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Panel – Drugs, Identities and Worldviews


Is the historically linked recreational drug use and religious use valid? This question crossed the panel “Drugs, identities and world views,” where exhibitors raised that psychoactive substances are linked since immemorial time to the mythic narratives that offer a comprehensive world view. The Brazilian Beatriz Labate stated: “There is no opposition between traditional and recreational uses, which opposed the abuse.”

(Mexico City, September 13, 6pm) The tension between the symbolic and religious use is seen in indigenous cultures for coca, ayahuasca and peyote with existing recreational uses were part of the panel discussion on “Drugs, identities and worldviews”, held on the first day of the III Latin American Conference on Drug Policy.

“For the farmers, coca leaf chewing is a substance that heals and that tells you if animals die or if it’s going to rain. It is used as the main element of Mother Earth rituals” began Mary Ann Eddowes, director of the Association of Peruvian Coca Leaf and member of the Transdisciplinary of Traditional Medicine.

For this specialist and shaman, the plants do spiritual surgery, “they are beings of light coming down to heal and help.” Therefore, he called a paradigm shift in drug treatment from their country: “We hope Peru’s new government (which took in a recent presidential candidate Ollanta Humala) has a wider lens and less directed by the United States government.”

In turn, Epifanio Alonso, mayor of the Missionaries of the Temporary Congregation of Mexico provided an overview of what is means for your community ritual use of mushrooms and medicinal plants: “I come to talk about our traditions, what we learned from our seniors about sacred rituals, interpretation of dreams, use of remedies.”

“The use we make of plants, fungi, has been handed down by the elders and use it to cure diseases, to guide us in the spiritual path. Not to intoxicate us or for other purposes,” said Alonso.

Also, he stressed the importance that the townspeople and the country people understand each other and respect each other: “We all live in the countryside. You depend on us and us to you,” he said.

Meanwhile, Julio Glockner Rossaniz, researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Alfonso Vélez Pliego, focused on the confusion about what drugs are and are not, on what are and are not hallucinogens and other peculiarities of substances altering consciousness.

The researcher reported how during the colonial period, such as from modernity, has attacked the indigenous worldview, both Christianity and the imposition of science as the only valid truth.

Therefore, Glockner suggested that instead of using the term “hallucinogens” to refer to plants like ayahuasca, peyote, or to speak of fungi, is replaced by the term entheogen, meaning “to create the sacred within us”.

Finally, the Brazilian Bia Labate, a researcher at the University of Heidelberg on issues related to psychoactive substances, drug policies, religion and rituals, presented part of her text on ayahuasca and referred to the system of prohibition of the United Nations: “The UN has general parameters, but each country has its own, on how to consider the plants,” she asserted.

Labate criticized that, for example, an indigenous person in the United States cannot get permission to use ayahuasca medicine, but it is unlawful to make a cult. With respect to the panel discussion on the current uses of mushrooms, peyote and coca, said: “There is no opposition between traditional and recreational uses, the opposed is the abuse.”

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