Given the recent Western uptick in ayahuasca use, a new study from the University of Melbourne took a closer look with data from an online Global Ayahuasca Survey, carried out between 2017 and 2019, of 10,836 people over the age of 18 who used ayahuasca at least once.
Ayahuasca is a concentrated liquid made from prolonged heating or boiling of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant to create a tea containing DMT, the psychedelic active element of the brew.
The drink has been used for spiritual and religious purposes in the past and is still utilized for similar purposes. Often a shaman or curandero, an experienced healer and spiritual leader, prepares the brew and leads the ceremony, which are often held at night. The experience typically lasts between two and six hours and may usher in a number of effects, both positive and negative.
Similar to other therapeutic psychedelic experiences, participants often seek out ayahuasca ceremonies to gain a new perspective, to confront trauma and seek long-term, life-altering changes, among myriad other reasons. Because it typically contains DMT, a Schedule I substance, ayahuasca is illegal under U.S. federal law.
Ultimately, the study found that the benefits and positive experiences from ayahuasca use outweighed any adverse effects. Researchers found that acute physical adverse effects, primarily vomiting, were reported by 69.9% of respondents, and 55.9% reported adverse mental health effects in the weeks or months following consumption. Though the majority, around 88% of people surveyed, considered these effects as part of the process of growth or integration after the ceremony, and those who experienced these side effects said they were expected.
Researchers noted that physical effects were related to older age at the time of initial ayahuasca use, having a physical health condition, higher lifetime and last-year ayahuasca use, having a previous substance use disorder diagnosis, and taking ayahuasca in a non-supervised context.
Dr. Daniel Perkins, one of the study’s authors and a University of Melbourne research fellow, nodded to the increase in ayahuasca’s popularity when speaking with Healthline.
“Recently we’ve seen a booming underground retreat culture in the Western hemisphere in which people pay hundreds of dollars to go to these retreats,” Perkins said. “It is a spiritual experience, but it is not something you get up and dance to. There is no real recreational use other than for alternative healing. Overall, it is not widely consumed.”
The study ultimately confirmed that ayahuasca use results in a high rate of adverse physical effects and challenging psychological effects, though they are generally not severe. Not only that, but many participants continue to attend ceremonies; authors suggest this means participants generally perceive the benefits as overshadowing any adverse effects.
Moving forward, researchers suggest further examination of variables that might predict eventual adverse effects to better screen or provide additional support for vulnerable subjects. They add that improved understanding of the risk.benefit balance users associate with ayahuasca could assist policy makers in decisions around potential regulation and public health responses.
“Many are turning to ayahuasca due to disenchantment with conventional Western mental health treatments,” the authors write in a media release, “however the disruptive power of this traditional medicine should not be underestimated, commonly resulting in mental health or emotional challenges during assimilation.
“While these are usually transitory and seen as part of a beneficial growth process, risks are greater for vulnerable individuals or when used in unsupportive contexts.”
Research into a Nazca ritual site in Peru has determined that a child sacrificed more than a thousand years ago as part of a religious ceremony had consumed the psychedelic drug mescaline prior to execution. Scientists made the discovery by analyzing a single hair from the head of a child whose head had been severed at the neck and fashioned into a ritual trophy.
The preserved head was one of 22 human remains from the ancient Nazca civilization, which inhabited southern Peru from about 100 B.C. to 800 A.D. The remains, which included 18 mummies and four trophy heads from a child and three adults, had been buried in southern coastal Peru more than a thousand years ago and were recovered as part of an archaeological program known as the Nazca Project.
Analysis of a single hair taken from the head of the child, whose sex and age at the time of death are unknown, revealed that the victim had ingested San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) at some time prior to death, perhaps as part of a religious ceremony. San Pedro cactus contains the natural psychedelic drug mescaline and is known to have been used by South American indigenous cultures for medicinal and religious purposes.
