We Share the Cancer: Roland Griffiths and his wife, Marla, sit with Manish Agrawal to discuss how a stage IV cancer diagnosis has changed their lives.


SUNSTONE owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of THIS INTERVIEW, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.

[Video Introduction]

Hello, my name is Manish Agrawal, CEO of Sunstone Therapies, and I am excited to share this interview I had with Roland Griffiths and his wife Marla.

I’ve been an oncologist in practice for over twenty years, treating thousands of patients, seeing first hand how cancer impacts patients and their families. Over time, I became very cognizant of how good I was at treating the physical aspects of a cancer patient’s journey, using chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, but really there was this large part of emotional suffering that impacted them and their families that was really largely unaddressed. And over time that really began to eat away at me, and to know that the quality of life was so much determined by how they felt, not just by their physical symptoms, and seeing that we really did not have many treatment options. And that’s why we founded Sunstone Therapies, to see if we can get at this aspect of a cancer patient’s journey, to really help them feel better so they would have a better quality of life–and their families.

And Roland, he was one of the principal scientists that conducted research with cancer patients using psilocybin therapy. He did a pivotal study in 1996 and I visited him, and he was an inspiration for me to begin doing research in the same setting. And then when he was diagnosed with cancer and facing this difficult diagnosis, it was a privilege for me to sit down with he and his wife to understand how the cancer diagnosis affected him as a human being, them as a couple, beyond a psychedelic researcher, beyond being well known in the field, beyond being a respected scientist, to see how they can really address/what messages they have for all of us that aren’t quite there yet.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. It’s really a privilege to share it with you. Thank you so much.

[Start of Interview]

Roland R Griffiths, PhD.: Well, it's so many things have unfolded since the diagnosis. For the most part, absolutely wonderful, unexpected things. One of them, it was that in reviewing the will and looking at the big picture, Marla and I came to ask ourselves, having lived together for 11 years, whether it be meaningful to get married. We'd had this conversation repeatedly and concluded that there was no reason that we were committed to one another. We valued our relationship, but there was something in reevaluating my life circumstance that led us to make that inquiry again. Initially, it was, "Why?" Then Marla, on reflecting on it, said, "You know what? It would be meaningful to me to be married to say that you were my husband." With that, it just instantaneously became important to me. We decided to get married and we did so in our home with my--

Marla: With five people.

Manish: [Chuckles]

Roland: Yes, three adult children and-

Manish: Right here in this room?

Marla: Yes, yes, because of COVID, it was-- Yes, go on.

Roland: -with our two very good friends, Carrie and Claudia Turnbull, and then with a spiritual teacher who's local, who came to marry us. It was absolutely beautiful. Peculiarly, it's brought or unexpectedly, it's brought Marla and I even closer together than we ever had imagined. I now delight in saying that she's my wife.

Marla: The reason why whenever we had the conversation about marriage, I didn't see how it would change our relationship. I thought we were pretty close. How is it going to change anything? Then the surprise is that as soon as we made the decision to get married, I felt like this fierce protectiveness came over me like a mama bear. I just wanted to protect him so strongly, and our bond definitely, we became cement.

Manish:No, it struck me and I can feel that because we've had so many conversations from the beginning, from the cancer, the first treatment, whether to do surgery. You were always on the phone, and it was always with both of you. As I reflect back on it, one thing always struck me was I was never in between the two of you. A lot of times as an oncologist, when I'm talking to family members, I feel like I'm negotiating two spaces, and they're like, "I'm stuck in the middle and trying to help them sort through that." That's partly my role, but with you guys, you, at times, would violently disagree, in terms of you might want him to do a certain treatment or pursue a certain thing.

Marla: I want to go natural and he wants to go--

Manish: He wants to go somewhere else but it was all on the table, and you could talk about it. There was support, but also respect of who Roland is as a person. At the same time, you were very expressive. I just want to say that as I've seen so many relationships, it's not always like that. It's hard because the cancer brings out, I think the things that aren't resolved and causes more stress in a maybe already a stressed relationship. I'm touched by that and curious what is it about you guys that--

Marla: Well, yes, I think the cancer is not its own entity in this marriage. We share the cancer and we befriend the cancer. This is a team effort all the way.

Roland: Yes. It's central and in the way, I'm holding it is gratitude practice and being grateful for this preciousness of life. That's been a North Star for me since the very inception of the diagnosis. Marla came immediately on board with that. She as do I, have a long history of meditation and spiritual practice. She totally got that. It's a co-practice. We're both practicing gratitude. Every morning and I think every evening as I'm going to bed, I'll often cuddle up to Marla and just say, "I'm so grateful for you."

I am and I tell Marla repeatedly, "I don't know how I do this without you." That's the sense I have that Marla's there for me. There was one occasion early on in our relationship, not too early, but it was after I recognized that Marla really was a uniquely special life partner for me. It was during episode in which I had taken a psychedelic. I had the inquiry, "What is it that is so unique about this relationship with Marla?" ...

What I realized was blatantly enough that were I to be dying, it would be Marla who I would want to be present with, whose eyes I would want to be able to look into because I knew that she could meet me there in that field of knowing or unknowing or whatever it was. I never felt that degree of certainty in any relationship before. The co-contemplation came up that were she to be dying, that there'd be no greater privilege for me than to be present with her at that time of passing. Although I could also feel the pain of what that would be like to say goodbye to her.

Manish: What about you, Marla? I know you've been there and you've talked to him, but I remember he was even, I don't know, uncomfortable, but just a few weeks ago when we talked about the last CAT scan and we were on the last really good treatment and the CAT scan had shown growth. You were on the phone and he asked me, "How long do you think I really have?" I felt some discomfort, but also you were on the phone and you wanted to know and we talked.

Marla: I didn't really want to know, he wanted to know. [laughter]

Marla: I wouldn't have asked that question.

Manish: Manish: For me, to be an oncologist, a lot of times I'm in that situation but with you guys, I felt like I could say it because you were so explicit. How was that for you to hear that one I said?

Marla: You said six months.

Manish: Six months or maybe less or maybe a little bit more.

Marla: Well, I'm an optimist. I heard it and it struck me but I'm not holding onto that.

Roland: You worked through that though. I think that was harder for you to hear than me.

Marla: Oh, it was definitely harder for me to hear. No, you asked the question and we asked it of two other doctors and they both said six months so that's if he did nothing more.

