Madison Margolin is the co-founder of DoubleBlind, a media company and education platform at the forefront of the rapidly growing psychedelic movement. Madison is a journalist based between New York and Los Angeles, and has covered psychedelics, cannabis, drug policy, Jewish culture, and spirituality for a variety of publications.
In this edition of Amplify, we invite you to learn a bit more about Madison’s psychedelic path, her work with DoubleBlind, the challenges and advantages of being a woman working on the psychedelic space, and her hopes for this industry. Let’s check it out!
This interview was conducted and transcribed by Lizzy Heller and condensed for clarity.
WOOP: How did you first get involved with psychedelics and what led you to do this type of advocacy work?
Madison: I’ve always been really interested in psychedelics. I grew up in a hippie-ish household where my dad was a marijuana defense lawyer who defended people like Timothy Leary. He had a few psychedelic experiences with his friends and went to India where he spent time with Ram Dass and their guru Neem Karoli Baba. So I basically grew up in that culture. When I was 18 and at UC Berkeley, I began reading about psychedelics and started doing research. I wrote a research paper on the psychedelic experience but had never done anything prior to that.
After I had done all that research, I finally felt ready to try it. And when I did, it was the most transformative, profound day of my life. I’ve always held on to that feeling, and from then on, became really passionate about it. I then went to journalism school and wrote a lot about cannabis. I always say that cannabis is the gateway plant to other mind-altering substances.
My interest in cannabis policy eventually led me to psychedelic policy and science. I come from a Jewish background and have met a lot of Jewish people from different aspects of the culture and religion who are doing psychedelics. It was incredible to see how they engaged in psychedelics in different ways. That’s what led me to be really passionate about this subject of the overlap between Judaism and the psychedelic experience
A couple of years ago, Shelby, whom I had gone to journalism school with, was meditating when the idea for DoubleBlind just suddenly popped into her mind. She called me immediately to ask if I wanted to do it with her and that was it! We didn’t realize at the time we would be co-founding a start-up this big, but here we are!
WOOP: You’ve mentioned your Jewish background and how it’s been a big part in your journey. Can you tell us a little more of how you see Judaism and Psychedelics intertwined?
Madison: Psychedelics are a container for altered states and there’s evidence of psychoactive substances being used in biblical times. Current Jewish shamanism and people are also integrating psychedelics into Jewish practices - whether that’s ayahuasca on Shabbat or finding other ways to incorporate psychedelic ceremonies into Jewish ceremonies.
I think a lot of that comes from Jewish trauma and wanting to find solace in both the psychedelic experience as well as the Jewish experience. Psychedelics are being shown to really bring people back to themselves in a way that can help people work through trauma. There’s so much inherited trauma in the Jewish world that psychedelics are such a great way to help people heal. I recently put on a Jewish Psychedelic summit, and over 1100 people attended, which was a lot more than I expected.
WOOP: DoubleBlind uses psychedelics as a jumping-off point to explore a range of topics, including mental health, spirituality, social equity, environmental justice, LGBTQIA+ issues, poetry, and more. What inspired you to create the magazine and how do you believe it has impacted the psychedelic space so far?
Madison: First off, there wasn't already a print magazine dedicated solely to psychedelics. We have a “no fractals” joke - in which we’re really trying to reimagine the way people see psychedelics and perceive psychedelic culture. Through our magazine and aesthetics, we are able to reach a different audience beyond what may be considered stereotypical. People who aren’t into that “hippie” aesthetic may still pick up DoubleBlind.
Merging high-end design with quality investigative journalism allows us to show this topic in a serious, yet creative light. We also show all the different voices and a kaleidoscopic image of the psychedelic community.
When people think of the psychedelic community, they typically think of people like Timothy Leary, or a bunch of scientists at Johns Hopkins, or the hippie movement which is all part of it. But we also want to show indigenous culture, queer culture, and religious culture, the relationship of POC in psychedelics. We’re trying to make sure the image of the psychedelic space is really even and touches all bases.
WOOP: What is DoubleBlind’s mission? What do you hope the magazine will achieve in the next few years?
Madison: We’re very much a start-up. We’re growing a lot and always trying to think of ways to get us to a good place. I hope in the next few years we start to create more video content, podcasts and do more investigative journalism. We have a bunch of educational courses, which is more on the business side of things, but that enables us to do all this journalism.
WOOP: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced by being a woman in this space? And what were your solutions to address those?
Madison: I don’t feel super aware of being a female in this space, but I would say the biggest thing is being taken seriously. There’s a lot the feminine perspective offers, which I think is very psychedelic itself. People talk about the “divine feminine” but it is not a term I often use. I talk more about “shechinah” in Judaism, which is the female aspect of God. There’s something nurturing, space-holding, and compassionate about femininity. Being able to really lean into the feminine vibe as a reporter, entrepreneur and a person who is influential in this space is really important, and we need more of that.
I’m really proud to lean into it, to help normalize it and make it more mainstream. But I always say, rather than trying to make psychedelics more mainstream, why don’t we make the mainstream a bit more psychedelic? This also applies to femininity. Rather than me trying to play this game with a bunch of white guys who are also at the top of different startups, I’d rather just be me in my entirety and I’m going to make that work. And the way to make that work is to be really good at what you do. That’s what will change the conversation.
