Author Michael Pollan on What Comes After the War on Drugs During a Vroman's Event

The bestselling author spoke about his new book This is Your Mind on Plants at a Vroman's event last week and talked about the looming end of the War on Drugs and what the subsequent drug peace should look like.

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Now, 7/19/2021

Author Michael Pollan discussed his new book This is Your Mind on Plants on Monday in a virtual event co-sponsored by Vroman’s Bookstore, the Elliott Bay Book Company, Changing Hands Bookstores and Boulder Bookstore. Pollan was joined in conversation by Dr. Rick Doblin, the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

“It’s very hard to define what a drug is,” Pollan said. “Is sugar a drug? Anything we ingest that changes us in some way? That covers a lot of food.”

The book takes a deep dive into three plant drugs: opium, caffeine and mescaline. Pollan “examines and experiences these plants from several angles and shines new light on a subject that is often treated reductively—as a drug, whether licit or illicit,” according to a statement from the book’s publisher. “But that is one of the least interesting things you can say about these plants, Pollan shows, for when we take them into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways we can.”

The book is “a radical challenge to how we think about drugs, and an exploration into the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants—and the equally powerful taboos.”

Pollan experimented with all three drugs, wrote about his experiences and looked at them through historical, scientific, philosophical, literary and personal lenses. Ultimately, This is Your Mind on Plants asks its readers to reconsider the whole notion of what a drug even is.

Pollan is a New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including How to Change Your MindCooked and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He teaches writing at Harvard University and serves as the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

In examining opium for the book, Pollan planted poppies in his garden to make opium tea, an experience he originally wrote about for Harper’s Magazine in 1996. Lawyers at the time advised him not to publish such descriptions, but years later he “tracked down those missing pages” and included them in his new book for the first time in a reflection of changing attitudes toward certain drugs.

In examining caffeine for the book, Pollan said he quit cold turkey. He found that the world felt duller, that his “normal waking consciousness” was the result of caffeine and that much of society relies on a caffeinated consciousness.

In examining mescaline for the book—a precious sacrament in the Native American Church, the pan-tribal religion that emerged in the 1880s at a time “when Indigenous civilization in North America stood on the verge of annihilation”—Pollan interviewed Native Americans who claimed that peyotism and peyote ceremonies have “done more to help heal the wounds of genocide, colonialism and alcoholism than any other efforts.”

During Monday’s event, he pointed out that American society’s combative relationship to psychoactive plants is “arbitrary and has not worked. Drugs have won the War on Drugs. We’ve invested huge amounts of resources, incarcerated huge numbers of people and created horrible amounts of pain with the drug war. There’s lots of evidence that the drug war is running out of gas. The voters have spoken in many places. They’ve had it. Where do we go now? We now have to look beyond the drug war and figure out if it’s not gonna be a matter of the law, how do we deal with these substances in our society?”

Pollan also recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times about the looming end of the War on Drugs and what the subsequent drug peace should look like.

“How will we fold these powerful substances into our society and our lives so as to minimize their risks and use them most constructively?” he wrote. “The blunt binaries of ‘Just say no’ that have held sway for so long have kept us from having this conversation and from appreciating how different one illicit drug is from another. That conversation begins with the recognition that humans like to change consciousness and that cultures have been using psychoactive plants and fungi to do so for as long as there have been cultures. Something about us is just not satisfied with ordinary consciousness and seeks to transcend it in various ways.”

Different types of drugs have been on different tracks in American society over the past several years. Cannabis has been largely legalized or decriminalized in most states, and in fact it is only fully illegal in just five states—and, of course, at the federal level. New science suggests that psychedelics such as MDMA, LSD and psilocybin have therapeutic benefits in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pollan said MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy or Molly) and psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms) are on track to be approved for use in psychotherapy within a few years, clearing the way for doctors to be able to prescribe these compounds.

“What about the so-called hard drugs, like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine—drugs that people ostensibly take for pleasure?” Pollan wrote. “Is there a safe way to fold these more addictive molecules into our lives? This is uncomfortable territory, partly because few Americans regard pleasure as a legitimate reason to take drugs and partly because the drug war (with its supporters in academia and the media) has produced such a dense fog of misinformation, especially about addiction.”

He argued that many people are surprised to learn that “the overwhelming majority of people who take hard drugs do so without becoming addicted. Addiction may be less a disease than a symptom—of trauma, social disconnection, depression or economic distress.”

He pointed out that in Switzerland, addicts can get prescription heroin so they know exactly what they’re getting.

“They don’t try to get you off it right away, but then they go to work on your life,” Pollan said at Monday’s event. “They make sure you have a good job, housing and therapeutic support, because the cause of your addiction has to do with your circumstances and difficulty in life. Addiction is not a disease, it’s a symptom of problems. Are we anywhere near that in this country? No, we still moralize these questions.”