“The trophy head is the first case of the consumption of San Pedro by an individual living on the southern Peruvian coast,” study lead author Dagmara Socha, a doctoral candidate in the Center for Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw in Poland, told Live Science. “It’s also the first evidence that some of the victims who were made into trophy heads were given stimulants before they died.”
Further analysis of hair samples taken from the other remains determined that many of the deceased individuals had taken psychedelics or stimulants prior to death. Through toxicological analysis, the researchers found that in addition to San Pedro cactus, the researchers discovered traces of Banisteriopsis caapi, the main compound of the psychedelic brew ayahuasca, a component of the ritual ceremonies of some South American indigenous cultures. Additionally, many had ingested coca leaves, the source of the stimulant cocaine.
“It was quite interesting to see how many people had access to [these plants],” Socha said. “We also wanted to discover the route of the trade of some of these ancient plants. For instance, the coca leaves were not cultivated on Peru’s southern coast, so they had to be brought there from either northern Peru or the Amazonian region.”
Archaeological Artifacts Discovered at Nazca Site
In addition to the human remains, the researchers discovered other items from the graves including ceramic pots, textiles, tools for weaving and a bag used for holding coca leaves known as a chuspa. The researchers determined that the drug use by the individuals found at the archaeological site occurred between 100 B.C. to A.D. 450.
“We can see this transition of the plants was beginning early and we can actually trace the trade network,” Socha said. “Our research shows that these plants were extremely important to different cultures for medical or visionary effect. Especially since there’s no [written record] from this time period, so what we know about Nazca and other nearby cultures is from archaeological investigations.”
Rainer Bussmann, a professor in the Department of Ethnobiology at the Institute of Botany at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the head of botany at the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart in Germany, published a study in 2006 that examined the usage of medicinal plants by indigenous communities in northern Peru. His research also explored the trade routes for different cultivated plants in the area.
“There was always a little trade going on in this region, with plants being traded from the Amazon up and down the [Peruvian] coast,” said Bussmann, who was not involved in the new study. “These plants were traditionally used for ceremonial or medicinal purposes, and [were] sometimes combined. I’ve never seen any reports of recreational use. For these cultures, there was always a specific purpose.”
Although evidence indicates that the plants were used for medicinal and ceremonial reasons, Socha noted that the researchers have not determined the scope of their use among the Nazca culture.
“We actually don’t know how often these [plants] were being used,” she said. “In the case of San Pedro, it’s not well preserved in an archaeological context, and in the case of the coca leaves and Banisteriopsis caapi, they were never found to be growing in this region during that time period.”
The results of the study will be published in the December 2022 issue of the Journal of Archeological Science.
A legislator in Colombia, Liberal Rep. Carlos Ardila, proposed a cannabis bill that passed in the First Commission of the House of Representatives on Oct. 4. “With 31 votes in favor and 2 against, the #FirstCommission of @CamaraColombia approved, in the first debate, our draft legislative act to regulate cannabis and guarantee tax revenue for municipalities, districts and departments. #OpportunityForTheRegions #RegulateNow,” Ardila wrote on Twitter.
“The bill would establish regulations and taxes for legal cannabis sales, and set up a support system for revenue to be shared among local cities as well as health, education and agriculture. If passed into law, it would amend Article 49 of the Constitution, which is necessary, in terms of cannabis, almost the first step that must be taken, because the political prohibition is consigned there,” Liberal Rep. Juan Carlos Losada told RCN Radio.
Article 49 gives all citizens the right to health care, which it is the responsibility of the government to organize. “Public health and environmental protection are public services for which the State is responsible. All individuals are guaranteed access to services that promote, protect, and restore health,” the constitution states. However, it does also add that “the possession and the consumption of narcotic and psychoactive drugs is prohibited, except for medical prescription.”
According to Ardila, adult-use cannabis taxes would have constitutional protection, and “should be allocated exclusively to municipalities, districts and departments.”
