How to Change Your Mind (2022) s01e04 Episode Script

Chapter 4: Mescaline

The relationship that we have
with the medicine in the peyote,
it's like a relationship
that we have with creation.
This Mother Earth right here,
what I'm sitting on right here, it's you.
These plants here, the air
The air you breathe, that's you.
The sun, the clouds
The fire, that's you.
Everything's about the energy.
The movement of things.
Things that move like this.
Through the spiritual helpers,
through the medicine.
That's where the energy comes from.
When you ingest that medicine,
you're gonna feel the spirit
of this Mother Earth.
The air, the water, and the light.
You reconnect.
Connecting to a higher power.
Coming from the heart,
the words that you say,
everything that goes into that medicine,
it's gonna hear you.
And the spirit
of the Creator himself is there.
I thought I was done writing
about psychedelics
after How To Change Your Mind.
But there were some loose ends.
Things I'd picked up on in the course
of writing it
that I wanted to follow up on,
and one was this substance, uh
that I think of as the orphan psychedelic.
One that I'd read a lot about
in the history,
but nobody talked about in the present,
uh, and that was mescaline.
Mescaline is a chemical compound,
a phenethylamine,
which is like MDMA,
that is produced in two classes of cactus
that we know about.
One is the peyote cactus.
It grows in a pretty narrow band
around both sides of the Rio Grande River
in Mexico and the United States.
Look at that family.
This area's called
Peyote Gardens.
It's the only place in the world
where it grows.
And then you have San Pedro cactus,
which is native to the Andes,
called Huachuma.
It has mescaline in it,
not a tremendous amount,
it's a very mild psychedelic.
At a certain point,
it dawned on me
this thing was hiding in plain sight.
It was growing all over Berkeley.
In garden after garden
right on the street.
It's legal to grow it.
It's one of the weird wrinkles
of the drug law.
It's illegal to grow peyote.
It's illegal to grow opium poppies.
It's illegal under federal law
to grow cannabis.
But somehow this plant,
which is the source of a psychedelic,
is perfectly legal to grow.
So that is Huachuma.
Growing this cactus,
possessing this cactus is perfectly legal.
When do you cross that line
into manufacturing a scheduled substance?
So the moment that it's ever kind of used,
prepared, and/or ingested
is when it becomes illegal.
As I began to research
I turned to my friend Erika Gagnon
for her knowledge in the use of cactus
in Indigenous ceremonies.
Specifically Huachuma.
So I learned it by another name,
San Pedro.
- Yeah. It's the same plant.
- Yeah.
Huachuma is its original name
from the south in Quechua.
Five hundred years ago,
when the colonists came
and they were trying to destroy as much
as possible of the original culture,
and in colonialism when you want
to get rid of a whole population,
aside from massacring people
and killing everyone,
you'll want to also go after, um,
the medicine keepers.
And so a lot of the traditions
had to go underground, had to be hidden.
They could see
that this was a sacred cactus
And they knew they used it in ceremony
and it had powerful effects on the mind.
Effects on the mind.
And so in order to save it,
they actually decided to give it
another name that the
A Christian name.
Exactly. So San Pedro,
as you know, is Saint Peter.
- Peter.
- Who holds the keys
- To the
- Gates of Heaven.
When the Conquistadors get
to the Americas in 1492,
they were of course Catholics.
And they find a people
who practiced very different religions
than they were familiar with.
They found natives who were using
Huachuma or San Pedro
and peyote as part
of their religious worship.
People reported
once they ingested these cacti,
they saw God.
They visited God.
It made it a very powerful sacrament
and therefore, a very threatening one.
You render the priesthood superfluous
if everybody can talk to God on their own.
The Spanish tried to suppress its use
and indeed wipe it out.
The drug war, which I sometimes like
to call the war on certain plants,
uh, really begins, um, back then,
in 1620, when the Mexican Inquisition
declared peyote a heretical perversity,
opposed to the purity and integrity
of our Holy Catholic faith.