Manish: I guess what struck me is that, for me, that I could have that conversation with you guys and that it would be uncomfortable, not feel good necessarily, but that your relationship was strong enough to hold whatever that was. It didn't collapse into comforting you or denying it or pre-mourning. It was just another thing that you guys could hold together. To me, the feeling sense was the strength of the relationship that could hold that.

Roland: Right from the beginning of my diagnosis, I've been pushing medical oncologists, and you, when we've had conversations about, I say, "Okay, in absence of treatment, give me some brackets and some probabilities." I'm trained as a scientist, so that's the way I'm going to think. What I want to know is best and worst-case scenarios. I think Marla didn't like my asking those questions.

Manish: Well, a lot of our conversations were like that because you went toward the facts.

Marla: He wants data.

Manish: He wants data, and you were like, "Wait a minute."

Roland: From the outset, you were looking for a complete cure and not allowing me to dismiss that as a possibility.

Marla: Absolutely. I think all things are possible.

Roland: She continues to think that way.

Marla: I do think that way. He doesn't like to be disappointed. Is that it?

Roland: Yes. I'm trying to--

Manish: He's got a little pessimistic streak in him.

Marla: He's got a huge pessimistic-- [crosstalk]. [laughter]

Manish: Well, you don't.

Marla: He had a subscription to what the Skeptical Inquirer.

Manish: Like whenever I say something, he takes it to the--

Marla: I know he does. [laughter]

Manish: He's one just to--

Marla: We're so opposite of that way. Yes, I know. [laughter]

Manish: He'll always talk--

Roland: I'm looking for reality and I want know worst-case and best-case scenarios.

Manish: You usually want to focus on the worst-case scenario. That's it.

Marla: Yes, he does.

Manish: [laughs]

Marla: No, absolutely, and I hate it. I still hate when he tells people I have this terminal illness. He is not only telling his-

Roland: I say likely terminal.

Marla: Well, he's not only telling his body this-

Roland: She won't let me say terminal.

Marla: -he's like using a bullhorn to the world. [chuckling]

Marla: I just feel like that just exponentially is not a good thing to affirm.

Roland: [laughs]

Marla: We're really opposite on that extreme.

Roland:: We agree that the most healthy thing we could do in terms of healing is to lean into this with gratitude and equipoise and love.

Marla: Well, that's what we do. We hang out in the present as much as possible.

Roland: That has to be the--

Marla: That is a antidote to the six-month thing. It's staying as present as we can.

Manish: Even when we've talked, Roland, that struck me as how much of a skeptic you are. You're so deeply skeptical of.

Marla: He is.

Manish: You're this rational, scientific, materialist person. Since your diagnosis, I was going to ask you, what's changed?

Marla: He's still skeptical.

Manish: What's your priority? What you've decided one of the priorities is creating this position about--

Roland: Well, the endowment.

Manish: Tell me about that.

Roland: Well, it's among the many changes in my life since the diagnosis, I ended up redoing my will. I got to the place in the will about charitable contributions. I thought, "Okay, what am I going to do?" I've always believed in the effective altruism, movement, and give well as an incredible organization that is really scoped out good charities. I thought, "I'll give." That's the answer to charitable contribution.
Then the next morning I woke up and I thought, "What? That's not quite right. What would I really want to give?" The immediate thought came up, "Well, precisely what I'm working on and that's this investigation of what the hell is going on here? [laughs] How did we come to be in a situation of this mystery of self-awareness?" It's a deep mystery. It gets into the hard problem of consciousness.
Right now it appears to be an unsolvable mystery, but it resonates with my deep curiosity and meditation and spiritual practice as well as the work with psychedelics because the psychedelics can open us up to these experiences of the mystery that are just absolutely profound. That's what my research has been on in the last 20 years. Although it's diverted some to therapeutics, but my true interest has been in the mystery of the, what I would call spiritual. This sense that we're all interconnected, that there's something profound and meaningful and precious about that experience.
The thought came up, "Well, maybe I could sponsor a lecture at Johns Hopkins on this area of psychedelics and spirituality." Then I thought, "Maybe I could do better than that." I have some goodwill within the psychedelic community and, there's something so resonant about these experiences that many people who are interested in psychedelics will intuit that that's important.
I came up with this audacious plan of creating a professorship. It's in my name, but that's just a pragmatic way of getting this off the ground. A professorship and then a research fund that would focus on this very topic on psychedelic research on what I call secular spirituality, stripping away from spirituality any need for supernatural ideas or beliefs or theological beliefs but embracing the idea that we're living within this benevolent mystery and it's currently unsolvable, and there's something incredibly uplifting.

Manish: That's what I find is so interesting, the paradox. This rational scientist skeptic and yet the thing that you want to leave behind is this chair, this position that's seeking out mystery and not trying to understand spirituality.

Roland: From where I see it, there's nothing incoherent about that. What science is, is a way of discovering truth, and that's what we're trying to do. We have this very powerful method, the scientific method, and psychedelics uniquely allow us to address questions within the domain of this experience that is so mysterious. This sense of interconnectedness and the fact that we need to take care of one another. It's a very powerful tool. It's the most powerful tool. We have to study that very thing.

Manish: Is there a skeptical part of you that says, "Is that really there? Is it just in my head? Am I just making this up?"

Roland: Oh, sure. Yes. No. There are all kinds of explanations for it, but it is a mystery. It goes far beyond what we understand in terms of science. Science has a pretty good accounting for a lot of things, but we don't have even coherent physics. We haven't reconciled Newtonian and physics with quantum.

Manish: Why do you think you're so interested in spirituality? Why are you so obsessed by this question?

Roland: [chuckles] It's the most important question that you can address that's part of the human experience. That is, "What is it that we really know?" If we go inside, the first thing we encounter is that we have this awareness where there's a level of being here. That's the only thing we actually know for certain. I can know that about myself. I can't know that with any certainty about you, or even Marla, or anyone. That's the truth of it and it's the nature of the hard problem of consciousness. This is getting at that very deep human existential question is, "What's going on here? How did this come to be?"

Manish: What is going on here?

Roland: What's going on here? Yes. Look, we're in the middle of this mystery. This is a miracle that we're having this experience, and right now. It's inexplicable from a scientific point of view. There's something about this experience, at least for me, and the way I experience, and the way it can manifest with psychedelics that is absolutely stunningly precious. There's something I would intuit to be deeply meaningful, to have purpose to it, and there's a sense of benevolence. There seems to be a tractor beam in terms of our investigation of who we are. This is the [crosstalk] inquiry. The contrary position would be, well, this world has or this is just happenstance. There's no meaning. There's no purpose. I can entertain that as a possibility. It sure wouldn't be very fun to do. [laughs] It's much more fun to lean to the other, but if we're going to address that, then let's address it and we can do so scientifically. I don't see any disconnect from what I'm proposing as important, and rational, and scientific.

