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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?