There was a list of questions
you would use to interrogate
a Native and, you know, one was,
"Do you consume the evil peyote?"
The "Diabolical Root" they called it.
Shoot you all the way
back there. Slingshot.
Let go, see what happens.
These efforts to wipe out
the Indigenous use of peyote failed.
And to this day,
Native Americans have carved out
a special use for the sacred cactus.
We're in this, um
southern region of Texas here.
This is our home. Second home here.
You got that? Come on.
We are unified
as Indigenous people,
in prayer for the future of conservation,
the future of reconnecting
our children's children
to the medicine and to the land.
The Peyote Gardens.
And the significance of it
is the ancestral pilgrimage
that occurred here a time ago.
Our ancient relatives
knew of their lands.
The medicines, the plants,
the animals that grew on these naturally.
Our celebrations
of song and dancer
have a unique way of expressing
the stories of ancients.
We make motions to the Great Spirit.
And the ceremony
is all about healing
a sick person with this holy medicine.
From the beginning,
this Native American Church,
as it is known today,
was a healing ceremony.
I've heard a lot of my elders talk about
how this medicine started with a woman.
As the story goes, it was a woman
that found this medicine, this peyote.
A young lady
A chief's daughter.
She was on a journey.
Told to ride the horse,
go out, to get away.
There was white people coming.
She rode the horse, the horse gave out
and she continued to walk
till she couldn't walk anymore.
She became hungry.
In need of water.
She had fainted, collapsed.
Some people would call it
a dream or a vision.
The medicine found her,
talked to her.
The message told her
to consume this medicine.
And as she did, she rejuvenated.
She developed
that spiritual connection
with that medicine.
She was able to continue
on her journey.
And the medicine told her
to take her back to her people.
Some tribes,
they call the medicine Mother Peyot.
She represents Mother Earth.
The life-giver.
History reveals
no more tragic figure
than the American Indian.
He has been completely stripped
of his freedom and dignity,
restricted to reservations.
He has little left to console him
but the memories and traditions
of his forefathers.
The creation
of the Native American Church
dates to the 1880s,
and this was a moment
of incredible trauma for Native Americans.
It was official federal policy
to essentially destroy Indian culture.
People who had spent their lives traveling
with the buffalo,
living the life of hunter-gatherers,
was forced onto reservations.
I think it's
pretty well-documented,
what the Native people
of this land's been through.
The peace treaty of 1868,
our people didn't ask for it.
It was the federal government
that mandated,
says that "Five to six years old,
your children are going
to have to be put in school,"
somewhere in Pennsylvania,
Kansas City, Florida.
Where they don't even come from.
Christianized them.
Before we could
really understand
what our life was about,
then we're taken away from our parents
and they started institutionalizing us.
That's what I'm dealing with.
You know, there was a lot
of brainwashing that happened
and it's gonna, you know,
take a lot of undoing.
I once heard,
"Kill the Indian, save the man."
Indian children were taken
from their homes, their hair was cut.
They were placed
in these boarding schools.
Their language was taken away.
These children were physically,
emotionally, spiritually abused.
Just recently,
the unmarked graves
of 751 Native American children
were discovered on the grounds
of a former boarding school
in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.
Sending shock waves through the
indigenous communities of North America.
Hard thing to even talk about.
There's a spirit that the government
suppression wanted out of us, you know?
And this medicine here
starts to help heal.
It's part of our identity
of who we are
and how we survived.
Maybe without this medicine,
we would've been wiped out.
We have to remember that the right
of Native Americans to use peyote
has not been handed to them.
They've had to fight for it.
Since the founding
of the Native American Church,
there were people who regarded
the Indian use of peyote
with fear and suspicion,
and it got caught up in prohibition.
And then later,
it got swept up in the drug war.
Peyote is Schedule I,
which means no recognized medical use.
There was a famous case
called Employment Division v. Smith.
