Steve Hupp – Kentucky Ayahuasca and Shamanism in the United States

Steve Hupp


In this episode, Joe interviews Steve Hupp, the Host of Kentucky Ayahuasca, a new series on Viceland. Topics include Steve’s background and how he wants to impact the American Ayahuasca scene through his work.

3 Key Points:

  1. Kentucky Ayahuasca is a docu-series on Viceland about Shaman, Steve Hupp as he works with people seeking healing from severe emotional and physical issues.
  2. Steve comes from an unusual background of career criminal and bank robber, and because of his time in prison with a Peruvian Shaman, has decided to bring the tradition to the United States.
  3. Steve is careful not to mock what shamanism is by creating ceremony in the States. He wants facilitation to be done as safely as possible and is simply trying to help people through Ayahuasca ceremony.

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Show Notes

About Steve

  • He was a career criminal who robbed banks
    • It landed him in prison and put him into the same cell of a Peruvian shaman who had overstayed his visa and was probably doing some facilitating in the States
    • His name was Guadalupe and Steve called him Loopy because of the things he was talking about
    • But here and there Guadalupe would say something that would resonate with Steve days and weeks later that just made sense


  • He spent 4 years in prison
    • He got into the federal system because he had beaten the state system so the federal system picked up the case
    • Steve pleaded guilty and made a deal with them to give them their money back
    • He also agreed not to sue the police for opening fire on him
    • He was one of the first bank robbers released on a bond

Religion and Spirituality

  • Up to that point he was an Atheist
    • He decided that something else was keeping him alive for something because of what he survived during the police chase
  • Steve says he’s seen how religious law worked by seeing gangs turn into congregations
  • He says he is no longer an Atheist after having experience with Ayahuasca
  • He had an epiphany that “anything is possible” and he decided he wanted to bring this to everyone
  • He started to have coincidences that led him to facilitation


  • Steve isn’t trying to defraud what Shamanism is, but he is trying to tailor it to the American way of life
    • He says the Shaman in the jungle has a different context than an American does
  • Joe mentions that people get upset about how the word ‘shaman’ is used
    • Steve says ‘shaman’ comes from the Siberian word, ‘saman’, which means “to know” but has been branded by anthropologists
    • He also says shamanism is the oldest world religion
  • Joe brings up that so many people suggest doing Ayahuasca in the Amazon because that’s where the spirit of the plant is, but he also mentions that the same type of biodiversity exists in Kentucky too


  • Steve says they face reverse-racism because they can’t work with native tribes because they are white, but he’s just looking to bring everyone together
  • “If we don’t start helping our little blue sphere heal, it’s all we’ve got” – Steve
  • He said he had more fear transitioning into Ayahuasca facilitation than any bank he’s robbed because he had to put his name on it
  • His intent is not to build a cult, he believes we are at the dawn of a new world and we are all in this together

Helping Addiction with Ayahuasca

  • Steve says he believes there are no addicts, just unbalanced humans
    • Joe says he read recently that the term “addict” keeps people in their problems
    • When he helps people who are addicted to drugs, and they drink Ayahuasca, they realize the drug is not the problem, but the guilt and the shame about using the drug is the problem

Plant Teacher

  • Steve believes we are intergalactic children
  • We could use our technology and knowledge to better us rather than being so distracted by the ‘lines in the sand’
    • He says we could feed everyone on the planet with land the size of Texas
  • What Ayahuasca is trying to teach us is to be kind to each other and we have that choice everyday
  • We need to get past this barbaric attitude of domination
  • “I know I’ve got grandchildren that I may never see, but I’ve got to try to leave them a world better than the one I’ve found” – Steve
    • If we were to teach our kids to teach our grandkids something, we wouldn’t be handing them millions of dollars in national debt
    • Its a non-violent change
    • “What if we collectively manifested accountability in our government?” – Steve

Law Enforcement

  • Steve believes law enforcement shouldn’t be able to have more power than soldiers at war
    • Soldiers in Iraq can’t fire unless they have been fired upon