Learn more at

Read the July 2021 issue of Justin Chapman’s Newsletter, featuring his Pasadena Now article about General Motors purchasing a 3-building property in Northeast Pasadena for $49.5 million to turn into its West Coast automotive Advanced Design and Technology Center, an episode of his show “NewsRap Local” with an interview with Pasadena Now Managing Director Andre Coleman, some great reads recommendations, updates on international, national, California, and local news, and much more! Check it out and subscribe. It's free and monthly.

General Motors Announces $71 Million Investment in New Pasadena Location

Recently purchased three-building campus will serve as the automobile manufacturer’s Advanced Design Center

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Now, 7/13/2021

On Monday, General Motors announced a more than $71 million investment to establish a newly purchased three-building campus in Northeast Pasadena, where GM will operate its Advanced Design and Technology Center starting next year. The move will substantially increase the design division’s capacity and workforce.

“The collaborative nature of this facility will provide our advanced design team, cross-functional groups, prospective employees and external partners with the environment they need to continually redefine the boundaries of future mobility,” said Bryan Nesbitt, executive director of GM’s Global Advanced Design and Global Architecture Studios.

Last week, Pasadena Now first reported that GM bought The Sierra, a 150,000-square-foot campus, located on an eight-acre property at Rosemead Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue, for $49.5 million. GM is relocating its design studio in North Hollywood to the Pasadena location, which will “significantly expand GM’s capacity to support emerging business opportunities in areas of advanced technology, software integration and future mobility solutions,” according to a statement by GM.

“Having a physical presence in Southern California’s technology epicenter is an integral part of our global design operations and this new innovation campus will not only expand our operations twofold, but offers access to the rich cultural diversity and talent in the region,” said Michael Simcoe, GM’s vice president of global design. 

“Our positioning will allow us to attract dynamic candidates in fields that will bolster GM’s proven design capabilities and challenge conventional thinking of what our future portfolio of connected products and services can encompass,” Simcoe said.

The retrofit improvements to the new facility are scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2022, according to Mark Lubin of GM’s product, brand and initiative communications team. GM’s design team and other cross-functional groups will transition from the current facility in North Hollywood in staggered phases as portions of the new facility are completed, rather than all at once. Advanced design operations will continue at the North Hollywood facility until the improvements at the new location are completed.

GM declined to comment on the exact timeline of when the first groups of employees will begin working at the new Pasadena facility.

GM selected the Pasadena campus after a thorough search process which considered a number of other locations elsewhere. The investment signals the company’s “long-term commitment in the area” and to maintaining a physical presence in “one of North America’s largest hubs for multidisciplinary design and cutting-edge innovation,” according to the statement.

“Ultimately, the new site was selected for a combination of its size, location and turn-key nature of the existing buildings (not new construction),” Lubin said. “Additionally, the new site is closer to technology centers on the West Coast and creates a recruiting opportunity with its proximity to leading universities and design schools.”

The relocation “will make room for expanded advanced technology teams that will help accelerate GM’s goal of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” according to the statement.

The move to Pasadena is part of GM Design’s broader global expansion. The company is currently constructing a new Design West facility at the Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, and also recently announced an expansion of the Advanced Design Center in Shanghai, China.

GM’s advanced design team focuses on developing concept and future mobility projects that fall outside the scope of existing production vehicle programs, according to the statement. “Creating alternative mobility applications can reveal opportunities for transformative innovation and help influence future GM products and services, while exploring new growth opportunities for the company.”

The company cited a number of examples of innovation and design work related to its broader growth strategy, such as BrightDrop, the newly established commercial delivery and logistics business and its all-electric ecosystem of products, software and services; Cadillac’s personal autonomous concept vehicle and vertical takeoff and landing aircraft; and a lunar rover concept developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin.

“The new facility will amplify GM’s role in the age of connected mobility, providing the latest tools, equipment and workspaces that have been tactically designed to foster synergy and ideation.”

Examples highlighted include a more efficient layout designed to mitigate disruptions and increase efficiency of the various paint, metal and plastic workshops; an increased footprint allowing for improved output of physical and virtual proof of concepts and show cars; the ability to rapidly pilot visualization and immersive technology, including augmented and virtual reality; an innovation lab for designing, implementing and validating new design tools; an advanced user experience/user interface design studio; and dedicated collaboration, research and development space for strategic internal and external GM partnerships.

GM has a long history of design facilities in California, including the Advanced Concept Studio in Newbury Park from 1983-1996 and the current North Hollywood studio, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Nesbitt said they’ve outgrown that studio and faced a number of constraints there. There are about 65 to 70 employees at the North Hollywood location. GM representatives said they’re not yet announcing how many more employees will work in Pasadena.

“We’re really excited that we could find a new property that could meet our capacity expansion needs,” Nesbitt said. “We build a lot of physical proofs of concepts,” such as show cars, he added, and the new Pasadena location will allow them to “explore those new opportunities.”

Much of that design work will be focused on advancing GM’s plan for an all-electric vehicle future. and MarketWatch reported that GM’s stock jumped 4% on Friday after Wedbush Securities gave it an “outperform” rating, and that shares of the company have recovered more than 200% since March 2020 when the pandemic hit.

