Famed for its love of “plant medicine,” shamanism, yoga, meditation, and indigenous wisdom traditions, the news that it was now to become adjacent to a Goop-ish entity came like garlic to a vampire.
Stang said she’s been saddened by some of the negativity towards her. She admitted she has a “doubt monster” who sometimes comes to sit on her shoulder, but this is counteracted by that Texan swagger.
“We can be seen, I guess sometimes, as capitalists which is… whatever. I can’t control what people think. The deep Bernie Sanders people… It’s not just Delic. People also have issues with a company called Compass which is working on psilocybin.”
Compass Pathways is one of the growing numbers of controversial startups focused on developing and commercializing psychedelics. Run by millionaire couple Ekaterina Malievskaia and her partner George Goldsmith, with funding from big Silicon Valley players such as Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, it has patented a method to develop psilocybin in a laboratory.
“If George can travel from Europe he’ll be at the summit in August,” Stang said. “I appreciate George’s message. While I don’t fully agree, I respect him.”
Stang chooses not to reference the public Facebook #metoo letter Pinchbeck wrote in 2017 admitting to “predatory” behavior to women and “many unaware and disrespectful behaviors.” When I asked her about it, she said merely that “the patriarchal paradigm has shifted for the world and this applies to the psychedelic community as well.”
She pointed out that it’s ludicrous how the most recognized names in the field of psychedelics are and continue to be all men: Tim Leary, Terrence McKenna, Rick Doblin, Albert Hoffman, Alexander Shulgin.
“I’m on a journey to finding more women like me, “ she confided, mentioning plant medicine facilitator Florencia Bollini who controversially says that only women should administer plant medicine (“I don’t know if I believe her, but I’m like, Let’s dig into that!”). She also names Natalie Ginsberg who works in marketing at MAPS and NYU professor Caroline G. Dorsen, recent recipient of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award, whose research includes the use of psychedelics within marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ community. “It’s your obligation as a healthy, capable human being to work on yourself so you can participate as a community member at your best”
Yet Stang admits that while she’s used to dealing with “capitalist alpha males known to have big egos,” she still hasn’t “figured out” the problem of the female ego. “I’ve spent more time reaching out to marginalized groups to get them to speak at the summit in August, but I’ve gotten more no’s from that community.”
She mused that “It could be that a lot of women have forgotten how to meet that male ego with a softness.” But mainly, her take is that women need to “do work on themselves,” by which she presumably means the psychedelic route.
“Complacency is an addiction,” she said with a grin, before suddenly transforming into the all-American class president as she concluded encouragingly, “It’s your obligation as a healthy, capable human being to work on yourself so you can participate as a community member at your best. It’s in our nature to want to evolve. We’ve just forgotten how.”