Shaman University

  • No one has ever done this before, Steve wants to put together a structure to make sure this operation is done ethically
    • He wants to lay the foundation for people to participate in Ayahuasca ceremony safely
    • He says anybody can brew Ayahuasca, but doing it safely and properly is key
  • Joe encourages viewers to check out the series on Viceland
  • Steve also encourages listeners who want to do Ayahuasca abroad to do tons of research before attending to make sure there are proper facilitators, ethical procedures and quality emergency response techniques and resources


Kentucky Ayahusca on Viceland

Check out our online course, “Introduction to Psychedelics”

About Steve

Steve Hupp had spent time in the Military. He was lost in materialism, drug abuse, alcoholism and pride that led him on a 5 year bank robbing spree that ended with him in Federal Prison, where he met his first Shaman, a cellmate. Now he is an Ayahuasca Shaman performing psychedelic healing ceremonies in Kentucky. Steve has worked with Ayahuasca for 15 years, trained by a Shaman from South America on how to work with Ayahuasca. He has spent much of that time working alone and experiencing many visions and entities that called him to found Aya Quest.

Kevin Matthews – Decriminalize Denver and the Aim to Decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms

Kevin Matthews - Decriminalize Denver


In this episode, Joe sits down with Kevin Matthews, Campaign Manager of Decriminalize Denver, the group looking to decriminalize magic mushrooms. During the show, they cover topics such as the Right to Try Act, therapeutic success and what it might look like to have Psilocybin decriminalized in Denver.

3 Key Points:

  1. Decriminalize Denver’s efforts are aimed to decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms in the city of Denver, CO., and are currently getting signatures to be on the May 2019 ballot.
  2. The Federal Right to Try Act allows a person with a life-threatening illness to use any substance that has passed phase one clinical trials.
  3. There is so much research and data on the benefits of Psilocybin Mushrooms, and being in an age of social media sharing, people are waking up to the idea of mushroom decriminalization.

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Show Notes

About Kevin

  • Kevin is a part of the group, Decriminalize Denver
    • The group submitted the ballot initiative called the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative and they are getting signatures to make the May 2019 ballot
  • Kevin became interested in mushrooms after leaving as a Cadet at the US Military Academy due to major depression
    • He was interested in Psilocybin Mushrooms impact on depression

Talking Publicly about Psilocybin Use

  • “Self-healing from psychedelics” is something most people want to be careful talking about
    • Does it uninspire therapists?
    • Does it ruin the medical model?
  • Kevin states that people are afraid to talk about it because they are a schedule 1 substance
    • Those who are willing to take the risk to talk about it are because they believe that mushrooms might have the best impact on them

Right to Try Act

  • Kevin knows someone with PTSD and tumors who is prescribed to Psilocybin under the Federal Right to Try Act
    • Anyone who has a life-threatening illness can use any substance that has passed phase one under clinical trials
    • His psychiatrist said that the psilocybin has been nothing short of miraculous in its effects
    • He takes 1.5-2 grams of dried mushrooms every 7-10 days
      It puts him in control of his own protocol
    • Trump just signed the Federal Right to Try Act this summer, Colorado has had their own since 2014

Generational Mushroom Use

  • Joe says that the media landscape has really changed in the past few years and so much more research and information is becoming accessible to everyone
  • Veterans for Natural Rights group is supporting this mushroom movement
  • After the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, a lot of people went underground with their use
    • 30 million people in the country have used psychedelics in the last decade
    • More young people now are using psychedelics than the same age group used psychedelics in the 60’s

Decriminalize Denver

  • The goal of the group is to decriminalize the personal use and personal possession of Psilocybin mushrooms, including the propagation of mushrooms for personal use
  • “Our main goal with this is to keep individuals out of prison, help our vets, and help our loved ones who suffer from these traumas” – Kevin

Colorado Always Making Progress

  • Right now, Colorado state legislature is looking at safe injection sites and different kinds of penalty such as rehab instead of incarceration
    • Joe says Denver is a kind of microcosm of the whole nation, it has an interest in both sides of an issue, instead of just one sided
  • “Mushrooms help, in a very profound way. And opening that door is the first step to changing people’s minds, both metaphorically and physically.” – Kevin
    • The medical applications of Psilocybin are huge such as for a stutter, autoimmune issues, anxiety and depression