A Native American named Alfred Leo Smith,
who worked for the employment division
of the state of Oregon,
was told by his superiors
to stop attending
Native American Church ceremonies.
They called me in the office Monday
and, uh, asked me if I had attended
the Native American Church ceremony
and I says, "I did."
And, uh, they asked me if I ingested
that mind-altering drug peyote
and I says, "No," I says, "but I did, uh
take the sacrament,
the sacred sacrament," I says.
And he says, "You leave us no alternative,
but we have to terminate you."
So he took the case
all the way to the Supreme Court.
In a 1990 decision
written by Justice Antonin Scalia,
the Supreme Court ruled
that the free exercise of religion
in the First Amendment
must give way to needs of law enforcement
to enforce the drug laws
and that religious pluralism in America
was a luxury we could no longer afford.
An individual's religious beliefs
do not exclude him from compliance
with an otherwise valid law
prohibiting conduct
that the State is free to regulate.
So with that decision,
Native American Church
had lost its right to use peyote.
We reject respondent's argument
that government
Why did the Europeans come here
in the first place?
It was for freedom of religion.
It's quite astonishing,
you know, the country was founded
on religious freedom,
that's why we're here.
Um, and the idea that the people
from whom we took the country
in order to exercise our religious freedom
were being denied theirs
How outrageous.
This galvanized the church
and began a campaign led by
a Native American named Reuben Snake.
Here, within this country,
the Indigenous people of this land
continue to suffer these gross injustices
and deprivation of our religious freedom.
Aided by the civil liberties
establishment in America
and the heads
of almost every other religion
who saw the danger in this decision,
the threat to the free exercise
of religion in the First Amendment,
they began a campaign that resulted
in a new law passed in 1994
and signed by President Clinton,
and that was a tremendous victory.
The use of peyote as a sacrament
was allowed and was protected
by the First Amendment.
Since the mid-1990s,
the Native American Church
and the peyote ceremony
have grown in popularity
as Native Americans work
to heal themselves,
and part of this means keeping
the ceremony closed to outsiders.
So filming of the ceremony
is strictly off-limits.
All ceremonies, uh, you know,
recording devices are taboo.
That's spiritual aural space, you know?
It's It's an invasion of that, you know?
But when you When you take that out,
then you can breathe.
Breathe better, you know?
What is sacred sometimes is a secret.
This creator that we refer to is imminent
in its own creation
and in us, and we
we live according to its laws.
When we have
these ceremonial gatherings,
we collectively lift our prayers up
for healing, for sickness.
The peyote ceremony,
to help us
with our emotional state of being.
Our trauma, our spirit.
Let this land hear us once again.
Remembering our predecessors,
without their prayer and guidance
we wouldn't be here.
Here, we're building this, you know?
We're holding each other up.
Now, how do we hold it?
This medicine holds us.
We have to open up, you know, to it.
You have to consume it.
Peyote has proved to be
a powerful tool in the collective healing
of the injustices
done to Native Americans,
but it is also used to heal individuals.
I traveled to South Dakota to meet
with a Native American Church member
who used the peyote ceremony
to cure an addiction.
It's an honor to be here and I appreciate
your welcoming me into this sacred space.
I'm interested in the power of peyote
to heal both individuals and a culture.
I was suffering from, uh,
depression, anxiety.
The days of, uh,
participating in drug and alcohol use,
were becoming overwhelming.
As a young Lakota boy growing up,
I was taught our values,
which are generosity, respect,
wisdom, and courage.
The things I do is powwow.
I use peyote to get closer to God.
It's not a drug.
We don't use it as a drug.
I'm just a humble kid walking below God.
Try to stay out of trouble
'cause I think it'll further me in life
than getting into drugs, alcohol.
In my early twenties,
I had started a family.
Two children.
There was some difficulties.
I left as requested by their mother.
I was devastated
and I turned to another way of life.
I seen myself wasting away.
Fifteen years of methamphetamine.
It became a daily use.
