Sunday, November 16, 2008

EROCx1 discusses ethnobotanicals on the Entheogenic Evolution

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Recently I was a guest on the Entheogenic Evolution hosted by Martin W. Ball. For those of you who do not already know. Martin holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies with an emphasis on Shamanism, Native American Traditions, Entheogens, and Eastern Philosophy and Meditation. He is a musician and author of several books including Mushroom Wisdom: How Shamans Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness and Sage Spirit: Salvia Divinorum and the Entheogenic Experience.

I have shared correspondence with Martin for quite some time and have made a few posts about some of his work in this blog. So it was an honor for him to invite me on his show to discuss the FDA and the recent escalation of their role in the prohibition of legal ethnobotanicals and tradition plant medicines.

I would like to apologize for all my ummms and pauses in our conversation. It was pretty burned out when we spoke and this was my first time using Skype. I typically listen to Martin's weekly show on the same headphones I was using for the call. A few times I felt like I was listening to his podcast and thought, why isn't any one answering Martin? Wait he's talking to me! LOL. Also considering the potential legal risks that haunt the subject of conversation, I was a little hesitant about how much personal information was wise to publicly share. If I am ever invited on another podcast, I promise to do better ;-)

In this episode of the Entheogenic Evolution we discuss:

  • The origin of Gaian Botanicals and my passion for entheogens
  • The ethnobotacial market, regulation & prohibition
  • Thoughts on Amanita muscaria, Salvia divinorum and Kratom
  • My New York Times interview on Salvia divinroum
  • The Internet as a tool for for sharing and learning about ethnogens

I would like to expand a little more on the prohibition of plant medicines. This practice is in direct conflict with the ideals held by the Founding Fathers and framers of the supposed supreme law of our nation, The US Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson himself wrote, "If people let government decide which foods they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny." and "The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture."

Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Surgeon General under George Washington said, "The Constitution of this Republic should make special provision for medical freedom. To restrict the art of healing to one class will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic. ... Unless we put medical freedom into the constitution the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship and force people who wish doctors and treatment of their own choice to submit to only what the dictating outfit offers."

Why then are people not only restricted from access to, but are also incarcerated for choosing to use plants as medicines or for spiritual purposes?

This is more of a rhetorical question as a serious effort to answer this question would be far too lengthily for a blog entry. I highly recommend reading Dr. Timothy Leary: Criminalizing the Natural. Also The Emperor Wears No Clothes or more relevant to entheogens is The Proemium from Jonathan Ott's Pharmacotheon. It is well established that the authorities do NOT want people using any plant that may cause euphoria or induce a visionary experience.

I believe we are now witnessing a new approach by the federal government to further restrict its citizens use and access to traditional plant medicines. The traditional process of of making plants illegal under the Controlled Substances Act is supposed to require sufficient scientific evidence that a substance is not only a dangerous, but has no accepted medical use. NO ethnobotanicals can honestly be scheduled under this criteria as they all have a long history of being safely as medicines for thousands of years (if not longer).

Thus a new prohibition tactic is to have Customs stop the import of ethnobotanicals and turn the shipment over to the FDA who challenges the shipment legality as "unapproved drugs". The Dietary Supplement Act clearly states the FDA is to regulate herbs as food, not as drugs. They only have the lawful authority to ban or restrict a herb if it has been openly proven harmful. Also be aware that the description used for the sale of any botanical product could classify it as an "unauthorized new drug".

The FDA has taken steps to reclassify virtually all vitamins, supplements, herbs and vegetable juices as FDA-regulated drugs. Even massage oils and tools would be classified as "medical devices" and require FDA approval. Another alarming example of the FDA's new authority is the Bioterrorism Act signed into law by President Bush June 12, 2002. This requires foreign botanical exporters to have a registered resident agent. If they do not have one, the recipient is listed as the registered agent.

So far most cases of Customs and / or the FDA holding imported ethnobotanicals have been eventually released if contested by the recipient. Sometimes the receiver is required to submit signed statements that the material in question is not for human consumption. However some imports have be straight out refused entry and the shipment must be either returned to the sender, re-routed to an alternate location outside of the United States or destroyed. Since there are no real clear rules or regulations being made available. It is important for the ethnobotanical / herbal medicine communities to communicate their experiences and insight with each other to prevent abuse by the authorities.

I one other idea I wanted to share about Salvia divinorum's remaining legal on a Federal level in the US. Over the years I have observed the governments response to Salvia divinorum with complete astonishment that it has not been scheduled or banned by the DEA or FDA. Could this be an experiment to see how states would react if the Federal Government did not criminalize a psychoactive plant or to see how the states may re-act should there ever be a repeal of the Federal Drug laws? Laws built upon a foundation of lies can not last forever. Especially in the information age. I have no evidence to support this, nor do I necessarily believe it. Its merely speculation on my part. But I thought I would put it out there to hear your feedback on the idea?