In reference to the three pillars of support, health, education and agriculture, Ardila would see cannabis tax funds support the country’s people. “Here we propose that it be the Ministry of Finance or the Government, which collects these resources and then turn or transfer them to the municipalities so that they attend to the negative impacts of cannabis,” Ardila said.
Now that the proposal was approved by the First Commission of the House of Representatives, it will next be sent to the plenary session of the House of Representatives.
Rep. Losada also recently proposed a cannabis bill in July, which wants to amend Colombia constitution Article 49, as well as Article 287 and 317, to allow adult-use cannabis legalization.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro, the country’s first leftist president, took office in August. During his inaugural address he criticized the failures of the War on Drugs and called for a new strategy to target illegal drug trafficking. In September, he called on Latin America to end the conflict. “I propose to you as President of one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, and one of the most bloodstained and violent, to end the War on Drugs, and thus allow our people to live in peace,” Petro said in his speech.
“The War on Drugs has lasted 40 years. If we do not correct the course, and this continues another 40 years, the United States will see 2.8 million die of overdoses, which is not produced in our Latin America,” Petro said. “You will see millions of African Americans be imprisoned in their private prisons. The prisoner will become a business of prison companies.”
In July 2021, former President Ivan Duque signed legislation to legalize medical cannabis for export in Colombia. “Colombia starts to play big, and with this decree we are putting ourselves at the forefront in terms of regulatory competitiveness, at least in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Duque said. “We are opening the space to do much more in cosmetics…food and beverages and even textiles.” Colombia initially approved legislation that regulated cannabis products in 2016, but dried flower export was still prohibited.
Meanwhile, the hemp industry continues to thrive. Former NBA Detroit Pistons athlete Isiah Thomas owns a hemp company called One World Products (based in Las Vegas, Nevada, but with operations in Colombia), where it recently received $10 million in financing. “We are delighted that our newest institutional investor clearly values the vision and tremendous growth potential that we see for OWP,” Thomas said. “Their second equity investment provides additional capital that will be used to continue to scale our operations in Colombia, enhance industrial sales of hemp products to customers and expand our carbon credits program.”
This Northern Hemisphere summer is witnessing an arc of fire sweeping across continents—and scientists view it as a grim harbinger of a very challenging future on Planet Earth. Anthropogenic climate change is the critical factor driving the conflagrations. Enter: climate change and cannabis.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres told ministers from 40 countries meeting to discuss the climate crisis in Berlin on July 18: “Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.”
And from Northern California to the Rif Mountains of Morocco to the Balkans and Himalayas, many of the areas hit the hardest are world centers of cannabis cultivation. This clearly poses special challenges for an agricultural sector still struggling to win the legal space necessary for responsible and ecologically sound practices.
Large areas of Northern California’s cannabis heartland, the Emerald Triangle, have been devastated by wildfires in recent years. This year the Triangle—generally defined by the counties of Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino—has thus far been spared. But fires encroach ominously on the enclave. Making national headlines is the Washburn fire in the Sierra Nevada, which has penetrated Yosemite National Park and threatens the famed Mariposa Grove, which protects more than 500 ancient sequoias.
But there have been fires closer to the Triangle. In mid-July the Peter Fire in Shasta County, which borders Trinity on the east, consumed over 300 acres, with three homes among several buildings destroyed in the town of Anderson. Then, in late July, the McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County, bordering Trinity on the north, became the biggest of the year so far, consuming 55,000 acres of the Klamath National Forest.
UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted that the Peter Fire “is another example of a fire in the wildland-urban interface that will likely have a modest final footprint but has the potential to be quite destructive within that footprint, given the number of structures in the path.”
Taking a regional view of how this year’s fire season is playing out, Swain tweeted: “Late-season precipitation kept things fairly damp across much of the northern third of California through late June… This helped suppress early-season wildfires across much of the state, although activity has recently picked up and…fuels (heavy brush/dead and down tress) are now at or near record dry levels once again.”
