Organization Aims To Protect The Integrity Of Plant Medicines Worldwide

By Alanna Ketler

  • The Facts: There’s an international organization called ICEERS (The International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service) that is dedicated to challenges that come with the globalization of ayahuasca and other plant plant medicines.
  • Reflect On: Are plant medicines overused today? Are they being abused? Are they being used in the correct way as they were intended to be used?

By now, many people have heard of the psychoactive brew ayahuasca. Native to the deep jungles of the Amazon, ayahuasca has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples of South America. Within the last several decades, however, the use of ayahuasca has extended to Westernized cultures and has initiated profound healing for many, sparking recoveries from various mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and addiction. Practices with this ‘plant teacher’ have been life-changing for millions, undoubtedly saving many lives.

That being said, “Psychedelics were used back in a time when the level of consciousness of the planet was not as high, which helped give insight to shamans so they could share it with their communities. It was meant for use in extreme cases where heavy trauma or addictions existed and people could not use other ways to work through their emotional challenges. Here in present time, we use them in a western fashion as THE GO TO for moving through all of our challenges. I’m here to remind you that you have so much power and ability as a being that in most cases, you don’t need any of these things to evolve. I’m not suggesting don’t do it, I’m simply saying truly ask your heart what you want, and don’t get caught up in the grand allure and peer pressure.” – Joe Martino (source)

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Not everyone who is interested in working with this brew and learning from traditional knowledge holders are able to travel to the Amazon. Because of this, indigenous and non-indigenous practitioners with the best intentions have been bringing this medicine to Western cultures in an effort to assist those who could benefit from taking it.

Ayahuasca and some other traditionally used psychoactive plants (such as San Pedro and Iboga) fall into a legal grey area in many countries. According to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), no plants or concoctions made from plants naturally containing alkaloids controlled under the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (e.g. mescaline or dimethyltryptamine (DMT)) are under international control. However, the INCB also states that governments at the national level can regulate these plants and preparations as they so choose.

The result is that there is a lot of legal uncertainty around ayahuasca, and most countries do not have specific laws regulating it. Some countries have some level of religious or cultural protection for practices with these plants such as Peru, Brazil, the US and Canada. However, the largely uncertain legal status of ayahuasca and other plants has led to prosecution of people working with them in dozens of countries.

Thankfully, there’s a dedicated international organization called ICEERS (The International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service) that is dedicated to resolving these challenges that come with the globalization of ayahuasca and other plant practices, advocating for safe and responsible use, self-regulatory processes, and the respect of indigenous and cultural practices.

According to Benjamin De Loenen, ICEERS founder and executive director, “These plants have been held sacred by indigenous communities for decades and even millennia, and along with their globalization has come a clash with the drug control system. A system that only came into being only during the last century. The lens through which this system looks at these practices is highly reductionistic – literally extracting DMT out of complex cultural systems – and often does not understand the important role they have played historically and can play currently in the benefit of communities.”

Many of the people who facilitate experiences with plant teachers are taking a huge risk and they can fall victim to drug control that is not based in evidence and human rights. In some cases, law officials have raided, arrested, and charged people who are doing this work and risking their livelihoods to assist those who are suffering or those who have a religious practice involving plant medicines.

Meet the Ayahuasca Defense Fund (ADF)

The ADF is an ICEERS program that works directly with those who are facing prosecution worldwide to assure the best legal strategy and defense for their case. The program advocates for sensible and tolerant legislation and public policy and educates and protects the global community by providing reliable information and resources.

ADF coordinator and attorney Natalia Rebollo stresses the importance of communities staying informed about their local legal realities and to be aware of trends, changes in legislation and outcome of cases.

“ICEERS has been in service of the global plant medicine community for a decade. We elevated our legal support in 2016 in response to the community’s express desire for more support. In this role I have seen firsthand the harsh reality of legal prosecution of people who have dedicated their lives to helping people. We have seen though, that these cases can be turned into opportunities for educating the judge and authorities about the important value of these plants and establish positive legal precedents,” she said.

How Does The ADF Help?

In a nutshell, the aim of the ADF is to work with defendants and their legal representation to understand the peculiarities of the legal status of these plants at international and local levels. By providing scientific evidence alongside information about the history of the use of plants by indigenous people of the world, the ADF supports defendants in painting a broader picture of how these practices are legitimate.

“B” is someone who was helped by the ADF (she shared her experience but asked to remain anonymous) and faced charges in the US related to receiving a shipment of ayahuasca. She shared the following statement about her experience:

The ADF walked me through a very challenging, terrifying and complex process of proving my innocence in the eyes of the law after I brought ayahuasca, the master teacher plant to the United States. The ADF’s expertise was the key to getting my freedom back. With the wealth of their expertise, their knowledge about ayahuasca, their understanding of the law governing each country and with my innocent heart, we are changing the course of how the sacred plants are being seen by the US government.

The ADF will not help just anyone who is facing trouble with the law, but has strict criteria to ensure that those who are sincere and using these plants with the best intentions are supported. They will not provide assistance to those who do not meet eligibility criteria around ethical and responsible work with ayahuasca and other plants.

B goes on to say, “The ADF is an advocate for the responsible and honorable use of plants. Their work is essential to taking the sacred teacher plants and their humble human servants out of prison. This work is of the highest importance. It is fundamental to spiritually advance human civilization, to heal the wounds of the heart and mind and to move the earth from a place of scarcity to a place of love.”

The majority of those who have had experiences with various psychoactive plants — including ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, and iboga — know the benefits that are potentially life-saving to many who are struggling, and know the positive impact these practices have in reconnecting us to ourselves, our communities and the planet.

Like many advocacy programs that challenge the status quo, ICEERS’s legal defense work relies on community support to operate. If you wish to support the ADF and its efforts, please consider donating to their campaign to ensure their ability to continue supporting those who are risking their lives to serve others.

Article source: Collective Evolution

Hi, I’m Alanna! My journey really began in 2007 when I began to question what was being presented to me, my path led me to Collective Evolution and I joined the team in 2010. Wow, has it been an incredible journey so far! I am extremely passionate about learning new information! I aim to have a voice for animals and animal rights, I also enjoy writing about health, consciousness and I am very interested in psychedelics for healing purposes! I strongly believe that knowledge is power, and the first step to creating change on this planet is by raising awareness. “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” -Jack Kornfield Questions or comments? Email me [email protected]

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