The darkness, intensity,
was getting a lot stronger,
and I had a type of spiritual awakening.
Saying to myself,
"You're going to be incarcerated."
"Or you're going to be six foot under."
I reached out to my uncle
Sandor Iron Rope,
whom I grew up with throughout my life,
and telling him, "Uncle,
I am struggling. I want to overcome this."
"I would like a ceremony."
He said, "Nephew,
don't worry, we got you."
We put up the teepee,
right where we're sitting.
I prayed out here,
and I talked to all these young men.
Relatives waiting for me,
to help me.
Putting your mind towards
a certain purpose, that's the intent.
They activated the spirit.
And it was in full movement.
We enter the lodge
before the sun goes down.
There's essence of herbs
that are burnt on the charcoals
and it started bringing my senses.
As they started to administer the medicine
with the prayers and the energy,
I could feel this rejuvenation.
I can feel the fire start breathing
with Mother Earth.
My brain seemed to start having, uh
to allow the medicine
to take an in-depth doctoring
from heart, mind, body, spirit.
I knew this was my one chance.
I cried for the Great Spirit
to give me my life back.
I didn't want to be an addict.
There was hands massaging into my brain.
I started making connections
with ancient relatives
and I found my spirit in the ceremony.
At the top of the morning,
when the ceremony'd come to conclusion,
I recall a courage
to seek this other route
of having goodness and being a family man,
and it felt so strong and full of energy
that today I hold onto it dearly.
It's been almost four years substance-free
with a clear mind,
full-heartedly understanding
what power the medicine gives.
My children are coming home.
I'm able to ask my daughter,
"Would you like a dress?"
The youngest, she replies,
"I want a unicorn."
We are able to move in harmony together,
with love, compassion.
My name is Julius Not Afraid.
I utilized the name in a wrong way
for a minute.
But now I can look back and say,
"I'm not afraid to change my life."
This medicine, it really helped me
stand on my own two feet.
We're all trying to strive
for the same thing.
We're all trying to strive to be better
than we were yesterday.
You know, we're all striving to have
that good health and happiness.
We're all striving
for something greater than us.
The vision of this world
is a vision of blessed beholders.
Not a mere metaphysical construction,
but it is a visible world,
a world which can be seen
with the inner eye.
The most beautiful thing
in this world is fire,
which is a transference from something
which is highly esteemed
in the inner world, into the outer world.
Good evening, I'm Mike Wallace.
Tonight's guest Aldous Huxley
is a man of letters
as disturbing as he is distinguished.
Born in England,
now resident of California,
Mr. Huxley has written
some of the most electric novels
in social criticism of this century.
You've even written
about the use of drugs.
Well, now this is
a very interesting subject.
I mean, I think it's quite on the cards
that we may have drugs
which will profoundly change
our mental states
without doing us any harm.
I mean, this is the
the pharmacological revolution
which has taken place, that we have now
powerful mind-changing drugs.
Some of these substances are related
to substances existing in nature.
For example,
mescaline is the active principle
now synthesized in the Indian peyote.
So mescaline's a molecule
that's produced by these plants.
But when you have mescaline by itself,
it's a synthetic.
It's been made in a laboratory.
It played a central role in the early part
of psychedelic history.
It was 1897, a man named Arthur Hefter
is the first to extract mescaline
from peyote.
There was a period in the 1920s
where it was being used,
but it really is Huxley
who puts it on the map
with Doors of Perception.
Huxley's a very interesting character.
He was a famous writer
by the time he wrote Doors of Perception,
he had written Brave New World.
Huxley reads about psychedelics
in the early '50s,
and reaches out to Humphry Osmond.
He's an Englishman doing research
on mescaline,
in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada,
looking at the healing properties.
Huxley writes him and says,
"I'd really like to try this mescaline."
Humphry Osmond flies to Los Angeles,
brings his mescaline sulfate
and was very nervous about it.
I didn't really want to, uh
end my career as a man who'd
driven all of us mad.
It wouldn't have been a good start.
