TheIndigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative Communications Committee took questions from participants during the Peyote and Decriminalization Webinar which took place onMay 25th, 2021.

Because there were more than 200 questions asked during the webinar, we combined many of them and answered as much as possible. We focused our answers primarily on the U.S. issues as this is where the Decriminalization efforts this Webinar was addressing take place.

Tap here to watch the recording and visitwww.IPCI.Life to learn more.

Important Terms:
Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative
NAC: Native American Church
NCNAC: National Council of Native American Churches

Questions & Answers


biocultural context: history, ecology, spirit, religion, Indigenous sovereignty.

What is Peyote conservation?

The term Peyote conservation refers to biocultural conservation, meaning protection of the plant, land, ecosystems, people, traditional knowledge, culture and Indigenous sovereignty. Peyote conservation, protection, and future sustainability is a primary concern for Indigenous Peyote people at this time.

Who is working to conserve Peyote?

Concerted, on the ground conservation work in the United States has not been conducted by any organization prior to IPCI. Only in recent years have NAC organizations received philanthropic support for conservation work, at which time NAC Leadership decided to form IPCI. Other partners, besides Native American Church members, include ranchers and land owners, scientists and other allies. There are other indigenous organizations now working on conservation both in the US and Mexico. Some examples are Sia as the Comanche Native American Church and Wixratica youth organization ‘Hablamos del Hikori’. All wild Peyote in the US grows on private ranch lands in south Texas, making conservation work dependent on establishing relationships built on trust and respect with the ranching community. Similarly, conservation in Mexico requires partnering with ranchers.

What are IPCIs strategies for protecting natural Peyote habitat while increasing the growth of Peyote in both its natural environment and in planned/managed environments?

There are many dynamic conservation strategies ranging from short to long term, and depending on region (US or Mexico).One major conservation issue is improper harvesting techniques. When cut properly and at maturity, the cactus is able to regrow ‘pups’ from the mother root. If cut too early, or too deep it will not. IPCI supports community-led educational programs for proper (spiritual & ecological) harvest. IPCI is also committed to educating and supporting landowners and managers in proper harvest & repopulation strategies.

●  Cultivation led by individual chapters, tribal programs and/or churches, and conservation projects such as IPCI, focus on replanting in native habitat (repopulation). This year, IPCI’s fourth year since formation, the first nursery construction is complete in S. Texas and an inaugural sowing of seeds for replanting is underway. The Comanche via the Sia project have also purchased land where they plan to cultivate.Establishing and nourishing reciprocal relationships between ranchers and Peyote communities to support a return to Indigenous ways of harvest, including pilgrimage as well as ecological and spiritual harvest for those who cannot do pilgrimage.

●  Removing monetary exchange from the supply, demand, and access to medicine so that money will not drive poor practices. The harvest, distribution and replanting programs of IPCI are all not for profit, and do not involve any sales of medicine.

●  Supporting Indigenous medicine sovereignty through advocating for Indigenous peoples to be the medicine regulators, or at the very least, primary stakeholders in regulation, legislative, conservation, and other decision making around their medicine.

●  Land protection through private and public trusts, land conservation & preservation strategies, conservation leases and ensuring reciprocity with land owners.

●  Preserving traditional knowledge about all aspects of Peyote way of life.

●  Building respectful and collaborative relationships with Government and Community Allies in service of Indigenous medicine sovereignty.

●  Community engagement in Indian Country through education around conservation issues.

●  Supporting Indigenous medicine community sovereignty, unity, leadership, and communication efforts across tribes and countries.

●  Supporting NAC Chapters, youth groups, and families to practice culturally appropriate conservation education and cultivation at home or in the gardens, supported by Regional Conservationists.

How will IPCI ensure Peyote numbers don’t decline for the indigenous communities of Mexico and Texas during the intervening years?