Manish: It is consistent, I can see that. It's a skeptics investigation of the spiritual, of a non-material world that there's more to us than just the materials and wanting to be serious about it. I think what I'm struck by is how both of those positions are very passionate in you that you're committed both to this rigorous inquiry, but this rigorous, many times when you see that, science sometimes is, "Well, we don't talk about spirituality. We don't talk about religion. We don't talk about the heart, the intuition."
These things that our everyday human experiences have been taken off the table of serious inquiry. As a physician, I'm always struck in medicine that we talk about the laboratories and the CAT scans, and there's all this stuff going on. The human experience of cancer and mortality, and that you're going to die, and it's impacting your family. You talk about the numbers and the facts but not this lived experience, which we can't reduce it into numerical, measurable things, and yet, it's real.
Almost by accident, because we don't-- it almost disappears that it's real even though we live and breathe and that's what gives our life meaning. I think for you to really say that's where I want to hang out and figure out what that piece of it is, is that-- In scientific structure, from PNET, Hopkins, and the NIH, a center for spirituality, even that's like scoffable in academic circles so many times. You come from that and yet that's where you're at. Do you see what I'm saying?

Roland: Yes. Yes.

Marla: At Hopkins, no less.

Manish: At Hopkins but academia in general. A serious scientist wouldn't devote his time and effort contemplating the nature of existence.

Roland: Let's say I would hope that. Many don't.

Manish: Many don't.

Roland: Yes. I'm very often asked, what do I believe? My pat answer to that is I believe in the data. That's the scientist to me. If I really contemplate it deeply, I do have a faith-based bias toward the interpretation of existence is benevolent as opposed to empty and vacuous. What do I base that on? I base that on just my strong intuitive sense that that's true. That's come out of meditation. It certainly comes out of psychedelics.

Manish: After the cancer diagnosis, is that what's changed about that or has that changed in any way?

Roland: Oh, the cancer diagnosis, it was so interesting because prior to the cancer diagnosis, I had this long history of meditation, and meditation had led to interest in psychedelics. Initially, I'd been skeptical because I'd had trivial experiences with psychedelics and only much more recently ended up with personal experience with psychedelics that validated that. Because of my meditation practice and my experience with psychedelics, I had felt myself to be reasonably awake.
There's nothing different than what I think in value before to after the diagnosis. What happened with the diagnosis is this shift in the-- I guess a shift in priorities that occurred. I'm being unclear about this.

Manish: No, it's important because I think--

Roland:Let me do another pass at that. Let's see. Before the diagnosis, I considered myself to be reasonably awake and that is aware that I'm aware and interested in practicing that. After the diagnosis--

Marla: You lived it.

Roland: Yes, there was a magnitude; a degree of awakening that occurred that far surpassed anything I had before. It just became intensely important to be with what's real, and then to practice gratitude and to prioritize how I'm going to live out the rest of my life. That shifted enormously with the diagnosis.

Manish: I'm more curious about that because most of us live with, like you did, of, "I'm going to die one day. Life is short, we should make the most of it. Set up your priorities." You're deeply philosophical, deep meditation practice, reflective, spiritual. You did really the most meaningful study in cancer and psilocybin of, until mine, of course. [laughter]

Manish: Really, you set the field in motion. You sat with patients with psilocybin and cancer. You saw them go through that. You have been with spiritual teachers. You've contemplated this your entire life. If anyone had set up their life with those things of priorities, you have, and yet, the diagnosis is still very different. The fact of facing it is different than the cognitive thing of it.

Marla: I just want to say that Roland got the diagnosis a week before Thanksgiving. We had a very tiny Thanksgiving that year, just the two of us and my brother. We didn't even tell him because we hadn't told his family yet. Then the next morning, the morning after Thanksgiving Friday, we were in bed together early in the morning, and we woke up about the same time and Roland said to me, "Do you know what today is?" I'm thinking, "What's today?" I said, "Good Friday." He said, "No." Do you remember what you answered?

Roland: It's Thanksgiving.

Marla: He said it's Thanksgiving Day.

Roland: Every day. Every day

Marla: Every day is Thanksgiving. It was like from the diagnosis, from the time he grasped on the gratitude, he lived it so that waking up is a celebration to wake up, and that's a cause for gratitude. That's the depth when you're facing death. It's no longer the dress rehearsal. He just got on board the train and kept going, and I got on board with him.

Roland:Immediately after the diagnosis and I'm sure you see this a lot in your clinical practice. It was almost an out-of-the-body experience. There was something that was surreal or unreal about this. This couldn't happen to me. I got the diagnosis going to a routine screening colonoscopy, and I considered myself to be really fit. I worked out regularly. I watched my diet. I sleep well. I take really good care of myself.
All of a sudden, I have this primary colon cancer metastatic to the liver, and not quite knowing whether there was a potential cure there, but recognizing that that might not be the case. It was like, "This can't be true." There was a day or two of that where I would wake and I'd orient and then think, "Wait, is this true? Do I have this potentially terminal diagnosis?" I went through that and then very quickly ran through the scenarios of where one might land after this diagnosis.
There was one evening I woke up in the middle of the night and my affect fell flat. It was like, "What's the purpose? What's going on here?" This was the self-inquiry, "Where are you that this is coming up?" I thought if I went in and talked to my psychiatrist colleagues, they would say, "Roland, you're really depressed. Let's get you on some antidepressants." I thought that's not where I want to go, for sure.
Then there were other things that came up like fear, obviously, anxiety, resentment that I wasn't screened earlier and I might have been given-- that I had had polyps detected earlier. There's denial just, this isn't happening. There's a miracle cure that Marla [laughs] was looking for. You can't rule that out. Then there's some kind of what I would call magical thinking or religious thinking, "Well, I'm going to go to heaven and be with my--"

Marla: Creator.

Roland: Yes. On the right-hand side of Jesus. My relatives will be there, and this will be a wonderful reincarnation. Those from where I sat as a skeptic, I can't go there but these alternative ways of reacting to the diagnosis all seemed like sign up for just a miserable remaining life. What became really clear to me was focusing on just the gratitude, the fact that I'm alive, I'm awake, I'm in this mystery, and it's precious. That became the go-to practice, and that's what opened up for Marla and I this kind of--

Manish: What do you think allowed you to do that? Many people in that space aren't able to. They go to--

Roland: I don't know. I wouldn't have expected it. We had done contemplations, gone through the routine of what would you do if you got a terminal diagnosis a year from now, six months from now, three months from now, a week.

