Harvard Gets 'Visionary Gift' to Study Psychedelics

Former Tesla director's $16M donation comes 60 years after university fired Timothy Leary
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2023 7:05 PM CDT
Harvard Gets 'Visionary Gift' to Study Psychedelics
A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

A former Tesla director has given Harvard what one professor describes as a "visionary gift"—$16 million to establish a Study of Psychedelics in Society and Culture. The gift from Antonio Gracias via the Gracias Family Foundation will fund an interdisciplinary effort across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Divinity School, the Harvard Gazette reports. The university said the foundation is interest in the possibility of therapeutic uses for psychedelic drugs. Harvard said the program will look at the use of psychedelics from a range of viewpoints, including "law, policy, ethics, religion and spirituality, the nature of consciousness, and art and literature."

"This is a visionary gift, in that it is the first to take the so-called psychedelic renaissance beyond medicine, by recognizing the importance of the humanities in exploring the impact and potential of these remarkable substances," says Harvard professor Michael Pollan, who has looked at psychedelics in books including 2021's This Is Your Mind on Plants. There are psychedelic-based programs at several other colleges, but this is a "monumental announcement" from an institution of Harvard's caliber, according to High Times, which notes that it has been 60 years since Harvard fired Timothy Leary for promoting psychedelic drugs to his students, among other things.

"Harvard is the ideal place to explore the topic of psychedelics from new angles and to craft a framework for their legal, safe, and appropriate impact on society," Gracias, founder and CEO Valor Equity Partners, said in a statement. Quartz reports that Gracias, an early investor in SpaceX and Tesla who was on the latter company's board from 2007 to 2021, is Musk's friend as well as a business associate. It's not clear whether he discussed the gift with Musk, but Musk has spoken approvingly of therapeutic uses for psychedelics. (More psychedelic drugs stories.)

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