And Huxley, one day in 1953,
had this mystical experience
on a couple hundred milligrams
of mescaline sulfate,
which he beautifully described
in Doors of Perception.
"I took my pill at eleven 'o clock.
An hour and a half later,
I was sitting in my study,
looking intently at a small glass vase.
I continued to look at the flowers,
and in their living light,
I seemed to detect
the qualitative equivalent of breathing.
Like the flowers, the books with which
my study walls were lined, glowed.
Red books, like rubies, emerald books,
books bound in white jade,
books of agate, of aquamarine,
of yellow topaz
seemed to be on the point
of leaving the shelves
to thrust themselves
more insistently on my attention.
From the books,
my attention turned to the furniture.
A small typing table stood
in the center of the room.
When I looked down, by chance,
and went on passionately staring by choice
at my own crossed legs,
those folds in the trousers,
what a labyrinth
of endlessly significant complexity.
And the texture of the gray flannel,
how rich,
how deeply mysteriously sumptuous."
Huxley gets at
what's unique about mescaline.
It's less visionary than LSD.
Hallucination is not
a big part of the experience.
It's very much
about the body and feelings.
It's not about escaping reality
in any way,
it's about plunging deeper into reality.
I think it would be extremely good
for almost anybody with fixed ideas
and with with a great certainty
about what's what
to take this thing and to realize
that the world he has constructed
is by no means the only world,
that there are these extraordinary
other types of universe
which we may inhabit and we should be
very grateful for inhabiting, I think.
Huxley had this experience,
published the book a little bit later,
and this is a seminal moment
in the history of psychedelics.
It led to an interest in psychedelics
on the part of the Beat Generation,
and then later, the hippies
that followed the Beat Generation.
Huxley influences Timothy Leary.
The effect is like looking
through a microscope.
Suddenly, uh, when you look
through a microscope,
you discover there's
an invisible world around you
that you hadn't known about
before you did it.
The same is true with a psychedelic,
you're aware of processes
that are going on inside your own brain
and that you weren't aware of before.
Huxley ended up being
very worried about Timothy Leary.
He knew Timothy Leary.
Six words.
He tried to get Leary
to cool it.
Turn on, tune in, drop out.
Those are beautiful sized buttons.
Fat ones. Thick.
I had tied up with
some Navajo Indians, at an American
Native American church ceremony.
They know how to use
that medicine. So good.
There's always been a split
in the psychedelic community
between a populist
and an elitist approach.
And so, you have Leary who's like,
"Give it to as many people as possible
and you'd change the culture."
And then you had these elitists,
and Huxley is one of them,
who thought that was too dangerous,
this is just such powerful news,
if you give it to everybody,
who knows what could happen.
His theory was,
let's give it to the best and brightest.
And the thinking there was,
give it to the influencers
and the new consciousness
will filter down to the society.
This battle still goes on today.
One of the most interesting
political movements
to pop up in this country in recent years,
is the Decriminalize Nature movement,
making various plant medicines,
including ayahuasca, psilocybin,
peyote, Huachuma decriminalized.
Decriminalize is not the same as legalize.
It basically means that you are ordering
the law enforcement authorities
to make this their lowest priority
as long as it was just being done
for personal use, no commerce involved.
The group that has pioneered
the decriminalization of psychedelics
is based in Oakland.
October 20th, 2018, I had this
really tremendous mushroom journey.
I went into that journey
because I was trying to heal
over the passing of my mother,
and understand my own trauma
that made it so difficult for me to keep
my relationships in the world,
but also to ask the question,
"Where did she go?"
a question that haunted me my entire life
about what happens when people die.
I went straight into the infinite,
to questions that you've been asking
your whole life
that you forgot you were even asking,
and that are deep meaningful questions
that have impact on your sense of self.
And it was so tremendously
beautiful and amazing
understanding it's all an interplay
between the darkness,
the fear of dying, and the thrill of life.
In finding the thrill of life,
we are creating beauty.