Talking about Psilocybin

  • Kevin says you can’t have a conversation without two opposing sides
    • He is excited for when the conversation starts because there is a ton of points on why Psilocybin is proven to be effective
    • John’s Hopkins said that Psilocybin should at a minimum be a Schedule 4 (same level as prescription sleep aids) source
  • Schedule 1 means “no medical value and high risk of abuse”
    • From the clinical research and population studies alone on Psilocybin, we know that’s false

Decriminalize Denver’s Current Focus

  • Getting all 5,000 signatures (2,000 so far) by January 7th
  • Coalition building, doing some fundraising
  • Getting volunteers activated
  • After getting all the signatures, then they will be on the ballot. Once on the ballot, the campaign and outreach starts

Using Psilocybin for Therapy

  • Joe brings up a story about his teacher Lenny Gibson who had multiple bouts of cancer and is a psychedelic scholar. Lenny was incredibly mad at Tim Leary because he was in cancer support groups and imagines how many more options cancer patients would have for pain if drugs were not made illegal
  • Looking at decreasing suffering, it would be special for the Denver population to find relief in anxiety and depression before going into a life-threatening surgery, etc.
  • If this turns into a regulatory medical paradigm, licensure is important
    • How do we create the paradigm to open the work in a professional therapeutic manner?

Grand Rounds

  • Doctors will get together around a case study and share it within the medical community
    • It’s a way to share and practice case studies organically and internally
  • With social media alone 30,000 people can be reached a month
    • Typing in to Google “benefits of mushrooms” brings up a ton of research
  • When people hear about John Hopkins, NYU, Harvard, UCLA Medical Center, and all of these companies that have already been doing the research they become more interested
    • Medicalization does not equal rescheduling
    • Carl Hart
  • It takes the breaking up of a family after prison time of a drug offense, 7 generations to recover
    • Joe knows of a case where someone in Colorado who got busted for having mushrooms only ended up serving 2 weeks and didn’t get a felony for it
  • In 2005 New Mexico Court of Appeal said that cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms does not qualify as the manufacture of a controlled substance, as long as they aren’t dried

Mushrooms are Beneficial, Not Harmful

  • How do we ruin fewer lives by legalizing mushrooms and keeping people out from behind bars?
  • Mushrooms can put you in touch with yourself and help connect yourself to others


  • Most of the responses are, “Hell yeah I’m going to sign this!” or “This saved my life”
    • Kevin says when someone says no, it’s all about educating them
  • They had 45% support it and 20% maybes

Working with the City

  • The bill would include a Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel, a city level committee made up of health professionals, Police, Denver Sheriff’s office, city attorneys, etc

Final Thoughts

  • Kevin wants as many people as possible willing to participate to volunteer
  • They will be starting public Q&A twice a month (and live streaming them)



Check out our online course, “Introduction to Psychedelics”

About Kevin

Kevin Matthews is leading the decriminalization of Psilocybin mushrooms in Denver, Colorado. He and his group of dedicated volunteers are currently collecting signatures to make the May 2019 Ballot.

Jake Mitchell – Harm Reduction, Overdose Signs and Emergency Response Techniques

In this episode, Joe and Kyle interview Jake Mitchell from the Flight of Thoughts Podcast.
Jake has spent 4 years as a Paramedic in Canada and leads trainings around mental health, first aid and is bringing better practice of psychedelics into the psychedelic space.

3 Key Points:

  1. It’s so important to know your substances and get a testing kit so you know its not laced and you know exactly what you’re taking.
  2. More people seek help when they look at an overdose or a difficult experience as if they are suffering versus breaking the law. Decriminalization at the least, would help make people be seen as a patient and not a criminal.
  3. Most police aren’t trained on mental health issues, and they have shot and killed people because they don’t know how to correctly respond to issues like schizophrenia. We need more mental health training among our law enforcement.