Marla: We had that as a dating question, like, 5, 10 years ago we asked that to each other.

Roland: We've been through that and so I don't know what I would have predicted. It was actually really curious to me when I talked to the cancer patients in our trial because I would ask each of them prior to, on intake, "What do you think happens when we die?" I was just I was trying to imagine where I would be in that space, and I didn't know. I wouldn't have predicted what happened. That was as soon as I was able to see the landscape of possibilities that I could lean into gratitude and actually make it and make it work. I now say, at least to date a year in that I've never been as happy or had as much equipoise, a sense of--

Manish: You really would say that after your cancer diagnosis and having Stage IV, and you've never been as happy as now?

Roland: I consider it a blessing.

Marla: He says that a lot.

Roland: We both consider it a blessing.

Manish: Describe how it's a blessing.

Marla: Well, I've been searching for Nirvana since I was about 17. I was always searching, searching, searching for something. Then when he got his diagnosis, I realized, like I said, "It's not a dress rehearsal. We are here now." The yearning stopped. The searching stopped. It's like suddenly the space opened up and I realized, "We're in it. We're in the heaven. We have each other." There was a time when what was dangled in front of Roland was a cure for Stage IV cancer via a liver pump. We went to the surgery, and it was only going to work if well, anyway, when the surgeon got in there.

Roland: That's right.

Marla: That was totally not an option. It wasn't an option. Roland, he might have known that, but the surgeon took me aside after surgery and he told me that it's not an option. After he looked it and saw that his metastases had grown to the other side liver.

Manish: You emailed me that day.

Marla: What's that?

Manish: You emailed me.

Marla: I did, yes. Then I left that room and I went to-- I'll tell you. I went into and they said, you could now see your husband. I'm pretty distraught. It seems like my one hope for a cure. I don't know that he was hoping has just been destroyed. I go into the room and I have tears in my eyes. I look at Roland and this is how Roland normally is after anesthesia. He's like this newborn bird [laughs] looking around and like, "Oh, it's all so beautiful. It's all so beautiful." Then I walk in and he looks at me and he sees that I'm struck. He sees the tears in my eyes and he says, "Love, don't mourn me while I'm still living." It was such wise advice. I realized, "What am I doing? Why would I mourn him when there's precious time I have with him?" I have not mourned him since then. I could have years to mourn him if I want, but when I have this warm body cuddling up at me at night and this sweet loving guy telling me how grateful he is to me every day, several times a day, I'm not going to mourn that. I am going to be living in it. That's where it comes. That's the joy. You know what it is? When you're so close to loss, what makes it so precious is what's left. That's what it is. We're living in a jewel case and we're being in the preciousness of it. We're seeing jewels all around us, and we’re just loving it. It's where I always wanted to be when I was 17 and starting with yoga. This is it. It's the preciousness of now. That's the gift of the cancer for me, and I think for him, too.

Roland: I consider it a blessing because I have thought repeatedly what would have happened if I had gone off to that screening appointment colonoscopy and been run over by a bus, "Oh my God. What a loss?" To have this experience in the last year, all the changes that have occurred, it's been absolutely marvelous and I wouldn’t have had that so I do consider the diagnosis.

Manish: Tell me about some of the changes.

Roland: What's that?

Manish: Tell me about some of the changes. We've been talking about it but tell me more.

Roland: With my three children.

Manish: Tell me about that. I was going to ask.

Marla: Oh, yes.

Roland: It’s been amazing. They came to visit obviously a couple of months after the diagnosis and we spent hours in our living room just talking. I think one of the things that has come about for me with the diagnosis is that there's this kind of sense of transparency. There's no nothing other than to be present and to be truthful about where you're coming from. I was able to reflect to my children on how this had changed me and where I was in my life. Then we went to each of them and they spoke in a way that we've never had the conversation before. It was just with that sense of transparency, with a sense of being able to express their personal vulnerabilities. It was just such a beautiful opening and sharing.

Marla: Wait, I needed to interject. This was a three-day conversation. I left with Roland, the three of them, well, the three children in Roland's living room, Roland totally transparent, telling them what he's going through. Then it's like they shifted the mic to the next person and they gave one daughter the whole afternoon and then they gave the other daughter the whole morning and then they gave the son the whole afternoon. What they did, the focus was on each child, and each child they would open what's going on in their life. Everything, the difficulty, the good and the bad and everyone just listened. They took a deep dive. It was like the relationship he always-- he had a good relationship with his children, but now his relationship is so deep. They came away from that so bonded with each other and with their father, and that is another gift of cancer.

Manish: What do you think? Go ahead.

Roland: Let me just react to that. None of my children have experience with psychedelics but those kinds of openings can occur with psychedelics in the right context and curated in a way that people discuss before and after. In fact, you have modeled that in your studies with cancer in which you have allowed people to come together as a community and support one another. I think these experiences can be really opening and powerful in that sense, but that's almost the sense I had. It was like a psychedelic integration, group integration where they were opening and you don't need psychedelics to do that. That's part of the human life.

Manish: What do you think keeps us from because you are connected to you because I have three kids. They were here for Thanksgiving and they're 18, 16, and 14. I love them but the connection there's different ages, but still, you try as a parent to connect deeply, and yet, there's always something in that. What is it that keeps us from being transparent and available in that way?

Roland: With my children, there was some sense that I dropped some role that I had been inhabiting as a father and I was coming to them but not.

Marla: More equal.

Roland: Yes. It was just coming to them as a loving person that was invested in their outcome but whatever agenda that I had was not there or there was a some sense that I was able to relinquish that. I don't know, we experienced each other differently. When they came in after the diagnosis and when I first came into them, I made that connection with them looking deeply into their eyes. I think before it wouldn't have been as present. I don't know if that was a shift in me, in them, a joint shift, but something opened up there.

Marla: Oh, when you let go of the role of, "I'm the protector," and you showed your vulnerabilities.

Roland: Well, in recognizing that I don't have that long to continue to protect them in this life.

Marla: That's it exactly and that enabled them to show their vulnerabilities to each other. It was really amazing how deep they went and how bonded they are now.

Manish: How was this last Thanksgiving, knowing--?

Roland: Oh, it was lovely.

Marla: Oh, it was great.

