When Jimmy Shaye, a former U.S. Army sniper who now works as a photographer and activist, learned about San Francisco’s psychedelic drug culture in the 1990s, he didn’t want to hide in the shadows.
He even decided to jump out and start making music.
Mr. Shaye released “Psychadelica,” a soundscape inspired by his psychedelic experiences as a combat soldier, in 1996. Five years later, he launched the psychedelic art and culture magazine OM, and four years after that, Mr. Shaye co-founded the first psychedelic rock festival in the country, Sonoma West, a massive psychedelic celebration held annually in the seaside village of Sonoma, Calif.
Now, Mr. Shaye is organizing a second festival in Sonoma next year — this time with added political context.
Organizers of the upcoming event, taking place in October of 2019, say they will highlight cannabis legalization in California and call attention to the more than 500 veterans suffering from drug and alcohol addiction in California, and the hundreds of thousands more veterans living in states where use of psychedelic drugs is prohibited.
As well, Mr. Shaye and Sonoma West are working with Peet’s Coffee & Tea, which has agreed to support the event and whose coffee and tea will be served at the festival.
A Peet’s spokesperson told the Observer in an email that the company “actively supports veterans’ causes,” including offering veterans discounts and the launch of a new “Veterans Matter” program that supports organizations with veterans in their leadership. “Our goal is to support organizations that are working to eradicate systemic inequalities impacting veterans,” the spokesperson said.
In April, Mr. Shaye publicly pressed for the legalization of psychedelics on the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” “Psychedelics should be legalized for medical and recreational use,” he said.
In May, Keota Takacs, a certified First Nations qunis, was living on a ferry when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She’s worked for 15 years with Veterans for a Drug-Free America, an organization dedicated to supporting veterans battling addiction. She reached out to Mr. Shaye and asked if he could do anything to help her son, Jeremy, as he was suffering from pain and depression after being given a terminal diagnosis.
“Jeremy can’t have any more controlled access to any substances,” she said in an interview with the Observer. “He has been done with eating and he doesn’t have any awareness about eating. He drinks a lot of vodka. It has just really made his life and his freedom from pain and hurting so much more difficult.”
When Jeremy learned of the San Francisco festival — a 4/20 event commemorating marijuana use — he went on a shooting spree at Point Reyes National Seashore and was shot and killed by police. (The same park was the scene of a fatal shooting of a veteran this year.)
With their son’s future uncertain, Ms. Takacs is launching a fundraising campaign for Mr. Shaye and Sonoma West to support the use of psychedelic drugs for treatment.
“They created a festival to celebrate psychedelic drugs, and it looks like that’s what Jeremy really needed,” she said. “The first one went really well. We’re hoping to do it again and bring awareness about the fact that this can be safe, especially with the natural in nature nature of Sonoma.”