See above. Key to this, is respecting leadership from those local and traditional indigenous communities themselves, and directly supporting their conservation methods and interests, wishes, concerns and approaches. There are currently many pressures on wild Peyote populations in both south Texas and Mexico in addition to survival pressures on all Peyote cultures. The pressures and issues are similar, but differ slightly between Mexico and Texas, as does the law. In the United States, the only native habitat is in south Texas and until recently all Peyote that was legally sold was tracked and documented by the Texas Department of Public Health. Those numbers have risen to about 2.5 million buttons per year in higher years. This of course is not including poached medicine or medicine destroyed in land management practices such as agriculture or energy production. In Mexico, there is a much larger native habitat, but the traditional and sacred pilgrimage areas in San Luis Potosi are threatened by land management practices, agriculture, mining, and Peyote tourism.

What is IPCI doing to decrease current consumption levels to prevent extinction in the wild?

See above, and IPCI is working on collaborative community engagement and education that support NAC members to practice conservation strategies at home and in their methods of procuring medicine. IPCI does this work through Regional Peyote Conservation efforts. For example, combining birthdays, saving cleanings, etc. These strategies are being combined with proper harvest, building nurseries and replanting.

Can Peyote be cultivated? Are there benefits & concerns? If Peyote is sourced from outside the US and is brought to a state where it is legal to be cultivated does that pose a challenge to the ongoing conservation efforts?

Peyote can be cultivated, though it is not easy. It must be germinated carefully and requires a lot of attention. Benefits are that young plants can be cared for in a cultivated environment and supported to mature to a stage for replanting in native habitats or to mature for consumption (8-15years). Concerns are that cultivated plants are different chemically and/or spiritually than those collected in the wild. Some indigenous practitioners prefer the conservation strategy adopted by IPCI to cultivate Peyote in its natural setting in south Texas for replanting, and

then conduct ecological and spiritual harvest. Some indigenous groups, depending on their particular culture, choose to grow Peyote in an artificial greenhouse settings at home to provide for community use, some do not.

The questions around cultivation are being deeply considered and cultivation is being used for conservation at this time and will be utilized more by indigenous Peyote people. It is best not done in any way that undermines the AIRFA amendments or ongoing indigenous regulatory efforts. One thing to note is that Peyote grown in Europe is done so in artificial greenhouses and the land source is not always know, which many NAC organizations are not comfortable utilizing for replanting our ceremony due to traditional, customary beliefs.

Wouldn’t allowing the cultivation of Peyote in approved, ethical programs help take the pressure off over harvest? Why does the IPCI object to decriminalizing cultivation of Peyote for personal use to reduce the demand on depleted wild Peyote lands?

Under federal law Peyote can already be cultivated by NAC organizations that are comprised of members who are from federally recognized tribes. Why not let them undertake these efforts themselves? IPCI and many NAC organizations with whom it has consulted oppose changes to federal or state and local laws that change this. These groups firmly believe that decriminalizing the possession and use of Peyote by the public at large, along with other concerns, will have the unintended but catastrophic consequence of fueling the black market for Peyote sales in Texas and illegal smuggling from Mexico. These damaging consequences are already materializing in the Peyote population on the private ranches in south Texas and northern Mexico. Ranchers are seeing more trespassing and poaching, increased arrests of non-Natives in Texas with large quantities of Peyote buttons, and increased smuggling of Peyote across the Mexican border. That shows that the illegal demand for Peyote is growing. There is no evidence Decriminalizing Peyote will reduce that pressure; indeed, it will likely increase it, because the non- indigenous world will not have the patience to grow their own Peyote to maturity before harvest and ingestion, which can take up to a decade or more, meanwhile the S. Texas wild habitat could be decimated.

Are your environmental conservation and restoration efforts contained only to the land owned by the IPCI, or does it include all areas where Peyote grows wild?

IPCI is committed to conservation and support of all Indigenous Peyote people and lands. IPCI is very new and has only established one nursery on its spiritual homesite land, this nursery will serve regeneration of many other properties.


