A Remote Arizona Church Offers Followers Peyote-Induced Psychedelic Trips

Categories: News

Peyote-Feature1-7.jpg
Andrew Pielage
Reverend Anne Zapf sits in the peyote house where there are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 peyote plants in various stages of growth.
"The initial effects, if a sufficient dose is eaten, are -- probably within 30 minutes to an hour -- some feelings of physiological distress, nausea, discomfort, fullness in the stomach, sweating, chills," he testified.

"These symptoms may last for one to two hours, and then usually subside and are replaced by . . . calmness, relaxation -- during which the psychological changes occur, he said. "The total length of effects of eating a sufficient dose of peyote are . . . in the range of 10 to 12 hours."

The dosage necessary to experience hallucinations is hard to predict, Weil continued. But during his testimony, he explained that most people who take the drug need to ingest more than six cactus buttons to have a measurable effect. (The 21 grams used for Peyote Way's spirit walks is much more than that.)

Weil, who admitted taking peyote on at least three occasions, testified that the drug isn't harmful, particularly in the right setting.

"I think these are safe drugs if they're used in the appropriate context," Weil told the court, "much safer than many drugs we routinely administer to people for medical purposes."


Inside a small greenhouse at Peyote Way, thousands of button-size cacti cover the room's dirt floor like a rumpled green carpet. Kent estimates that there are 8,000 to 10,000 individual plants ranging in age from 10 to 100 years old. It's hard to imagine that it's a felony, technically, to cultivate, distribute, or consume each of the fragile-looking plants.

Because the DEA classifies peyote as a schedule I drug (along with LSD, heroin, Ecstasy, and marijuana) the penalty for "unlawful distribution, possession, or intent to distribute" any amount could result in up to a $10 million fine and 30 years in prison, although prosecutions rarely happen. Special Agent Ramona Sanchez with the Phoenix division of the DEA, says she's not aware of any recent peyote cases in Arizona.

Congress' 1978 passage of the Native American Religious Freedom Act doesn't protect Peyote Way from federal law enforcement because it's not affiliated with the Native American Church. This law has been challenged several times (including by Peyote Way) based on the free-exercise clause in the First Amendment, but the courts have struck down each attempt.

Peyote Way is able to avoid prosecution mainly because Arizona is one of six states where the use of peyote for bona fide religious purposes has been legalized without deference to race -- meaning individuals don't need to be part of the Native American Church to legally take the drug for religious reasons.

According to the nonprofit organization Erowid, which specializes in documenting the use and effects of psychoactive plants and chemicals, only Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, Minnesota, and Colorado have such exceptions.

Arizona's revised statute, Title 13-3402, states: "A person who knowingly possesses, sells, transfers, or offers to sell or transfer peyote is guilty of a class-six felony. In a prosecution for violation of this section, it is a defense that the peyote is being used or is intended for use: In connection with the bona fide practice of a religious belief, as an integral part of a religious exercise, and in a manner not dangerous to public health, safety, or morals."

Still, there's much controversy surrounding the legality of taking peyote, and if federal authorities wanted to prosecute Peyote Way for its use, cultivation, and distribution of the plant, they probably could make a case. Peyote Way Church technically is in violation of federal law, as neither Kent nor Zapf is Native American. Special Agent Sanchez, however, deferred to local and state authorities when asked about Peyote Way, suggesting that the DEA has taken a hands-off approach regarding peyote use, in the same way the Obama Administration recently has backed off going after medical-marijuana distribution in states including Arizona.

Any possibility of prosecution never deterred Kent and Zapf from pursuing their church's mission or deterred people from making the trek out into the desert wilderness of Aravaipa to experience the effects of the hallucinogen.

Kent makes clear that the church doesn't sell peyote, and he says the plants it grows on the property never leave it.

"As far as the state of Arizona is concerned, they understand that in order for us to practice our religion, we need our sacrament," he says. "The feds aren't going to sell it to us so we grow our own."

My Voice Nation Help
26 comments
hurricaneric
hurricaneric moderator

Here's a Letter to the Editor we received from Peyote Way Church:


1. Carlos Castenada’s work has long been regarded as fiction by scholars. For more accurate and scientific information about peyote’s alkaloids, please consult MAPS or EROWID, or Edward Anderson’s Peyote the Divine Cactus.

