Meet the Cannabis Science Conference Fall Speakers: Dr. Miyabe Shields on Psychedelics Research

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Columns | <b>Cannabis Voices</b>

Let’s meet Miyabe Shields, PhD, a queer and neurodivergent stoner scientist and avid psychonaut with more than 13 years of experience in academic and industrial research.

Cannabis Science Conference (CSC) Fall will be taking place in Providence, Rhode Island September 20-22nd. CSC Fall features several exciting tracks: analytical science, cultivation, medical cannabis, and psychedelics. With expert speakers coming in from around the country, we thought it was a great opportunity to introduce some of them and get a sneak peek into their presentations. Let’s meet Miyabe Shields, PhD, a queer and neurodivergent stoner scientist and avid psychonaut with more than 13 years of experience in academic and industrial research. Dr. Shields has dedicated their life to understanding the inner workings of the neurodivergent brain on drugs. Now, a beginner farmer, they aim to address health equity through natural medicines. Dr. Shields is organizing an exciting panel discussion in the psychedelics track titled “Barriers to and Learnings from Psychedelics Research” taking place Thursday, September 21st. Here, Dr. Shields shares their background in cannabis and psychedelics research as well as a preview of what to expect from their exciting panel discussion!

Can you tell us about your background and how you got involved with cannabis and psychedelics?

Dr. Miyabe Shields: Yes, absolutely. My background is in pharmaceutical sciences. I have my PhD in drug discovery, and I studied the endocannabinoid system. The reason why I originally went into drug discovery in the endocannabinoid system and in pharmaceuticals is because cannabis is the medicine of my life. But, previously, I had so much guilt and shame around using cannabis as medicine that I was really interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of how cannabis works, and if it was possible (ideally) to create a synthetic version that would be able to be given to me in a pill. Halfway along the track of doing my PhD, I had a more rounded understanding of why certain medicines are stigmatized over others. That really affected the progression of where I saw my research going and where my career went. So, after I finished my PhD, that's why I transitioned into doing research in the cannabis industry. I co-founded a company that researched heat transformation of cannabinoids.


In terms of my interest and research into psychedelics, that was more recently introduced by my wife, Lane, and there's always been a synergy there between the serotonin system and the endocannabinoid system that has just fascinated me. I always liken it to our marriage because Lane has a lot of serotonergic things–migraine disorders are serotonergic. I see it as a balance and a mixture of a balance and a synergy. That's sort of how I got interested in this space, and it's how I've been singularly obsessed with being in the space for most of my life. I started using cannabis when I was 15, so it's been a long journey for me. Cannabis is a lifelong medicine and something that I'm very certain I want to dedicate my life to and be able to give back to the community. I also want to add some information and add some interesting context and perspective, I think, that can sometimes get lost even though we're doing our best, but research can be difficult. It can be a difficult vacuum.

What are you most looking forward to with the Cannabis Science Conference Fall 2023?

Dr. Shields: I'm really looking forward to all of it—to seeing all of the awesome new research because even though I try to read as much as possible and keep up with as much as possible, you're never inundated by it in the same way as you are when you're just surrounded by other researchers in the field, and that is something I really miss about academia. I miss being surrounded by other scientists. I'm just really excited to nerd out with other people about their research, and because we are in an unprecedented time in cannabis research and in psychedelics research, where it's way more available and accessible to the general population, as well as to researchers. I think we're starting to see more research and different research and more creative ways of evaluating these molecules other than just as substances that could be detrimental or substances that could do harm. We're just scratching the surface, but at the same time, getting into this next chapter and I'm really excited to be surrounded by it and immersed into it in a way that hasn't happened to me since I left academia.

Can you share a summary of the multidisciplinary panel presentation called “Barriers to and Learning from Psychedelics Research”?

Dr. Shields: Sure. So the group team that I'll be doing the panel with is going to be myself and my two colleagues, Dr. Riley Kirk, who also has her PhD in pharmaceutical sciences, but studied secondary metabolites, which are the molecules that are in natural products like plants and fungi that cause the effects, and Marné Garretson, who is a real-world evidence data scientist and is focused on using real world data versussay, clinical settings. Our panel “Barriers to and Learnings from Psychedelic Research” will be about how we have come together as a multidisciplinary team and as a group—our team also has medical doctors and other professionals—that are in the industry. All of us have come across some challenges in the space and challenges within ourselves too, so we’ll be discussing how we are going to frame this research, interpret the research, conduct the research, publish the research, and make everything accessible while at the same time highlighting the need for more research and the benefits of it. So, I think it's going to be a really great discussion, and a back and forth that we have, every time that we meet about the intersection of all of our different areas and also how our studies are a representation of that intersection.

Stay tuned for more with Dr. Miyabe Shields with our live video conference coverage taking place September 21-22, 2023 or join us in person to hear Dr. Shields and their colleagues panel discussion as well as countless others at the Cannabis Science Conference Fall in Providence, RI. Register today with code EARLYBIRD to save 30%:!