So that's where I committed,
that my life would be
about the beauty of life,
and just walking it instead of talking it.
If you can just have access
to some of these plant medicines,
you can take control of yourself again
and it's really amazing how quickly
things can change in your life.
I experienced postpartum depression
with my first child.
People don't tell you,
"You're gonna have this baby and,
like you might not instantly love it,"
you know?
"And that's okay."
Having one kid is hard.
Having two,
your life gets flipped upside down.
I was thrust into this hole,
and it just got worse and worse.
For two years,
she was having panic attacks.
Watching your wife, who is your rock,
not being able to help herself,
let alone your family or your children,
that that's a tough thing to watch.
I felt that, well,
the only solution to this problem
is just to remove me from that equation.
Death was the way out.
At that point, I was so desperate
that I was willing to try anything.
I had heard about micro-dosing psilocybin.
I hadn't even tried a psychedelic before,
but it was like,
"Let's just see if this will work.
If it doesn't work, then I'll stop."
The changes in me
were so drastic and so quick,
it was like two, three days.
It was just almost unbelievable.
I'm like carrying myself differently.
I'm talking different I'm actually
talking and engaging with people,
I'm playing with my children,
which I wasn't doing.
These plants and mushrooms
enable us
to really reboot our consciousness
in a way that frees us
from those stories we tell ourselves
that are based on deep trauma.
After coming out
of the state of being in awe,
I was, um, a little pissed off
that they were illegal to begin with.
We didn't have anybody
that we knew that
just had a steady supply of mushrooms
they could provide us.
So we figured out
how to grow them in our house.
Buying the spores is completely legal.
As soon as you start cultivating them,
that's when it gets a little iffy.
The wrong person finding out about this
could be detrimental to my life.
I'm a DC government employee.
Am I going to lose my job?
What if my daughter goes to school
and says, "My mommy eats mushrooms,"
would my children get taken away from me?
I found
a psychedelic community in the Bay Area
and, uh, began to ask,
"What are we doing here? How are we
making these accessible to people?"
The social justice,
the consciousness justice,
the connection to nature,
love, compassion, all that
has to get back out into the world,
especially right now.
As part of that conversation,
we all gathered and talked about
what each one of us was doing.
And in that process, I told people
that I had worked in government
and if we wanted to pass a resolution
of some kind, I'd be happy to do that.
So we all agreed we'd do
a decriminalization of all plants
because we wanted to make it about nature
and our relationship to nature
as opposed to one compound, one plant,
but make it about our relationship
to the planet and nature.
And that's where
the "Decrim Nature" came from.
"Decriminalize nature."
How did nature
ever get to be criminalized?
How did a plant species become a crime?
So in effect, they're naturalizing drugs,
they don't use the word "drug" ever.
It was really a reframing
of what a drug is.
Item number eight is a resolution
supporting entheogenic plant practices
and declaring that the investigation
and arrest of individuals involved
with the adult use of entheogenic plants
on the federal Schedule I list
be amongst the lowest priority
for the city of Oakland.
What you're seeing here tonight is really
a pent-up appetite
for having this issue heard.
And we have crafted
a framework for education.
This is something that we intend
to roll out over the next, one, two years
for it to become a framework
for urban communities.
We Advocate Oaklanders to just grow
whatever they want in their own gardens
without fear of arrest, with no middleman,
no doctor's prescription,
with no need for a dispensary.
All in favor say "aye."
Any opposed say "no."
Any abstentions?
That motion passes unanimously. Six ayes.
This passed without a problem.
Shocked everybody.
Everybody say, "Decrim Nature"!
Decrim Nature!
After the success
of Decrim Nature in Oakland,
it spread around the country.
Louder. Yes on 81!
Yes on 81!
Based out of Carlos Plazolas's
Oakland model
of what Decrim Nature looks like,
this is a movement that has grown
to over 100 cities across the country.
