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Related Press Releases. More News. Editor's Choice. Top Foreign Office diplomat confirms police involvement in Washington ambassador leak probe 10th July Boris Johnson hints at 'forthcoming' snap election during angry clashes with Jeremy Hunt 9th July Paul, where they attended the same schools. They started dating after their freshman year. In their sophomore year, Fire joined Earth at New College, which had been established, in the nineteen-sixties, as an experimental learning community. Fire earned a general humanities degree, and Earth designed his own course, Language and Culture.
They read books on philosophy, anthropology, Buddhism, and meditation. He and Fire started collecting the few books on psychedelics that they could find locally, and they observed their friends experimenting.
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Sometimes, Earth and Fire showed other people their research materials. They graduated in and returned to Minnesota. Within a year, they felt that they had learned enough about LSD to try it. While tripping, Earth and Fire experienced a sense of wonder in looking at everyday things. I asked them if they were hippies. They bought a VW camper van. On Labor Day weekend in , they picked up some friends for a camping trip at Lake Tahoe. One of their friends had a flyer announcing a festival called Burning Man.
They drove past Tahoe to the Black Rock Desert, where the festival was taking place, and veered around a man in a straw hat who was trying to charge admission. They parked next to a group of Nevada locals, who were cooking heroin by a campfire. In subsequent years, Earth and Fire would set up a geodesic dome and bring a whiteboard on which visitors mapped out molecular-synthesis paths. On drives up to San Francisco to see friends, Earth and Fire debated what to call the site; they knew that it was important to make the name unique. In September, they rented a house on a mountain peak in Sky Londa, with a view of the Pacific, on the site of a former tuberculosis sanitarium.
In October, they launched Erowid. Earth and Fire stayed in Sky Londa for seven years.
“Angels in America” Rises Again
They say that they have never had any legal problems. During those years, Earth and Fire became friends with the Bay Area chemist Alexander Shulgin, who discovered more than two hundred psychoactive compounds, and his wife, Ann. Wallace encouraged the couple to work on the site full time, and, starting in , Fire did so; Earth joined her the following year. By then, Internet users were no longer a small group of tech-savvy familiars. Teen-agers were trying to figure out how big a dose of LSD they could safely take, and at the end of the site was getting more than two hundred thousand hits a day.
That same year, Bob Wallace died. The period that followed was financially trying, since Earth and Fire had decided early on against posting advertisements. By , however, Erowid had become a nonprofit; its current operating budget is three hundred thousand dollars. Erowid came in ahead of NPR. One day, I sat on a paisley couch as Fire compiled a new vault, for the chemical methoxphenidine. Like ketamine, to which it is often compared, MXP produces a dissociative out-of-body experience.
Erowid deliberately lags behind such sites, in order to let a more representative sample emerge. In April of this year, an Erowid user from Virginia anonymously submitted a sample of MXP to a licensed lab in Sacramento that the site works with, as part of an initiative that Erowid calls EcstasyData.
Thinking Anew – Embracing hope in an age of doubt
Since then, Earth and Fire had been waiting for experience reports to arrive, and now Fire pored over the dozens that had been winnowed down by the triage team, along with other online accounts. Is my arm really long now? Using estimates mentioned in the reports, and after chatting with users on drug forums, Fire settled on a tentative dosage table, sending it out to a group of Erowid volunteers for comment. Six days later, Fire tweeted that the vault had opened. The experience reports can also be helpful to researchers.
The system, which is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tracks drug trends by monitoring poison-control reports, social media, and other sources. Roy Gerona, a clinical chemist at the University of California, San Francisco, told me that he has used Erowid as a source to identify research chemicals in toxicology cases.
Is Erowid accurate? The reports are meant to be read en masse, creating a broad spectrum of impressions for regular users, just as they do for medical professionals. But the site does not unequivocally advise against taking opioids or any other drug, no matter how dangerous or addictive. That would be irresponsible in public health.
Addicts, he told me, would not read Erowid with the skepticism that the site presumes. To the extent that Erowid does caution users, it is with infrequent warnings, such as the injunction against driving while high. Andrew Monte, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said that these standard cautions are disingenuous. Such statements put Erowid in a particular corner of the drug subculture. Fire told me that harm reduction is a goal for Erowid, but not a primary one. Sometimes, late at night, when Earth and Fire get tired, they turn on a football game. In , Congress changed sentencing rules for crack-cocaine possession, establishing higher-quantity thresholds for mandatory jail time.
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