Roland: Oh yes.

Marla: Well, this Thanksgiving, they came with all the kids, so we had five adults and five little kids and it was a different experience but sweet.

Roland: Yes, really, really joyful. That connection with my children remains. It's shifted. It shifted permanently, and I'm just so, so grateful for that.

Marla: I’ll tell you--

Roland: I should also just say that that sense of transparency has I think shifted my relationship with-

Marla: Everybody.

Roland: -everyone I encounter. I feel differently and maybe it's less agenda that there's no point other than speaking the truth and people come in and say, "Well, do you mind if I ask you a question or something?" Then I say, yes.

Manish: I've certainly noticed that you've been pretty private about your psychedelic experiences, even your spiritual practice, even cancer diagnosis, and just like you said, there's transparency, not fully, and I think you felt this was really important for you. You wanted to talk to other cancer patients and had a message for them. This is part of what I think became a priority for you after the diagnosis.

Marla: People are reacting to him differently. He has postdocs come over and then at the end of the night, they're hugging each other. I've seen so many people who've come over and men who hug him at the end and say, "I love you." You just don't see that outside of relatives.

Roland: It's not everybody.

Manish: Of course.

Roland: There are some people who are-

Manish: This has enabled you to come out sort of?

Marla: Yes.

Roland: Yes, absolutely.

Manish: Because you were pretty private before.

Roland: I was and so Yes, I've come out and decided to speak frankly about my own psychedelic experience. I had been assiduously avoidant of that up until the diagnosis. It's only recently that I've just decided, "Look, there may be some downsides." There are going to be some people who are going to think that, "Well, I've not been an objective scientist." I don't think that's true because I went into work for psychedelics as a skeptic. It was 10 years after starting it that I actually reinitiated interest out of curiosity in psychedelics but now I have some personal experience that I can also speak to. Here before, I wouldn't have spoken about that because I have concern being judged as biased and--

Manish: That's just gone out the window now.

Roland: Yes, it's gone out the window. I wouldn't recommend at this point that many people doing scientists talk about their own experience. Some may have experience, some may not. It's a double-edged sword, particularly within academic and scientific institutions about whether you're biased or not. Whether you can be objective. There's no reason principle you couldn't, but one can understand how that could skew a scientific interpretation and agenda. I feel that wasn't the case for me. As psychedelic use becomes more normalized, I think people will be able to speak more frankly about their use. Certainly, not everybody who's doing research in the field has personal experience. Me being a case example, I published a series of our most influential articles prior to any personal experience. With respect to cancer patients but also everyone. A contemplation that I'm going through and one of the reasons I'm so interested in this endowment is that in principle one shouldn't have to have a terminal cancer diagnosis to awaken as I have. In principle, it should be there. What we have to figure out is how to get people to awaken without having a terminal diagnosis. I think that's possible. With respect to the cancer patients, I would hope that they could draw on some of the things that have been so apparent for me, that there's a way of entering into this space. There's a way of experiencing all the discomforts of surgeries and chemotherapy and disappointments when new scans or new tests reveal that the treatment is not working. There's a way of dealing with that that needn't be painful or grief-filled. There's a way of holding these experiences as just part of reality and being grateful for them. One thing that accounts for why I have been able to maintain this kind of sense of equipoise that I have has been a history of meditation practice where one comes to recognize that you're not that voice in your head, that dialogue you have with yourself is just that. It is a voice in your head, but it's not who you are. That there's a sense of self that resides behind that. It's a deeper sense of awareness, and you can also affect some agency in choosing how you identify with or don't identify with the thoughts in your head that come up, or the feelings that you have. Chemotherapy and the steroid treatments afterward just blew my day/night cycle out of the water. I was at times sleeping two or three hours a night. For me, rather than sitting there awake saying, "Oh my goodness, I'm going to be trashed." It was like, "Yes, okay. This is a great opportunity to meditate or listen to tapes on gratitude meditations or gratitude reflections." It was joyful. The idea behind that is to embrace each of these experiences with interest and wonder and curiosity. I would have to say that psychedelic experiences are useful in the same way, at least for me, in that psychedelic experiences opens, at least me up to is just the carnival of mind. There are thoughts that can come up. There are images that can come up. There are all kinds of contemplations that can come up. It's quite possible with psychedelics to go down a rabbit hole with any of those to get so identified with it that it becomes your reality. A classic bad trip is one in which one has-- The preparation we usually give for psychedelic experiences is if a monster, if a demon shows up, what you don't want to do is run from it. You don't want to fight it because what you're doing in both of those is that you're reifying it as something other. The opportunity here is to just recognize that it's a play of consciousness. It's manifesting itself, and be curious about it. Be interested in it. Approach it even though the hair in the back of your neck may be standing on end because you do feel fear, but if you approach it with this deep sense of curiosity, it's unstable. It evaporates. It's empty in the Buddhist sense of the term. That's true with all of our experiences in life. When unhelpful thoughts or feelings arise that I can catch them really early before I start identifying it if there's some pain, for instance. Rather than to awfulize it. It's there. Do what I can to mitigate it, but also embrace it as just part of this. It's just part of the same thing, is to be celebrated.

Manish: What would you say is the hardest thing about having this diagnosis?

Roland: It's having to leave Marla and not being there to take care of her as she's taking care of me.

Manish: I thought about part of it has been navigating this medical system. Can you share a little bit about what that's been like for you guys?

Roland: It is fascinating, but it's been really complex. Initially upon diagnosis, coming out of the screening colonoscopy being told, "Okay, we're picking up this tumor here. You should probably get a scan." That was surprising and unhappy news. Then got the scan and it showed metastatic to liver, making it stage IV cancer. Then entering into the medical system, finding a provider. I'm being treated at Hopkins, which has a well-known cancer center, really skilled and competent providers, but they come with personalities and their own limitations. For me, I was hungry for all the information I could get and frank evaluation of where I was. These are busy professionals that have clinic hours and limited time naturally enough. Initially, yes, I would say that it was a bumpy entry into medical treatment because I just was not getting the information I wanted and I was pretty impatient about that, should I even go into chemotherapy? I'd heard such horror stories, but my initial question was, "Look, if this is stage IV, why treat at all? Should I do that? Should I go in and get a port?" I had to get that information sorted out. You were incredibly helpful as a outside resource to give perspective on that. One of the weird parts of this whole last year has been the discomforts that I've encountered, the unpleasantness I've encountered, all appear to be secondary to treatment. It started with the implantation of my port, which ended up getting infected quite quickly, and I ended up in the hospital over Christmas for five days because it got infected. Then it had to be removed and replaced. That had to be a medical error. Someone mishandled something along the line.