Decriminalize Nature DC campaign
submitted over 36,000 signatures
to DC Board of Elections
to get the Entheogenic Plant
and Fungus Policy Act of 2020
on the November presidential ballot.
We're gonna send a message to the country
that we're decriminalizing
plant medicines,
this is the beginning
of the further dismantling
of the war on drugs and providing options
for people to truly heal themselves.
Let's do it, bud! Yes on 81!
- I did.
- Yay!
I cried when I voted.
I just pushed "Yes" and then it said,
"Your ballot's been submitted,"
or something.
And I was just like, "Okay, I just did it.
I voted on my own initiative."
And, um
yeah, it was a really great moment for me.
What is it?
Let's get outta here.
We got 76% of the vote!
Seventy-six percent of the
I fucking told you 70%!
Congratulations, babe!
The weather's changing
around this.
Decrim Nature understood this.
But as politically adept
as they have been,
and as successful as they have been,
they did run afoul
of the Native American community
by including peyote
in their ballot initiative.
Every generation has challenges.
Today we have, you know, this uh
psychedelic renaissance as our challenge.
The challenge of taking peyote
out of the Decrim Nature movement
is it fouls the beautiful simplicity
that no plant should be illegal.
So they're really uncomfortable with
this idea of carving out this exception.
So I see their point.
On the other side,
I see the point of Native Americans.
They were afraid that this would lead
to a surge in use by non-Native peoples
and that people would
come down poaching in the Peyote Gardens.
Peyote takes about 15 years
to get from seed to edible plant.
It grows very slowly
and that's the problem.
Peyote and the peyote lands are endangered
in the United States
as well as in Mexico.
The Huichol people
from the Sierra mountains in Mexico,
their culture has been
relatively well-preserved.
Every year or so the Huichols conduct
a pilgrimage to gather peyote.
The threat to the Huichols' peyote
in Mexico is from agriculture,
and there's some challenge
from mining interest also.
Miners are invading.
And tomato greenhouses
are also taking over.
They are destroying the Hikuri
that grow there.
They are depleting the springs.
In Texas, the dangers
are multiple,
from bad harvesting
to the rise of all these wind turbines
and the roads that access them.
That too has cut into the peyote lands.
Given the fact
that peyote is in short supply,
what's the proper position
of people like me?
I'd be interested in healing and seeing
myself the way peyote might show me.
Do you think non-Native people
have any business using peyote?
You have to respect the Indigenous people
for what they have been doing.
You know, all of America
America is created on stolen land.
The realities of it,
but nobody wants to say that.
And this medicine here,
it's a biocultural cacti, you know?
And we realize that exploitation,
you know, appropriation happens.
It has happened.
It will continue to happen.
The purpose of me coming here,
is not to be on film,
it's to share our concerns
as practitioners, as Indigenous people,
leaders of our community.
What about my children?
You guys take all the medicine,
what about my children?
You wanna stretch it.
This tension about
who should be able to use peyote
and who shouldn't continues to grow.
The IPCI, the
Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative,
has bought 605 acres
of Peyote Gardens from ranchers
to protect the peyote in various ways.
In my tenure, as the Native American
Church of North America president,
you know, we started coming down here.
The importance of this land
is the ecology, the medicines,
the ancestors that are here.
For us, as Indigenous people,
to take care of
what was bestowed upon us
as generational responsibilities.
What are you gonna leave
your grandchildren?
This place here,
the 605 acres here,
is a answer to a prayer of our elders.
Indigenous people,
conservation's always been a part of us.
Preservation, taking only what you need.
I agree with making
a synthetic version.
So that way, the non-Indian
would be able to utilize this,
which would not have any effect
on the natural growth of peyote itself.
Do you ever imagine a world
where peyote has gone extinct,
and it can't be found anymore?
That's a scary thought.
It brings back
You You wanna take,
it brings back you wanna take it.
That's what it brings back.
You'll take everything
or it goes extinct
because of man-made, you know,
industry or whatever.
