A Remote Arizona Church Offers Followers Peyote-Induced Psychedelic Trips
The DEA licenses a small number of peyote distributors who must be authorized annually to cultivate and sell the plant.
Andrew Pielage A Mana Pottery plate featuring a dancing peyote button.
"These distributors are permitted to sell peyote to the [Native American Church] and its members for traditional religious rites," Sanchez says. "There are a handful of distributors in the Southwest region."
Instead of Native American Church principles, Kent and Zapf's church uses a tenet of the Mormon religion to justify peyote as a sacrament.
Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants of Joseph Smith, also known as the "Word of Wisdom," states in part: "Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving."
States Peyote Way's website: "Adherence to a dietary discipline, like the one suggested in the Word of Wisdom, goes hand in hand with the spiritual awakening produced by the Holy Sacrament Peyote."
Kent and Zapf think their 35-year relationship with Graham County Sheriff Preston J. Allred has helped smooth the way for the church.
When they were selling Mana Pottery to Goldwater's, the couple would take chipped pieces to the courthouse in Safford, their intent to give it away.
"The secretaries would give us $10, and the deputies would [give] a little less," Kent says with a laugh, adding, "They saw that whatever we were up to, it wasn't criminal or dangerous."
But being out of sight, out of mind is the biggest reason that the church has avoided hassle from the authorities over the years. From Phoenix, it's a four-hour drive east on U.S. 60, past Superior and Globe, and onward to U.S. 70. Twenty-five miles of washboard dirt road outside Safford lead to a remote area of desert wilderness. A large red mailbox -- painted with the word "Mana" -- alerts visitors that they've arrived.
"You don't need to worry . . . about your neighbors. They've all got plenty of property," Kent says. "They think we're kind of strange, but cowboys are kind of strange, too."
Kent's tour of the church takes about three hours. Outside, near one of the campsites, the large blond man is chopping wood for his spirit walk. He pauses just long enough to wave and smile.
Asked what kind of future is in store for Peyote Way, Kent -- as with his lengthy explanation about Trujillo's life and the spiritual importance of peyote -- has a rehearsed answer.
His greatest hope is that someday, he and Zapf can grow peyote legally and educate others about how to grow it.
"When we plant peyote, I'm not thinking of personal ingestion, I'm thinking about my grandkids," Kent says. "I think that's pretty healthy to think in big chunks of time -- 20, 40, 60 years. If we thought that way about our planning for society, then we might not be having so many of the problems we're having now."
That night, on the way to a hotel in Safford, headlights illuminate "Peyote Way Church of God" on an Arizona "Adopt a Highway" sign.
Correction: The story incorrectly stated Trujillo's son Juan was killed in an accident at the church. It was Trujillo's son Byram who was killed in the accident. Juan now goes by the name of Will and lives in Santa Fe.