Manish: Because you have shared goals, to live as long as possible and best quality of life presumably, where do you think the medical system gets it wrong? Where does it diverge? What are the oncologists not getting?

Marla: They don't get Roland. They are not used to a patient coming in and questioning everything. Maybe you are, but Roland questioned. He wanted stats, data. I think Roland overwhelmed them, but once they got used to what they're dealing with then it got easier.

Roland: Their dilemma, of course, is that there are some people who don't want bad news and they in fact would prefer to-

Manish: Not hear that.

Roland: -not hear that at all.

Manish: There's a place sometimes I feel there's a disconnect between us in oncology and it's almost like we're traversing two different worlds and what the patient experiences what they want versus you're getting this delivery this way and this is the one way it comes. You figure out how you navigate through it, you get what you need out of it, but it didn't feel like a very personal experience, experience focused on you.

Roland: Yes. I think what I would guess is that there are many patients who go into the system that just want to hand over the entire decision-making to their oncologist and think, "Okay, this is a wonderful person. They know exactly." Whatever they say goes.

Manish: What struck me is you were very intentional on every decision. You got very crisp on, I don't want to spend time on this, I don't want these side effects. You had the goals in mind, so you were very deliberate on what you would go through and would not go through painstakingly so in the sense of weighing every pro and con of every decision in terms of how it impacted you.

Roland:: My bottom line is, how can I use my remaining time most effectively? There are things that I really want to be doing, things that are important. The prioritization of that becomes crystal clear. It's really quite fun because you can cross stuff right off from the beginning like, "Do I need to manage this administrative detail in my life?" "No." I no longer do that. It's about relationships. It's about family, friends, love. It's about the endowment project, which I feel is this gift to the future because we're creating this engine that can drive in perpetuity that is forever as long as Hopkins exists as an institution, research in this area that I think is just so critically important.

Manish: What are the things that you thought that were so important all of a sudden weren't important?

Marla: Administration.

Roland: Yes. A lot of administration. I had been and now continue to be director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, but I was doing a lot just in terms of-

Marla: 70 hours a week.

Roland: -maintenance of that. It was really important for me to see the transition to other leadership in the center.

Manish: I see you become very intentional with your time, every trip, every relationship. You're very intentional on where you're going to spend. You've canceled trips or you wouldn't go. You really are very deliberate on cutting out a lot of that.

Roland: When you get that diagnosis then you start re-prioritizing. One of the images that I actually love that came up to me, and this was after I'd gotten a consult at Sloan Kettering about-

Manish: The pump.

Roland: -pump and multiple surgical interventions and realizing some of those were not particularly viable options. It was the day after we'd come back, and for some reason, the image of the hourglass came up to me. I love it because it's the finitude of life. You flip the hourglass over and you can see the sand running out of that top chamber. You don't quite know the speed with which it's running down, but what you do know is that at some point that last grain of sand is going to drop. I love that image and I think everyone should have an hourglass in their home and think in those terms. Death is a certainty and it just allows us to focus on what's important. It's so easy to lose track of that.

Manish: : Priority seems to be family.

Marla: Yes. Before it always was in his head, but in reality, it didn't play out.

Manish: That's right.

Marla: Now it's in reality.

Manish: You're living it.

Marla: The thing is, what he's doing now with the-- You said how Thanksgiving was, now the focus is he really bonded with his children. Now his two children have children, really want to create this everlasting bond so that they can remember their grandfather. That's not going to happen with the two-year-old or the four-year-old, maybe the six-year-old, but with the eight-year-old Roland did it. Roland, who's never had a hobby in his life. Oh no, never in his adult life. It was only work. I'd always wonder what'd he'd do when he stopped work. As a kid, he had a hobby as a magician. Because he never throws anything away, we have the magic boxes in the basement. When the kids came, especially last time when the kids came, every day, every afternoon, the eight-year-old would disappear up into the bedroom with Roland and Roland would teach him magic tricks. The day came when everyone is leaving and they're about to come down and show magic tricks. I got out of the closet. Roland has this striped long bathrobe that he never ever wears. I put that on him and put the sash around him. Then he is got this meditation shirt with a high collar, all white. I put it on the eight-year-old, and it came down to his ankles. They had wands in their hands, and I introduced them. The eight-year-old is named Roland, too. I introduced him as, "And now I present Rolands the Great." They came down with their wands and they did-- It was just such wonderful magic tricks they did together. It was such a bond that Roland's mother said that when they were going on the plane to go back to Minnesota, little Roland was doing everything he could to make them miss their plane because he didn't want to leave. He's got bond for life. That's the preciousness of this time now, just trying to create that with the children.

Roland: Also, what comes up priority is meaningful friendships. A lot of people have reached out and have wanted to talk. If the sense is that they really want to talk, there's nothing superficial about that, then I make time for that. That becomes a real bonding experience. It's beautiful. There are lots of people who you say, "Well, I have a cancer diagnosis," they don't know what to say to you. They feel so uncomfortable.

Marla: They say, "Oh, I'm sorry," or--

Roland: [laughs] Right.

Marla: I'm sorry or--

Roland: I get reactive if somebody says, "Oh, I'm so sorry. That must be--" That's actually crossing over my trip wire. I don't know, you got that wrong. There's nothing to be sorry about. I'm happier and more joyful than ever and I invite you to join the celebration, but-

Marla: Want any of that.

Roland: -I don't want it. No.

Marla: She does not want pity.

Roland: Absolutely not

Manish: As an oncologist, you intend to do well. You want to do well by your patients, but then from the subjective experience of the patient, the medical system doesn't always work for them. We both start with the right intention of improving people's health, but then the practice of it is divergent. The experience for you did not always feel like that. It's not like you went through the medical system and you felt like, "Oh, this is all for me. I don't have to advocate for myself. This is--"

Roland: I have sympathy for the medical providers because they have to meet the patient and their family where they are. Some of those patients or family members don't want bad news. They want to maintain their hope.

Manish: It's uncomfortable even an oncologist to, as many conversations I've had, even to look you in the eye or on the phone, it was in the eye, and say, "Roland Griffiths, I've read this." What do you think?" "I've read six months." To say, "Yes, I think it's probably six months." Each time it causes a little pain.

Roland : For you as an oncologist.

Manish: For me as an oncologist. That gets hard. You never feel like you can quite navigate that exactly right for a particular situation.