This alarming climate change and cannabis landscape can only be met with trepidation in the Triangle. In 2020, the August Complex, centering on Mendocino and Trinity, passed the one-million-acre mark, prompting coinage of an entirely new term: “gigafire.” In cannabis-producing homesteads, growers (both licit and illicit) were faced with the dilemma of whether to evacuate or stay to protect their crops. Many chose to resist evacuation orders, at great risk to themselves.
And last year, fires in Siskiyou County exacerbated social tensions over a recent influx of Laotian immigrant cannabis growers. One Laotian man evacuating from the fire zone was killed by police at a checkpoint, leading to protests. This June, Siskiyou again saw wildfires, although they were contained fairly quickly by CalFire responders.
The Mediterranean to the Himalaya
The climate change and cannabis scenes from Northern California are now reflected in northern Morocco, where wildfires have this month consumed more than 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of the Rif Mountains—the world’s most significant center of illicit cannabis cultivation. The provinces of Larache, Ouezzane, Tetouan and Taza—where Berber farmers produce hashish for the European market—have been devastated. Homes and farms have been lost to the flames, as well as large swaths of pine forest. Thousands of residents have been evacuated and, clearly, the state of global warming and marijuana is dire.
The most significant zone of illicit outdoor cannabis cultivation within Europe is the Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula—also now being threatened by flames.
Wildfires in Dalmatia, the coastal strip of Croatia, have damaged ancient olive groves—as was noted with dismay by the olive oil trade journals. We may assume that illicit cannabis grows in the region have also been impacted. And further down the coast, in Albania—Europe’s largest producer of illicit cannabis by far—is witnessing wildfires, especially in the Mount Çika area of the south. Greece is sending emergency aircraft to help Albanian authorities fight the blazes.
But the climate change and cannabis phenomenon stretches well into Asia. Fires began in Siberia in May, and Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered prompt measures—fearing a repeat of the destruction in the 2021 fire season. “We cannot allow a repeat of last year’s situation, when forest fires were the most long-lasting and intensive of recent years,” Putin said.
And fires are also sweeping Asia’s hashish hub of Nepal. Hundreds of fires across the country’s mountains caused Kathmandu’s air quality to become one of the worst on the planet in April and May. Scientists said the forest fires across Nepal and parts of northern India were the worst in the past 15 years. The European Union’s Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) reported in April that fires in India’s Uttarakhand state, bordering Nepal, emitted nearly 0.2 mega-tons of carbon in the past month, a record since 2003. Of course, fires linked to global warming also exacerbate the greenhouse effect by releasing carbon into the atmosphere, in a vicious cycle.
The fires in the Himalayas ended with arrival of monsoons in June. But this carries its own risk. Dozens were killed in India and Nepal during last year’s particularly heavy monsoon season. In another vicious cycle, lands where forests have been destroyed by fire are vulnerable to erosion and even the collapse of whole mountainsides when the rains finally come.
This year’s monsoons have already brought disastrous flooding to Pakistan, where some 170 have lost their lives over the past weeks.
Cannabis Forests in Africa and South America
In some places, cannabis cultivation appears to be actually contributing to the vicious cycle. In past years, forest fires in Morocco have been blamed on cannabis growers, who often start small fires to clear land for their crops.
Another major African marijuana producer is Kenya—despite having some of the harshest cannabis laws on the planet. February 2019 saw a huge wildfire that engulfed some 80 square kilometers of bamboo forest in a critical watershed of the Mount Kenya area. Authorities similarly blamed the blaze on outlaw weed growers clearing land for their crops.
Small peasant producers around the world typically use fire to clear wooded lands—whether they’re growing cannabis, corn or cassava. But for climate change and cannabis the impacts are compounded by its illegality.
