By: Angela Stelmakowich
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks about more than just what lies beyond the cosmos. Here on earth, he wondered aloud during a recent podcast how many plants beyond cannabis can get a person high. DeGrasse Tyson was speaking with Harvard University neuroscientist Staci Gruber about cannabis and its psychoactive properties during an episode of StarTalk when the thought about other plants apparently popped into his mind. “How many plants out there remain undiscovered simply because we don’t have enough people saying, ‘Now, let’s smoke that, let’s smoke this?’” asked the author of 15 books who was twice appointed by President George W. Bush to committees that probed the aerospace industry and space exploration.
The answer for plain-speaking deGrasse was, “There’s gotta be.”
Gruber seemed to concur, commenting that there’s “huge potential in botanicals,” as well as tremendous interest in their potential therapeutic application.
Psychedelics seem to be enjoying a big comeback on this front.
A study released this spring, for example, suggested that psilocybin mushrooms are a “relatively safe drug.” Analyzing more than 9,200 respondents who had participated in the 2017 Global Drug Survey, investigators discovered that only 0.2 per cent of respondents who had consumed mushrooms in the past year sought emergency medical treatment following use.
Also this year, Vancouver-based Numinus announced it had been approved by Health Canada to research and study ayahuasca and San Pedro cactus.
But those interested in finding out what other plants can get them high should kick things into gear. Marijuana Moment cites a study published in 2019 that estimated almost 600 species of plants have been lost in the past 250 years.
It’s not the first time deGrasse Tyson has wondered about drug-related potential and general weirdness during his podcast.
In August 2021, for example, during an episode of StarTalk on YouTube. Speaking to biologist and fungi expert Merlin Sheldrake, discussion turned to whether or not animals get high by inadvertently consuming psilocybin mushrooms in the wild? Sheldrake confirmed that some would likely give shrooms a try if they happened upon them.
More recently, deGrasse Tyson, speaking about sports and U.S. drug policy, suggested that U.S. President Joe Biden might not be able to help feeling that legalizing cannabis at the federal level must wait for more scientific research given that he is part of “reefer madness” generation.