Roland: They're calibrated.

Marla: To present [crosstalk]

Roland: As an oncologist, you're trying to treat people and you have to be advocate for-

Marla: Treatment.

Roland: -treatment and for best cures. You don't want to wound someone, I guess, psychologically who doesn't want to hear that. For where I sat, I want the facts. I want to know what the worst-case, best-case scenario is. I don't ask the best case because the best case is--

Marla: You never ask the best case.

Roland: No. The answer to the best case is, yes, people survive. We live in a mysterious world. The medical establishment I don't think would call it a miracle, but that would be it. Just something beyond understanding that this somehow resolved. That remains, I guess, a theoretical possibility.

Manish: It is hard as an oncologist. I think even if in a day you see somebody and you're having a serious conversation around death and dying, you have to separate yourself from that, but this is a real person. It's not theoretical. Then 20 minutes later you're seeing somebody else.

Marla: I don't know how you do it, no.

Manish: I think a lot of us, for me, you end up just closing that part of yourself off, and over time it can lead to depression. Certainly, I found that, but the psychedelic work for me did make it much more meaningful. The study, that actually going into that and having even more meaningful conversations with people around the reality that was in the room was very powerful and to see people actually get better. We talk about chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, but underneath it, this whole psycho-spiritual emotional aspect. To go day after day, year after year and not really address that, eats away as an oncologist. Really not through fellowship, nobody really teaches you how to have conversations, how to talk to people about dying, the impact it has. Nobody tells you have your emotional life, you're having a response every time that they're having a response. We never would talk about what that response is.

Marla: Do you do that with your patients now when you go around the circle? Do you express?

Manish: Oh yes. As you were mentioning our group study, we treated four people at a time, and they would have group preparation. Before, we'd go around and talk about what cancer they had, how it's impacted their life, and why they're doing the study. Then the next day they'd come back and take psilocybin together in separate rooms and then the next day come back and talk about it. Then a week later. I don't think I've ever seen anything as powerful as-

Marla: That's amazing.

Manish: -someone sharing their story, being heard by others without judgment, and hearing their own story and their story.

Marla: That's amazing.

Manish: That shared bond of the cancer diagnosis and the psilocybin journey. Our study ended after eight weeks and it's a year and a half later and the people are still meeting.

Marla: Oh that's so great. That's so great.

Roland: In terms of treatment. We did actually run one study in which we-- This was a spiritual practice study in which we had people gathered together and share. I can affirm from that, it's just really powerful. Many of these people who haven't had deep self-inquiry, spiritual-type experiences are desperate to share that and share what they've gone through. To do that in the context that you're doing it with cancer patients that are sharing this experience has to be hugely powerful. I think you're actually setting the model for how to optimize psychedelic treatment, probably for a variety of therapeutic conditions, in using this hybrid approach where you protect the individual during the session so that they can have their own experience but then unpack it. That's off to you. That's really great.

Marla: It's incredible what you're doing.

Manish: We started all. You're my inspiration, so I appreciate that. It means a lot [crosstalk].

Marla: You took it in a great direction, that's for sure

Manish: Coming from you, that means a lot. Do you have any advice for me where I'm in my career and where I'm going with this now, like young kids? What would you tell me now?

Roland: I think you're a huge contribution in bringing psychedelics into end-of-life care. That was our first major clinical study we ran. Results like yours are astonishing. Years later, people continue to reflect on that experience as being among the most important and meaningful of their lives. My hope had been that the initial approval for medical approval of psychedelics would've been just in that case, not necessarily just cancer, but terminal illness. I was disappointed, but it's understandable, when FDA really put the focus on depression because of the larger potential population to be treated. What I see in end-of-life is number one, it's a real understandable application or use case for psychedelics because it does address some of these deep existential issues that may not be at play with treatment of drug abuse or depression, for instance. Furthermore, I see it as a really valuable way to introduce psychedelics into culture broadly because once these compounds become and this kind of treatment is available at end of life, it's just a matter of a few generations before everyone has had either personal experience or a family member end up seeing firsthand the transformative effects of this. It's going to open up a much deeper and respectful conversation about the value of psychedelics. We're still recovering from the trauma of the 1960s where these compounds became so demonized. What you're doing there is really important. I'm really grateful that you're doing it. I'm grateful that the endowment that we're creating at Hopkins will have-- Our hope is to have this interactive and collaborative quality with what you're doing because it speaks so deeply to this existential piece of it that just does not occur across so many other use cases for therapeutics. Psychedelics are being explored for depression treatment, resistant depression. We're doing studies in anorexia-

Manish: OCD.

Roland: OCD, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, opiate dependence, neurological conditions that are thought to be use cases for treatment. There's chronic pain. There's such a diverse--

Manish: But nothing like that.

Roland: Nothing that gets to the core existential questions that you're addressing. I think that's an incredibly important thing that you're doing. You're also, to my mind, setting up a model system for treatment with your groups and the way you're managing that. You're developing ways to support preparation and integration and aftercare that I think just makes a whole lot of sense. I think my advice to you is to keep doing what you're doing.

Marla: Continue on. Carry on.

Manish: What do you think is going on when we give somebody a psychedelic?

Roland: I think psychedelics under these curated conditions with setting and preparation can occasion these very unique and powerful experiences, some of which read out as this classic mystical-type experience, having this sense of connectedness, that we're all in this together. It's precious, it's true. There are other variations of psychedelic experiences, some of which are very difficult experiences, some of which are experiences of psychological insight. There are different flavors to these experiences, but at least with respect to the mystical-type experience, I think that's remarkably transformative of the entire worldview and sense of self.

Manish: What do you think is going on there?