In many countries of the Global South, peasants displaced from the agricultural heartland by big landlords and agribusiness are left to clear forests for their fields. But with cannabis, the threat of eradication and criminal charges provides an extra imperative pushing growers into marginal forested areas. This dynamic is certainly also seen in Paraguay, which in recent years has overtaken Colombia as South America’s top cannabis producer.
In January 2022, during the Southern Hemisphere summer, wildfires swept through southern Paraguay, consuming10,000 hectares of forest and grasslands. Some 200 head of cattle and sheep were lost, and grim videos showed the burnt and rotting carcasses of livestock strewn across the plains. As in California, this devastation is becoming an annual occurrence in Paraguay.
And the origins of the fires have again been traced to outlaw cannabis growers. In Paraguay’s 2020-21 summer, thousands of fires were registered across the country. The non-governmental organization Guyra Paraguay, which tracks forest fires, stated that all of them had been deliberately started, either “for agricultural reasons or to grow marijuana.” (Of course, growing marijuana is an agricultural reason.)
In October 2020, the Ministry of Environment announced that armed men linked to cannabis cultivation in southern Paraguay’s Caazapá National Park had prevented firefighters from containing the blazes in the area. The Paraguay fires are part of a larger dynamic of regional cannabis and climate change across South America, with the Amazon rainforest turning into savanna as canopy is lost and groundwater depleted, and, further south, the savanna turning into desert.
As Carbon Brief website sums up this process of desertification: “The combined impact of climate change, land mismanagement and unsustainable freshwater use has seen the world’s water-scarce regions increasingly degraded. This leaves their soils less able to support crops, livestock and wildlife.”
Legal agro-industries are certainly driving this as well, and can operate outside the law, especially in remote areas. Brazil’s cattle barons notoriously maintain their own paramilitary forces to usurp lands from peasants and indigenous peoples. But cannabis growers are effectively forced to operate outside of the law, to push the agricultural frontier deeper into the remaining forests, and to deal with militarized cartels instead of legitimate brokers.
An Ecological Ethic for Cannabis Culture
Back in the Emerald Triangle, a legalized cannabis cultivation sector faces the challenge shaping a sustainable model in a fire-prone region.
Lelehnia Du Bois is the founder and chair of Humboldt Grace, a community empowerment organization for the counties of the Triangle. Among its activities is the Fire Recovery Project, which raises funds for local families impacted by the conflagrations caused by climate change and cannabis. Du Bois is also involved in the Back-to-the-Land Project, which documents the history of the hippie colonists who first brought cannabis to the region in the late 1960s.
Du Bois is herself the offspring of the back-to-the-land generation and has been a licensed cannabis grower since 2005. Du Bois says she has seen the local climate change over the years she has lived in the Triangle. “It’s a lot warmer and drier than in my childhood,” she tells Cannabis Now. “I’m on the coast and the redwoods have brown in them, in the needles. I’ve never seen that before; it’s incredibly visible.”
She recalls that in her youth, folks would facetiously call the coastal fog “Humboldt County sunshine.” She adds: “The 30-somethings these days don’t even know what that means.”
Many of the area’s cannabis growers are trying to adapt. “We’re seeing a lot more people dry-farm, going back to the old sustainable methods—or regenerative, as they say today.” Dry farming refers to cultivating without irrigation, drip system or other water diversions, but taking measures to preserve soil moisture. Du Bois points to the use of hügelbeds—a concept borrowed from European permaculture, in which crops are grown in mounds of decaying wood topped with compost and soil. The beds are designed to capture water as well as to fertilize.
“As a culture, we’ve gotten used to thinking the new ways are better. But as we go deeper into crisis, were learning to go back to the old ways, where you work with nature rather than extract from nature,” Du Bois says.
Some growers are simply using less than their allotted square footage of land under their state license. “That allows us to use less water, while growing a smaller amount of better medicine,” she says.
Duncan McIntosh is a former licensed cannabis grower in Trinity (he recently switched to strawberries and tomatoes) who is a county planning commissioner and president of the North Fork Grange—representing farmers along the north fork of the Trinity River. Today, this overwhelmingly means cannabis farmers.