2. No one is getting rich off Peyote. The holy sacrament Peyote is not for sale at the Peyote Way Church. The gross income listed in the article does not reflect the taxes paid by Mana pottery, or the cost of upkeep for buildings, vehicles that wear out quickly on the rough roads, or minimal salaries for minimal staff. Our records are available upon request
 
3. The church is tolerated and even admired by many of its Mormon and non-Mormon neighbors. Mormons tend to know a thing or two about religious persecution and do not tend to practice it. The many other friends of the church, in and out of Graham County public office, will go unnamed, but we know who you are and appreciate your kindness, acceptance, and often support over the decades.
 
4. When Immanuel and his associates purchased the land in Aravaipa, it was not in foreclosure. It was Immanuel who was often battling foreclosure to hold this beautiful 160 acres as a sanctuary for all race Peyotism.
 
5. Membership is not a one time fee, but an annual donation. We, like all other non profit organizations, depend on membership support.
 
6. To a person who considers Peyote a Holy Sacrament it is painful to hear it described as a hallucinogen. We consider the word hallucinogen to be a pejorative. It is an inaccurate term that has been used since the 50’s and 60’s to denigrate the Peyote experience and not an accurate description.
 
7. The establishment of discriminatory Peyote laws that limit Peyote use strictly to Native American members of the Native American Church, while prohibiting these same people from cultivating their holy sacrament, is a threat to the survival of this sacred plant.

Rev. Anne L Zapf, Apostle, with approval of the Peyote Way Church of God Board of Stewards

onebigjuan
onebigjuan

Historically, the Carrizo/Comecrudo people of Texas are the people who showed others to maintain their native identities through the use of the medicine.  It was never intended to become a lifestyle or religion.  This was lifeway of the Esto'k iyope'm ( Carrizo/Comecrudo), in other words it was part of daily life, but not the only thing of daily life, it was never intended to become what it is today.  As native population struggle to maintain a healthy and stable identity, the more confused generic colonialism populous distorts and misrepresent our lifeways to accommodate their co-dependent and dysfunctional ignorance.


Even the the more popular ways of the Native American Church is a compromise and an accommodation to the Colonial oppressive thought to allow us as natives to have a God that makes the Colonial oppressive thought more comfortable at the expense of even forgetting and leaving the original people of the sacred Medicine out of the picture.


So, the distorted Idea of a non Indian non tribal man and woman saying "welcome to the Peyote way" is only part of the shock.  The roots of exploitation, discrimination, distortion, collusion, and misrepresentation is deeper than being shocked that some hippie who read Carlos Casteneda wants to be part of something that we in our language say  tokom anawalom, it is nothing without the teachings.


gnosis43
gnosis43

The disappearance of the idea of God in the modern world is not due to the appearance of drugs (for drugs have after all been known and used for thousands of years). We might, in fact, say the exact opposite: the use of drugs betrays the fact that man is not a natural being; he experiences not only thirst, hunger, dreams, and sexual pleasure, 

but also a nostalgia for the infinite. ‘Alternating current’, Octavio Paz http://www.artbreak.com/work/show/655801-solidificar-sunofman

DjAdidas Nick Nuvamsa
DjAdidas Nick Nuvamsa

Is this guy even native? This was intended for native people, and or people they invite into the culture lol, me being half native I'm suprised the navajo gov hasn't said anything to this individual.

John Clayton Cross
John Clayton Cross

Perhaps they mean people currently experiencing psychological issues.

Krista Peterson
Krista Peterson

This place has been around for at least 30 years. Why don't you just go out and visit them. They are nice people. Talk to them and make your decision. Cripes.

Pia Kitchen
Pia Kitchen

Smh.. Natives are sacred with it, other people it seems to have no effect. Dam shame!

Allen Kee
Allen Kee

Tradition like this should stay with its culture and not taken into a new context. Just need to leave these native traditions alone.

Kreme Infinite
Kreme Infinite

White Folk … Always Trynna do Native things… and turn it into complete fuckery.

Scott Hecker
Scott Hecker

This place has been around for a long time. I've considered making the trip.

Eleanor Riddle
Eleanor Riddle

Interesting ... in a never-gonna-do-it kind of way

Valerie Moreno
Valerie Moreno

So mentally ill individuals are "turned away", but it says people have used it to alleviate PTSD and anxiety. Hmm. Which is it?

Dimitri
Dimitri

Mister you're a racist prick, taking your own segregationist opinions for facts..yuck

Dimitri
Dimitri

Says who? You? There's absolutely nothing scientific in what you state

Dimitri
Dimitri

yep : apartheid. Why does this not suprise me coming from a yankee...

Dimitri
Dimitri

There's a difference between being mentally ill and having psychological problems in relation to trauma , like PTSD. Surely you must know the difference...

Now Trending

Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Home

Loading...