Roland: I think it's experiential. I think that if someone has this experience, this authentic experience, that everything is interconnected. There are different ways of having that. That can be introvertive, that one can have that going inward. It can be extrovertive, eyes open, but the conditions under which you and we have given psilocybin prioritize the introvertive experience because they're eye shades and their headphones. That sense of the interconnectedness, that it's precious beyond belief, some people would use the word sacred, but the secularized description is precious beyond belief. Also that it's absolutely true. There's no question about it in terms of feeling sense. That is absolutely true. If you have that experience, that accounts for a lot. We're all in this together, it's precious and it's absolutely true, so people come out of that experience with something other than just a memory of the experience. They come out of it with a changed worldview because it comes off as being true. Now, we don't know in fact if it's true or not, but that may not matter. With that transformation of sense of worldview and sense of self comes an entirely different way of interacting in the world, seeing oneself in the world, how one makes choices in the world, so it's almost like you're going in to a computer program and changing the core operating language underneath everything. You're changing the entire self-narrative, which will encourage different decisions and different ways of holding oneself. That's what I think is very important at a broad psychological level. The neurochemical and brain network features of that that just go way beyond our understanding of how the brain works because of the complexity of that. I think that's really important. It can also manifest in terms of this psychological insight. There are other experiences that are deeply disquieting that actually can be quite informative of changing that. I think that's important. There's a debate right now with psychedelics, very active debate in the scientific community, and that is, can we create-- They call it non-psychedelic psychedelics. Psychedelics that have all the neurochemical features of a psychedelic but don't have those pesky side effects like this. I think it's a really interesting inquiry. I think they're probably features of the therapeutic effects that can be had in absence of the subjective effects, but I would give huge odds to the importance of that subjective effects place.

Manish: That's the basic tension right now. There's a materialist view, that you have the biological receptor effect, and then the religious or faith-based, or spiritual, that the experience matters. Is it just biology that's going on with the drug and the experience doesn't matter, or is experience somehow connected?

Roland: From a scientific view, the experiences also can be interpreted entirely scientifically.

Manish: I don't mean it's unscientific. I mean there's a bias within science that it can be explained. Not a bias. There's a whole school of people that believe that everything can be explained by the material.

Roland: That's not ruled out as a possibility with these psychological experiences.

Manish: No, but those are not necessary, I guess.

Roland: Yes, that just seems naïve. Just because we can't measure the neurochemical underpinnings, beliefs are critically important. What you believe will change all kinds of choices that you make, so it'd be silly to say that beliefs don't matter. We do know that psychedelics can be very powerful belief-changing opportunities. You don't have to go into something that departs from a materialistic worldview to explain these kinds of phenomena.

Manish: I guess it can't be reduced down to just that. Beliefs matter, both subjective and the objective, that the beliefs create the world, we all use beliefs. It's not just bio, just not material.

Roland: Now let me inhabit the materialist here. Yes, but beliefs are a function of normal processing. They're not magic.

Manish: Do my beliefs change my neural processes?

Roland: Sure. Your beliefs do because there are a cascade then of changes that you'll make based on those beliefs that are going to create further changes. You're constantly reprogramming the experience of the organism, but beliefs are fundamentally important. An example that makes sense to some people, a child raised in an evangelical family situation, this is their worldview. They believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. They go off to college, they start taking biology courses, they start reading about evolution, and then all of a sudden they go, "Yes, this evolution makes sense." Then they can't reconcile that with their previous beliefs and literal interpretation. With that change comes a shift in worldview. Very often those belief changes, depending on what they are, can be irreversible. There's that kind of shift that occurs with psychedelics in these mystical experiences about just the astonishing wonder of what this experience is about and the sense that there's something benevolent and beautiful about this experience of consciousness and it's to be treasured and explored.

Manish: What would a good death look like for you?

Roland: Oh.

Marla: It's a good question.

Roland: Yes, great question. Death continues to be this mystery. As I mentioned earlier, with all the cancer patients I talk to, I would ask them, "What do you think happens when we die?" A number would say, "Well, I go to heaven and I'll see my parents and it's joyful." Others would say, "Well, I don't believe in anything. It's computer off, system down. It's unplugged." I say, "Okay. How firmly do you believe that?" They go, "Oh, that's what I believe." Then, because I'm a scientist, I go, "Well, give me a percentage about that." "Oh, it's really high. 95%." I think to myself, "Holy mackerel, 5% chance that that's not the case, that there's something perhaps beyond this life." You think of people playing the lottery at odds of 1 in 200 million [chuckles] and they're talking about 5%. Now, maybe they don't understand statistics very well. My personal thought about that is that the probability of consciousness or life or something surviving death is extraordinarily low. I certainly can't rule that out entirely because we're actually into the mystery there. What occurs to me is that all it takes is a fra-- 1 in 200 million. It could be 1 in 200 billion, but if there's still a chance for that, then that makes this transition from life to death to be something that is deserving of a whole lot of curiosity and interest. I'll be fascinated [laughs] to enter into that transition. The neat thing is that I'll probably know the answer to that. Either I'll know nothing or I'll know that there is something before any of you have a chance to experience that. A good death would be one in which I stay awake to that possibility. I don't know if I want to be surrounded by family at the moment of transition. I certainly want Marla present or in my vicinity. I can't quite fill into what that feels like. I certainly would prefer to die at home. I certainly would not like to end up in a hospital unit intubated. I certainly would love for pain to be managed. I think if I have a fear about what the course of this is, it would be encountering some severe intractable pain that couldn't be managed. That's a concern to me because, throughout my meditation experiences and opening up, I do realize there are trip points on the pain scale in which that can become so intensely real that I'm not capable of opening up to gratitude. It becomes a fixation point, but that pain has to get pretty high. The answer is in a weird way it's curiosity and looking forward to that.

Manish: Not in pain, Marla vicinity, and being curious.

Roland: What we want is people to wake up to the fact that they don't need to die to have the experience I'm having. It should be part of the human condition. It should be attainable in principle. That's what we want. We want people to awaken to that as a possibility. Psychedelics are one of many ways to do that.

Read more
The Roland R. Griffiths, PhD, Professorship Fund in Psychedelic Research on Secular Spirituality and Well Being

To learn more about Roland’s project to establish a world-class psychedelic research program—in perpetuity—to advance human flourishing and well-being, please visit GriffithsFund.org.

Currently, Roland has received pledges totaling about $14M. This means that he is $6M short of the $20M target, sufficient to support the full research program. To donate, please visit GriffithsFund.org and click “Donate".

About Roland and Marla

Roland is a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and founding Director of the John Hopkins Center on Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. His principal research focus in both clinical and preclinical laboratories has been on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs.

Marla Weiner is a former newspaper reporter, holistic health educator, and sign language interpreter. Now retired, she says she is doing less, being more, and loving it.

About Sunstone Therapies

Founded by oncologists Drs. Manish Agrawal and Paul Thambi, business strategist Kim Roddy and psychologist Dr. Bill Richards, Sunstone’s team of healthcare professionals has seen firsthand the need for better tools to address the emotional and mental health of cancer patients. Sunstone is focused on developing psychedelic therapies and building modern centers of healing in order to better treat the emotional and psychological impact of cancer and other diseases and disorders as a fundamental expansion of the standard of care in a medical setting, treating mind and heart along with the physical body.