He too notes how the local impact of climate change and cannabis has shifted. “Fires have been ravaging the Pacific Northwest for the past ten years, and it’s getting worse and worse. Last year, the Monument Fire burned a third of the county; the year before, the August Complex burned a third of county. Farmers lost water tanks and sheds and water lines to water their gardens.”
“Where fires used to burn tens of acres, they now burn hundreds of thousands of acres,” he adds. “The winters aren’t as cold as they were. The old-timers say the river used to freeze over—that never happens anymore.”
In McIntosh’s view, the effects of the greenhouse effect are “amplified by mismanagement of the forest.” Ironically, the dogma of total fire suppression has allowed undergrowth to build up, providing fuel for the devastating conflagrations of recent years and impacting global warming and marijuana.
The North Fork Grange is now managing the 80-acre Junction City Community Park with oversight of the Trinity County Resource Conservation District and a grant from CalFire. “We’re eliminating underbrush, relieving pressure on the groundwater to make the standing trees healthier and more robust, and more likely to survive fire,” McIntosh says.
They’re planning controlled “low-intensity” burns on the site to take out the remaining brush, after the bulk of it has been manually removed. This is to be undertaken together with the Watershed Center, a local environmental group, and the county fire department.
McIntosh calls the project “a rekindling of our connection with the element that’s fire, which is as much a part of our environment as water. The war on fire has been about as successful as the War on Drugs. It’s only amplified what they’re trying to suppress.” He’s hoping the US Forest Service will take up the idea for the much larger areas of the county that lie within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
“We’re trying to get back to responsible stewardship of the land, from an economy of exploitation going back to the Gold Rush,” McIntosh says.
Du Bois portrays such efforts as part of a deeply rooted ecological ethic in the Triangle. “The back-to-the-landers who grew the weed before we called it ‘cannabis’ moved up here to be a part of nature, to live with the cycles, rather than destroying the place and being takers and extractors,” she says. “That’s what’s allowed us to care the plant for so long.”
The case is significant domestically. Currently the law prevents domestic cultivation of all kinds. Cannabis-based medicines that are dispensed legally must all be imported, although Brazil is currently wrestling with how to proceed with further domestic reform.
As a result of this decision, the Brazilian Health Ministry must now set up regulations to guide the same. This is exactly what the judges intended. Judge Rogério Schietti said that the court acted because of the failure of the government to take a scientific position on the issue. “The discourse against this possibility is moralistic. It often has a religious nature, based on dogmas, on false truths, stigmas,” he said. “Let us stop this prejudice, this moralism that delays the development of this issue at the legislative, and many times clouds the minds of Brazilian judges.”
What he did not add is that this is an issue which has clouded the minds of both legislators and judges, not only in Brazil but other countries too. The issue of patient home grow is controversial everywhere. Yet it is this right that has moved cannabis reform of a federal kind forward in multiple countries, starting with Canada.
In Germany, for example, the right to grow your own cannabis was removed from patients in 2017 almost as soon as it was granted via court decision after the legalization of medical use by the legislature. The subsequent failure of the insurers to cover sick people—with a refusal rate that some analysts are putting at about 50% of all claims—makes such legislative changes vital as the country considers further reform.
Yet Germany is far from the only country where similar legal challenges are bubbling.
Why Home Grow is Seen as Seditious
One of the largest opponents to home grow is often the burgeoning “legal” cannabis industry. There are many on the commercial side of the discussion, including those in the strictly medical vertical, who stand adamantly opposed to home grow. Their arguments range from lack of standards to the trickle of such product into the black market and or the “children.”
While none of these situations are ideal, the abrogation of rights of particularly chronically ill people has so far been the answer to the same in too many jurisdictions.
That said, as countries in Europe, in particular, wrestle with how to implement recreational reform, this is now becoming a relatively safe half step. See Malta, Italy, and Luxembourg. It is also a burning question that so far, at least, has not been answered by the recreational reform debate now underway in Germany.