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Show Notes

About Jake

  • He had major depression and didn’t know it, and started to use cannabis as a useful tool for his depression
    • He started to notice some of the first responders use MDMA and Psilocybin off-duty to help with their PTSD
    • “PTSD for those who have been in combat is more understood than for first responders with it, people think that we can just handle it.” – Jake
    • There are levels of trauma that don’t qualify daily for PTSD, but for police and firefighters and such, they can be triggered by certain events
  • It’s hard to say what percentage of first responders use cannabis, MDMA and psilocybin for personal therapeutic use
    • Jake says he knows of at least a quarter of first responders who have been open about their use
    • There is a new initiative that if police use cannabis, even right before their shift, as long as they are ‘fit for duty’ they won’t be scrutinized


  • CBD counteracts the effects of THC, THC binds to CB1 receptors, and CBD binds to CB2 receptors
    • CBD is similar to Advil
    • If someone has taken too many edibles, they can take Advil to counteract the effect of the THC
    • It counteracts the THC similar to how CBD does
  • People used to say to have a good night, eat a pot brownie, but it’s a better idea to smoke for the first time than to eat an edible

Harm Reduction – Teaching People How to Respond to Overdose

  • They are teaching people about harm reduction kits or when to call an ambulance
    • Know your substances, and get a testing kit so you know its not laced and you know exactly what you’re taking
    • Know what breathing technique you want to use if you “feel the fear” setting in
    • If you know someone is on a clean substance, you can try to help them through it, but if it could be laced (with fentanyl, etc) call an ambulance
    • If someone is unresponsive, that’s a sign they could be overdosing
    • You can rub as hard as you can with your knuckles on their chest and scream their name, and if they don’t wake up, that’s a good sign to call 911
    • Always turn them on their side so that their air passages open up and they don’t asphyxiate on their tongue or vomit
    • If you are informed on how to use narcan and you think they are overdosing on fentanyl, use it
    • If they are awake and are psychologically freaking out, just sit them down and simply ask them “how can I help?” They might want something as simple as some water or to go for a walk
  • Knowing your dose is so important
    • LSD and psilocybin don’t have cardiac effects, they don’t shut off breathing, so you shouldn’t have a reason for feeling like your going to actually die unless it’s been laced
    • MDMA is one you have so worry about but you’d have to take hundreds and hundreds of milligrams
    • Fentanyl test strips are $2
    • They are only $1.50 if you buy 100 or more

Drug Showmanism

  • The first option should always be cannabis
  • Usually the only reason that people overdose on heroin is because it’s laced with pharmaceuticals
  • Advil and Tylenol work similar to opioids
  • Sometimes we have emotional trauma and it comes out as physical pain
  • More people seek help when they look at it as that they are suffering versus breaking the law
    • Narcan costs $20-$40
    • An overdose death costs $30,000
    • In Canada, the pharmacist will inform you on how to use Narcan
    • Jake says he hopes that the US will catch up Narcan availability and use
  • The grinding of the teeth after taking MDMA may be a sign that it contains amphetamine
  • Decriminalization at the least, would help make people be seen as a patient and not a criminal

A Healthcare Issue, Not a Crime

  • The Good Samaritan Act in Canada says if you have minor possession of a substance and not a traffic-able amount, and you call the ambulance for an overdose, you will not be searched or charged
  • Most police aren’t trained on mental health issues, and there have been situations of people with schizophrenia having a moment in public, and because the police don’t have education on signs to look for, they have shot and killed the victim
  • 23 and Me, the gene testing company, tested over 180,000 people’s genes in a sample
    • The findings showed that cannabis doesn’t cause schizophrenia, but people likely use cannabis to relieve symptoms of it

Serotonin Toxicity

  • Jake says he’s been hit in the face by someone on PCP
    • It took 6 police to hold one person down.
  • Another time, there was a guy who was wearing underwear in freezing weather, punching cars driving at almost 40 miles an hour
    • They were snorting Wellbutrin, an antidepressant that works as a stimulant when snorted
  • Serotonin syndrome is super dangerous
    • Ketamine is used in the ER for scenarios like this
  • Does taking MDMA too frequently ruin your serotonin system?
    • Emanuel Sferios – the number one risk of using MDMA is you might not get high from it anymore


  • Type II Diabetes is a symptom of sugar addiction
    • Sugar and carbs create bacteria in the gut that releases plaque in the blood
  • Technology addiction – Jake had a patient that sliced an artery and was texting and on candy crush and Snapchat



Check out this FREE online course, “Introduction to Psychedelics”Navigating Psychedelics: Introduction To Psychedelics (101)

About Jake

Jake is a Primary Care Paramedic with experience in emergency response, evidence-based research practice, harm reduction techniques, and crisis intervention. He is the Founder of The Psychedelic Society of First Responders and Emergency Workers.