Should non-Aboriginal people try peyote?
Updated: Jan 23
Why is it controversial for non-aboriginal people to grow/use peyote? Peyote is central to the spiritual practices of some aboriginal people. It, therefore, deserves to be treated with great respect.
Non-aboriginal people using peyote is a controversial topic with well-intentioned people on both sides. Some aboriginal peoples believe that peyote plants are literally the spirit of their ancestors. By this way of thinking, a potted plant in a greenhouse may be seen as comparable to having their great-grandparents imprisoned.
“It is easy to understand why someone who sincerely believes this would feel strongly that peyote should only grow in nature. ”
Aboriginal people have diverse opinions on this subject. Some aboriginal people believe it is wrong for anyone to grow peyote in greenhouses. Other aboriginal people believe that it is ok for aboriginal people to grow peyote in greenhouses, to protect the species, but still feel that it is wrong for Non-aboriginal people to cultivate or consume peyote.
The non-aboriginal people who do grow and love peyote argue that the potential mental health benefits from this plant are enormous, and needed around the world. Virtually all medicinal plants are held sacred by the aboriginal people who share their habitat and it would set a horrendous precedent to limit access of any medicinal plant to just one nationality. It is reasonable to be both sympathetic to the aboriginal people's demands, but still allergic to the idea of race-based restrictions on plant medicines.
Lastly, it is interesting to note that there is a lot that both sides agree on. Many non-aboriginal people who love peyote share a similar belief about these plants as the aboriginal people who first discovered them. Aboriginal people began using peyote thousands of years ago. The idea that peyote allowed you to feel a connection with your ancestors comes from an era before they had ever encountered people from distant places. Some people now believe that this original conception of the plant is more or less correct, but they interpret "ancestors" to mean all people.
Everyone who loves and respects peyote can agree that as an at-risk species, plants in the wild should never be collected by non-indigenous people. Traveling to Mexico to participate in peyote tourism is not something that is ethically defensible, given the demonstrated harm that peyote tourism does to wild peyote populations. Peyote tourism also fundamentally misses the point of the ceremonies. When aboriginal people participate in peyote ceremonies, they are surrounded by familiar family, friends, and revered members of their close-knit community. This "set and setting" context is hugely significant to the experience and is not the case for some random tourist who shows up and takes peyote.
I believe that the fact that peyote is sacred to some Aboriginal people means that they should have unrestricted access and even exclusive use of wild plants. It can't mean they have exclusive rights over all peyote plants grown in gardens, plant labs, and greenhouses around the world. This is fundamental to how pluralistic societies ensure fair treatment and protects the health and freedom of all races.
It is clear that the aboriginal people for whom peyote is central to their spiritual practices have been subjected to a very real attempt at cultural genocide. The criminalization of plant medicines started with peyote and birthed the modern war on drugs. This cultural genocide is intensifying, as land development, poaching, and climate change threaten to make peyote extinct in the wild. While I can't support the idea of racial restrictions on access to peyote plants grown in greenhouses, I do have fairly radical views about what is owed to these Aboriginal people. As victims of ongoing genocide, I think they are entitled to the same types of redress that other victims of genocide have received. Specifically, I think that the clusters of wild peyote populations should have a similar status and protection as sacred churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques get. I think that if any other victims of genocide faced the threat of land developers bulldozing their most sacred buildings, the international outcry would be enormous. I also believe that the penalties for poaching peyote should be much more serious, as poaching in this context is a crime against humanity. I think that the effort to stop non-aboriginal people from accessing ethically sourced peyote is contrary to the norms of a pluralistic free society, but that request is coming from a place of understandable and justifiable outrage over the ongoing genocide.
If you have questions about cannabis and peyote, check out the FAQ and use the search tool to find the answers you are looking for. If you are considering trying mesearch, Mesearch 101 is the place to get started. If you are interested in purchasing peyote or participating in future research, visit www.PeyoteAcution.com for more information.
I want to again remind everyone that I am not a doctor, and this is not intended to be medical advice. For those of you who are going to be using peyote and cannabis anyway, I hope that you are inspired to take a more scientific approach. Always talk to your health care professional before attempting any mesearch experiments.