From an industry point of view, however, human rights too often take a back seat to profits. This is why commercial “rights” are trumping constitutional ones. This is why the right of individuals to grow their own—for either medical or recreational use—remains directly opposed by what is termed “the industry lobby.” This is also why home cultivation of plants, even for medical use, remains a criminal offense in many otherwise legalizing countries.
It is also why it is patients, not the industry, who are having to challenge such laws on a case-by-case basis. That process is not a fun experience. Most people do not want to go down in history as “cannabis Gandi” for trying to address the dire consequences of being both sick and poor. Yet this is precisely the situation every country which refuses patient home grow now puts their chronically ill populace in.
Changing this often brutal reality is overdue—and on an international level.
Perhaps Germany, the next country to face this on a federal basis, will apply the same philosophy, finally, to the topic. After all, as the last government said to then-President Donald Trump when he tried to corner the market on a German-made vaccine for COVID, “There are limits to capitalism.”
In Brazil, the Superior Court of Justice has just reaffirmed that principle.
The Peruvian Ministry of Health (MINSA) has decided to do something radical. Namely, obtain public comments on their next version of pending cannabis legislation before they actually pass it. This legislation amends the law passed last year which allows patient groups or collectives in Peru to legally grow their own supplies by further defining the right.
Medical use of cannabis and cannabinoid-based drugs has been legal here since November 2017. However, after the government updated parts of the law they received heavy criticism from advocates who said that patients still did not have enough access. This version will also incorporate guidelines on the artisanal production and processing of the plant by patient organizations.
It may sound like semantics, but this is actually a very important step.
The Home Grow Dispute, in Peru and Beyond
No matter how much authorities just don’t like the idea, let alone parts of the established corporate cannabis industry (which has also opposed the idea directly in places like Canada), the right to grow at home and distribute medical cannabis grown in patient collectives will not die.
During the 1980s and 1990s, for example, when AIDS was still a death sentence, patient collectives began operating in major cities. The biggest “threat” to their existence has in fact been legalization.
Now as the cannabis revolution spreads globally, the same issues are arising repeatedly.
In Germany, for example, despite initially allowing patients to obtain specific cultivation licenses from BfArM, this right was eliminated with the legislation passed in 2017, mandating insurer reimbursement when prescribed by a doctor.
That right is about to be at least partially reinstated if the rumors are to be believed. It is widely expected that home grow at least for “recreational users” will be a part of the legalization legislation now being drafted by the German Ministry of Health. How the Germans will deal with patient collectives is still an open question—but one that clearly makes sense given the pushback from the major insurers about coverage for the past five years.
How to regulate that, however, is still very much undecided, just about everywhere. For example, in South Africa, these issues are very much front and center as the government struggles to pass its first cannabis legalization bill to create structure for the commercial production of cannabis.
In countries like Peru, much as in South Africa, with a less robust public health system than European countries, there is less competition from the established industry, let alone pharmaceutical companies. People there cannot afford medication. Cannabis is just one of them.
Allowing people to grow at home will significantly alleviate demand on the health system if not give critically ill people access to medicine they otherwise would not have.
There is, in reality, no way to prevent patients from organizing to obtain home grow from somewhere—even if they cannot grow their own. The conditions that this drug treats effectively are still on the edges of being treated effectively with more conventional medications. Chronically or terminally ill people are rarely deterred by a still jail sentence.
The Re-Awakening of Patient Collectives
Organized into patient collectives or not, the issue is coming back, and in a big way, as Europe proceeds with legalization. Malta dipped its toe into the recreational discussion last year by allowing home grow. Luxembourg looks ready to do the same this year—and it is clear that Germany will have to consider these options.
Beyond this? In both Spain and Holland, there already is a defacto “home grow” movement that is, at least in Holland, being increasingly regulated out of existence—at least formally. But it won’t last long.