It brings back all these children,
all these children,
they didn't have a voice.
They They passed away.
They passed away. Why?
Because of
"Your culture isn't good enough."
They've taken away our peyote
and it's it's extinct.
It reminds me of "You don't exist."
"You don't exist."
In writing about mescaline,
I interviewed many Native Americans,
and I left those conversations thinking,
"I'm not gonna use peyote."
There are other ways to get mescaline.
There is San Pedro,
and there is synthetic mescaline.
Respecting Native American culture
means leaving peyote alone.
Thank you, Madam President
This message is being
more and more widely embraced.
which will decriminalize the possession
and personal use
of certain psychedelic substances.
I was very interested to see
that when the California State Senator
Scott Wiener
introduced a bill
to decriminalize psychedelics,
he specifically excluded peyote.
Personal use and personal possession
of entheogenic,
psychoactive plants, and fungi
Other cities are now excluding
peyote from their initiatives too.
passes unanimously.
The movement to re-envision
the laws governing these substances
is well and truly underway,
but we're still figuring out
what that's gonna look like.
What I think is really significant
about the Native American Church,
is it gives us a model of a drug
being used in a socially constructive way
to solve a community's problems.
This is not how we think about drugs.
It's a reminder that drugs
are highly contextualized,
and it's the meanings we put on them,
the uses to which we put them,
that really matter.
They're not inherently good and they're
not inherently evil. They're tools.
When psychedelics arrived in America,
psilocybin in the '50s
and LSD a little bit before that,
we had no models as to how to use them,
and we used them in a pretty careless way.
Took a tab of LSD and went to a concert
or walked around the beach
and people got into trouble.
It's a consequential act
to take one of these drugs,
and it should not be approached lightly.
Today, even, as we're still trying
to develop the proper container
to put these substances in,
I think we have to look
at these Indigenous practices.
And what do we see?
Well, there's always an elder,
someone who knows the territory very well,
who's presiding.
There's usually a group,
a community is involved,
not just an individual.
There's always an intention,
a purpose to what you're doing,
and you're treating it as sacred,
in order to achieve altered
states of consciousness,
which contribute to worship
in various ways,
or celebration or healing.
But maybe all this is not so new
to Western culture after all.
When a chalice was excavated
containing residues of ergot,
it validated decades of theories
about the role of psychedelics
in ancient Greece.
In the old Greek histories of Eleusis,
people who were initiated there
got the drink,
the kykeon,
and then they had the illumination.
The precise recipe is a mystery,
but we know that the kykeon
was a psychoactive brew
that was used at the Eleusinian mysteries,
a sacred annual ritual of enlightenment
practiced by some
of the world's greatest minds
including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
So why did this ritual come to an end
more than 1,000 years ago?
Was the possibility of illumination
or achieving a higher consciousness
considered threatening
to the powers that be?
Have the drug wars
been merely an extension of that fear?
We must wage what I have called
total war against public enemy number one
in the United States,
the problem of dangerous drugs.
We have changed the game here.
This is Yeah.
Psychedelics has a major part
in how we can heal as a community,
how we can heal as a city,
and how we can heal as a country.
The current renaissance
of psychedelics
could not come at a better time
as the world confronts
a crisis in mental health.
But psychedelics have much
to offer well people too. And science.
The psychedelic experience
changes the mind
in ways that will help scientists
better understand how it works.
It is not the only way
to expand consciousness.
So too can meditation, pattern breathing,
and sounds or flashing lights.
All these altered states allow us to probe
what is the greatest mystery
in all of nature.
The emergence from mere matter
of something as miraculous
as consciousness.
But an even bigger question
is whether psychedelics might
help us address the environmental crisis
of how we think
about our place in nature.
One of the greatest gifts of psychedelics
is how they reanimate the natural world,
allowing us to perceive the subject,
the spirit of all species,
not just our own.
And to feel a deeper sense
of interconnectedness with nature.
This is no small thing.
In fact, our survival as a species
may depend on it.
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