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Jeff said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, EROC. This was very informative and fun to listen to.

Anonymous said...

Although I am attempting to import a decorative mushroom, and not an “ethnobotanical” or “herbal medicine” (both terms denote consumption), I am posting here out of desperation.

FDA / Customs / US Border Patrol / Dept of Homeland Security is currently detaining my attempted import of 125 kg of Amanita muscaria caps for decoration (under HTS code 1404.90.9040). We (my customs broker and I) have been trying to get it released since it arrived in the US in early Dec 2008 without success. Until Friday, the detention was an informal one by FDA Customs. My customs broker had essentially given up trying to deal with them and put it in my hands. FDA was claiming that the only way to get this non-edible material released was to file an FDA Prior Notice form which states that the material is a food (to lie). I called two the FDA main agents and asked them for their statutory basis of their action/request, and recorded the call. Although they claimed their basis was in the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, they could not cite exactly where. Actually they had no legal basis for detaining this non-food item and their responses mostly consisted of baseless double-talk about their authority. Part of their claim was that their visual inspection gave them authority since it showed no evidence that the material was rendered inedible with any kind of denaturing. When asked about their legal basis that stated a decorative material needed to be denatured, they could not provide it either. They said that they would get the exact information to me “later”. The call was also followed up with a documenting email. Of course they never supplied the basis information.

Update: Friday, DHS got involved and sent us an official request for a sample of the mushrooms to analyze. We have three weeks to reply. At least now I’m not being asked to expose myself (via the PN) to REAL laws against adulteration and misbranding of food/drug products. I had recently hired an attorney to write a letter of protest about the FDA Prior Notice request, but now that job seems to have gone away with the new DHS request that does not mention FDA or PN. Strangely in the past I have had no trouble importing smaller quantities of this same mushroom from the same supplier using the same HTS code, even after boxes were opened and samples were inspected by border authorities. So one of the questions at hand (besides whether to sign the sample request) is why they are even bothering to send an official request, when they never needed official permission to take a sample before. Even though they have abandoned their FDA-PN attempt, it looks like they are still up to some kind of brand new tactic to set a precedent – and my attorney says that FDA is still behind the DHS request.

I hope you/someone can help me. I am really in this all alone, as my attorney is proving to be rather worthless and I’m not near any ethnobotanical people/communities (let alone any that might have experience importing this species of mushroom). And I think the airline is charging me $25/day storage fee. Who knows what other costs I will incur? It is tempting to give up, and pretty scary dealing with these powerful federal agencies.

Every American juror has a Constitutional right to acquit all defendants of “consensual crimes” based on nothing more than a disagreement with the law, no matter the evidence - despite the judge's false instructions to the contrary. There is no legal obligation to vote "guilty" to arrive at a unanimous verdict, but there are many good reasons to vote “not guilty”. So do your patriotic duty and preserve individual liberty at the same time by getting on a jury, standing your ground against intimidating judges and “bully jurors”, fulfilling the jury’s original purpose (to counteract big abusive government), and stop convicting non-violent people of non-crimes. IT ONLY TAKES ONE JUROR!

Anonymous said...

feel free to post the above in any forum. FDA still detains my shipment and i need suggestions.

EROCx1 said...

Hello Anonymous, I am very sorry to hear about your situation & wish that I had a solid solution for you. But I don’t. Unfortunately the importation of legal botanicals or chemicals that may possibly be used for their psychoactive properties are becoming increasingly problematic and most victims of this injustice are unwilling to publically share about their experience due to fear. This leaves the rest of us really un-informed on how to deal with this. The tactics and rules of the government are inconsistent and any advice they give is always impersonal, generic, generally unhelpful and are NOT in your best interest. But what are our other options? Their citing a tariff code is new to me. Usually it’s declared as an unapproved drug, no resident agent or they claim it is unsanitary and must be destroyed or something along those lines. This tariff code is new to me. Be aware that most packages they do release typically require the US citizen to sign & swear the property being released will NOT be used for human consumption. My fear is once they have that on file, if they ever connect you and the shipment with anyone who may consume it or offer it in a manner which may be interpreted as for consumption. Your legal activity may have then become criminal for committing perjury on official sworn statements / paperwork. It truly is an Inquisition, only they will take your money, children and stick you in prison in lieu of burning you at the stake. Although I am not sure which would be worse. Good luck and please do keep us up to date.