Indeed, in the U.K. recently, where medical cannabis legislation has repeatedly stalled, a patient who operated a collective and delivered cannabis oil to literally hundreds of patients was just given a slap on the wrist by authorities after his grateful clients testified on his behalf.
Peru, in other words, may be on the right, and potentially only, track to deal with this issue.
420 looms, so why don’t we look at the origin and spread of cannabis? The plant’s been around, so it’d be nice to know how we got here today. Like a lot of domesticated plants, cannabis has an origin point. It started out as a wild plant in parts of Central and East Asia. Humans […]
Leaders of a historic South American empire used a beer mixed with a psychedelic drug to maintain political control over their society and surrounding communities, according to research published on Wednesday.
In a study published by the journal Antiquity, archaeologists revealed that leaders of the Wari people served a beer-like beverage made from the fruits of the molle tree combined with the seeds of the vilca tree and served the mixture to guests at communal feasts.
“The resulting psychotropic experience reinforced the power of the Wari state, and represents an intermediate step between exclusionary and corporate political strategies,” the researchers wrote in an abstract of the study published online by Cambridge University Press. “This Andean example adds to the global catalog documenting the close relationship between hallucinogens and social power.”
The Wari built their empire in the highlands of the Andes mountains in current-day Peru, ruling the area from about 600-1000 A.D. and predating the Inca empire by four centuries. Archeologists excavating at Quilcapampa in Southern Peru from 2013 through 2017 discovered the first evidence of psychedelic vilca seeds found at a Wari site.
Matthew Biwer, a visiting assistant professor of archaeology at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study, said that the discovery sheds light on how South American indigenous civilizations made use of psychoactive substances.
“This was a turning point in the Andes in terms of politics and use of hallucinogens,” Biwer said, as reported by CNN. “We see this kind of use of hallucinogens as different use context than in prior civilizations, who seem to have closely guarded the use of hallucinogens to a select few, or the latter Inca Empire who emphasized the mass-consumption of beer but did not use psychotropic substances such as vilca at feasts.”
Pre-Columbian civilizations used vilca, often inhaled as snuff, as long as 4,000 years years ago. The seeds contain the psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine, as well as bufotenine, a substance similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin.
“What I’ve read from ethnographic sources is that you get a very strong sensation of flying,” Biwer toldInverse.
Party Hosts Rule the Empire
Previous research has revealed that the Wari used feasting and beer as a way to exercise political control over guests from surrounding communities. Researchers at the Quilcapampa site discovered evidence that the Wari were making molle beer, called chicha, in substantial quantities. Botanical remnants of molle and vilca were found and ceramics were discovered at the center of the site, an indication of where feasts were held, according to the study’s authors.
“The Wari added the vilca to the chicha beer in order to impress guests to their feasts who could not return the experience,” Biwer said. “This created an indebted relationship between Wari hosts and guests, likely from the surrounding region.”
“We argue that the feasting, beer, and vilca thus served to create and cement social connections between Wari affiliated peoples and locals as the Empire expanded,” Biwer continued. “It also was a way for Wari leaders to demonstrate and maintain social, economic, and political power.”
Biwer explained that the guests would experience social pressure to recognize the power of their Wari hosts and feel an obligation to reciprocate the favor in the future.
“There’s political power in being able to acquire and use these hallucinogenic substances and providing these experiences,” Biwer said. “I think it provides a really good example of the connection between politics, drug use, intoxication and the social bonds.”
Researchers have not yet discovered why the Wari civilization eventually failed. But as they continue to study sites inhabited by the pre-Columbian civilization, they are learning more about how the early inhabitants of Peru lived.
“The Wari Empire stretched from northern Peru to the far south near the Chilean border, and from the coast to the mountainous areas of the Andes,” Biwer explained. “It is the first example of an empire in South America, having collapsed around 400 years prior to the rise of the Inca Empire.”
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