When I was first starting out in journalism, I would go to coffee or dinner to interview my sources, but they would think it was a date. They would try to pay and hit on me, and it was really uncomfortable. They treated me like I was a kid doing a project and I would get dismissed. I don’t have a very imposing presence, so I’ve had to deal with upholding myself in a way to be taken seriously. I think this is something that most women have felt. While it’s tough, I feel these experiences really helped me grow and understand so much about myself as a woman.
It never occurred to me that being a woman should stop me from doing anything. Yet, an issue I have to face is being afraid to ask for what I deserve due to my socialization as a woman. I really need to find within myself what we call in Hebrew “gevora”, or strength. We’re not socialized to have it, but you really need it starting a company and learning how to deal with a range of people, especially white men who are bigger and older than you. However, I wouldn’t say that should come at the expense of really owning who you are as a woman.
WOOP: How can women use extraordinary states of consciousness for healing, self-liberation, and empowerment? Is there still a strong stigma associated with women using psychedelics?
Madison: When we have those transformative experiences, it’s so important to integrate those states into our regular lifestyles. I don’t think transformation comes from one peak experience in and of itself. It takes a lot of work to integrate that into your life. If you have an amazing experience that gets you back to who you truly are, and then start doing yoga every day, or meditating, or anything that brings you back to your soul, then you’re really starting to integrate your experience. That is the most important thing. If you don’t, then you’re not going to get the most benefits from your experience. It’s all about being your authentic self.
In my world, I don’t have to deal with that much stigma, but I do think there’s still a lot of stigma in the mainstream. If I’m explaining what I do to a friend’s parents, it can get a little awkward. I recognize the privilege I have to just be like, “I don’t care” - due to the background I come from, having white skin, and the privilege that I already have. I can say that I do psychedelics, or that I run this magazine, and I also have a Masters from Columbia.
When I was in school, I used to think it was such a big deal to go to an Ivy League college. Now, I never talk about it at all. I think being someone who has actually gone out into the world and been successful in this space is what matters more. Success can mean something different for everyone. For some people that may be material, like money, and for others, maybe it’s the state of your mental and physical health, and whether you have healthy relationships or a nourishing spiritual life. If you’re thriving in areas of your life where you want to thrive, and you have this relationship with psychedelics and show this is how they’ve enabled you to be the person you are, who’s going to argue with that? I think it’s showing that you can be a functional, contributing member of society and also have these experiences. Not only that but it's important to question whether these experiences also enable you to be the best version of yourself.
WOOP: What do you see as the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenges in psychedelics right now?
Madison: The biggest thing is defining what direction the industry is going in. With cannabis, there was this whole green rush, that now with psychedelics there’s all this momentum and energy being poured into the industry by pharmaceutical companies and drug development. That’s all well and good, but is that in the spirit of psychedelics themselves?
I think this movement and space needs to have a “come to Jesus'' moment. We need to think about our values and what we are actually trying to bring into this world. Most people will say healing, but then you ask yourself, well how can there be legitimate, systemic, and widespread collective healing when you’re participating in a system that is the reason for so many peoples’ sickness.
This comes back to the whole question of capitalism. We’ve published stuff in DoubleBlind about conscious capitalism and how that’s possible. I think we really need to understand the systems psychedelic companies are operating within. We need to be asking important questions like, who’s going to have access to these medicines? Will they be covered by insurance? Who's getting rich off these medicines? What kind of spiritual wisdom is being imparted during the psychedelic session? Also toppling the hierarchy and perceived superiority of western education - having a Ph.D. behind their names doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more equipped to lead a psychedelic session than a curandera from Mexico who has no formal academic training but has a lot of ancestral and heritage background.
This movement really needs to be humble, especially since there are traditions and cultures that have a history of using psychedelics with success. And by success, I mean enabling people to have a healthy balance and connection in their lives.
We need to make sure the drugs are available and that therapists are trained in cultural competency, which means training people from all different types of backgrounds, races, religions, etc. This is so important in really acknowledging trauma. We need to ask ourselves how we are ending this paradigm that causes trauma.
WOOP: What advice do you have for our WOOP readers who are interested in trying psychedelic therapies, particularly in parts of the world where psychedelics are still outlawed?
Madison: Definitely start by getting a drug testing kit, especially if you’re using LSD or MDMA. Secondly, get a scale so you know your dose of whatever you are taking. Because of prohibition, we don’t have systems that allow us to know the potency, which affects the dose. It’s really good to measure so that you know how much you’re taking. Always start low and go slow, with a small dose that may not affect you that much, because there’s no going back if you take a lot more.
The best way to get mushrooms that you know are good is to grow your own. We have a course on how to grow your own mushrooms, we have another course on Psychedelic 101, which walks people through things like how to choose which psychedelics to start with, what questions to ask themselves. We also have a course on microdosing, and will be coming out with a course on trip sitting.
It’s really hard with prohibition, but you really want to go through a trusted community. Find a good guide and provider, and try not to internalize the prohibition mindset, because that can really impact your trip and sense of safety. We have an article on how to vet a psychedelic guide published in the fifth issue of our magazine. There’s a bunch of questions you can ask that will allow you to see if that person is right for you and if they can actually hold the type of experience you want.