Wedbush’s market analyst Dan Ives is “confident that GM’s recent efforts into expanding its footprint in the electric vehicle segment will drive significant growth for the company in the future,” according to Invezz. “GM plans to spend $35 billion on R&D to accelerate its shift to electric vehicles and develop advanced battery technology.”

Ives said GM has “regained its spot in the league of top U.S. automakers, thanks to the competent leadership of CEO Mary Barra,” according to MarketWatch.

By leveraging the “game-changing” technology of GM’s Ultium battery, the legacy auto manufacturer is in a “great position to take advantage of an emerging $5 trillion battery market over the next decade,” according to Ives. GM’s software and services business related to its electric vehicle focus represents “a potential gold mine” with the potential to net $20 to $30 billion over the next five to seven years.

Watch a promo for Justin Chapman's new TV show, "NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman," here.

Read an article about the show at this link, or below.

The show airs on the third Friday of every month on Pasadena Media's Arroyo Channel, which is available on channel 99 on AT&T U-verse, channel 32 on Charter Spectrum, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku.

New Pasadena Media TV Show ‘NewsRap Local’ Examines Housing in Pasadena Friday

Pasadena Now, 6/15/2021

Pasadena Media’s newest local news talk show “NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman” continues this Friday at 5 p.m.

Friday’s episode will focus on housing and feature an interview with Ryan Bell, a local tenants’ rights activist and member organizer with the Pasadena Tenants Union. He serves as the Southern California regional coordinator for Tenants Together, a statewide coalition of local tenant organizations dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of California tenants to safe, decent and affordable housing. Chapman will ask Bell about a new petition effort to put a rent control measure on the ballot in Pasadena in June 2022.

Bell has been involved in organizing housing justice and other social justice campaigns in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley for the past 15 years. He is currently a commissioner on the city of Pasadena’s Northwest Commission. He also volunteers as the humanist chaplain at USC and ran for Pasadena City Council’s District 6 seat last year.

“Pasadena deserves a hyperlocal TV show where we can reflect on the top stories of the month and hear directly from the Crown City’s movers and shakers about the most pressing issues impacting the community, such as housing, policing, public health and more,” said Chapman, a Pasadena-based journalist since 2005 who has written extensively for Pasadena Now and Pasadena Weekly. “This show aims to be that space and that voice.”

Previous guests on “NewsRap Local” included Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, director of the Pasadena Public Health Department, and filmmakers Dennis Haywood and James Farr, director and producer respectively of “Thorns on the Rose: Black Abuse, Corruption & the Pasadena Police,” a 2021 documentary that examines the past 40 years of police-community relations in Pasadena.

The show launched in April and airs on the third Friday of every month on the Arroyo Channel. It is the only TV talk show that focuses exclusively on Pasadena news and politics.

In each episode, Chapman provides analysis on local news, presents a “lightning round” of the month’s top stories and interviews a special guest or hosts a panel for a deep dive into an important issue in the community. 

“NewsRap Local” has already broken news. In the first episode, Chapman reported the story that Pasadena Police Chief John Perez was considering resigning within the year. Two weeks later, Pasadena Now reported that Perez made it official: he would be retiring in early 2022.”

Pasadena Media’s Arroyo Channel is available on channel 99 on AT&T U-verse, channel 32 on Charter Spectrum, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku.

“NewsRap Local” is written by Chapman, directed by Joshua Morales, produced by Chapman and Aaron Wheeler and executive produced by George Falardeau, CEO and executive director of Pasadena Media. The show is a spinoff from a former Pasadena Media weekly show called “NewsRap” co-hosted by Barry Gordon and André Coleman. 

“We are so pleased to add this program to our Arroyo Channel lineup, providing our community with news focused solely on Pasadena,” Falardeau said. “This is must-watch television each month for everyone who cares about this city.”

Chapman is also the writer, host, producer and editor of the show “Well Read with Justin Chapman,” which also airs on Pasadena Media’s Arroyo Channel and streaming apps.

Chapman was the youngest elected official in LA County when he served on the Altadena Town Council at age 19He has written hundreds of articles for two dozen print and digital publications, including Alta JournalHuffington PostLA WeeklyBerkeley Political ReviewPasadena WeeklyPasadena Now and many others. He served as the editor-in-chief of USC’s Public Diplomacy Magazine and as a staff writer at the Daily Trojan. His book about his travels across Africa, Saturnalia: Traveling from Cape Town to Kampala in Search of an African Utopia, was published by Rare Bird Books in 2015.

He serves on Pasadena Media’s Citizens Advisory Committee and is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club. He previously served as president of the Pasadena-based nonprofit Men Educating Men About Health, as secretary of the West Pasadena Residents’ Association (and currently as a member of the WPRA Advisory Board), as secretary of the ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills chapter board, as a member of the United Nations Association Pasadena chapter’s Communications Committee and as a commissioner on the city of Pasadena’s Northwest Commission. As a professional child actor, he performed in dozens of commercials, television shows, plays and movies. 

“Join me on the third Friday of every month at 5 p.m. for my analysis of Pasadena news and politics and to hear directly from community leaders,” Chapman said.

Learn more at and