Protecting AIRFA amendment and native habitat, utilizing primarily Indigenous wisdom and reconnection

Why not Decriminalize Peyote?

The issue of how Peyote is addressed by policy and governmental processes is a perfect place to support Indigenous people. There may be confusion around the request to exclude Peyote from the Decriminalization measures. Westerners cultivating their own Peyote is not really the issue. Indigenous use of Peyote is protected under the federal AIRFA amendments and is already legal. The request is for slowing down and not jumping a complex and important process that is already underway; the process of Indigenous Peyote people engaging in biocultural and spiritual conservation of this medicine.

This is about not changing the law in a way that undermines the AIRFA amendments which are very important to Native People and were very hard won in the US. Lumping Peyote into Decriminalization measures that treat it like any other plant and not fine-tuning regulation to the particular biocultural and conservation needs is missing the opportunity to honor the needs of this plant, Indigenous sovereignty, and respect of traditional knowledge holders.

This fine-tuning of the approach to Decriminalization is not a critique on an individual’s choice to grow the Peyote plant at home, but rather a request to not place legal protection of the growing above the need to have Peyote regulated differently than a grouping of entheogens and to respect traditional Indigenous Peyote peoples place in leading that regulation. This would be much like not regulating salmon the same way we regulate sardines.

If you are looking for a way to support Peyote Conservation and Indigenous Peyote people – recognize that it is ok for Peyote to be addressed separately from other entheogens and to be patient and support by sharing with the psychedelic movement that this is about honoring the particular history and biocultural nature of this plant and the people who rely on it directly for their way of life. Consider that this will not undermine the decriminalization efforts but rather lend maturity and cross-cultural respect.

Not including Peyote in decriminalization measures accomplishes some very important things:

  1. Respects the right for Indigenous people and a native religion to exercise Indigenous sovereignty of a biocultural heritage of extreme concern/endangerment directly related to Indigenous rights and identity
  2. Addresses concerns, about increased conservation pressures from non-indigenous purchase or poaching from the black-market (which is currently a significant pressure)
  3. Allows for specific legislative and regulatory efforts that consider the ecological, cultural and religious nature of Peyote which is quite complex
  4. Does not confuse or undermine local municipality or state adherence to the AIRFA amendments, and respects the Native American Church ability to lead needed adjustments or additions at the federal level to regulations. This is already a complicated process.
  5. Demonstrates respect, trust, and understanding of the relationship between Peyote people and their medicine and shows solidarity with Indigenous peoples’ right to navigate governmental and conservation relationships which will lead to healing between peoples and for all peoples.
  6. Helps protect against medicine commodification. Money exchange and commercialization is not a spiritual way – decriminalization is a potential first step to this, Indigenous Peyote people are already dealing with this through the Peyotero system and ‘psychedelic tourism’ leading to poaching and disrespect.

Cultivation is a strategy Indigenous people are already utilizing, the reason for not changing the law at this time for westerners through general decriminalization efforts is two-fold: not undermining the AIRFA amendments is primary, secondly, there is much work still to be done on bio culturally appropriate regulation overall.

Keeping NAC as the sole stewards of Peyote conservation. Are there details that should be considered when drafting local and state policies to ensure that this is done appropriately and respectfully?

The approach adopted by IPCI and its NAC and other allies is to keep the current legal framework in place. The California bill, S. 519, is our preferred approach. It recognizes and honors the hard-fought efforts of Indigenous peoples to gain federal protection for their possession, use, transportation and cultivation of Peyote. Our message to the Decrim movement as a whole is to be respectful of the biocultural sovereignty of Indigenous peoples, and consider the ethics of selecting plant medicines that don’t directly threaten that sovereignty and way of life. Tim Ferriss and David Bronner have spoken eloquently and passionately on the subject in recent months. There are readily available sources of mescaline, both synthetic and natural, available to those seeking a relationship with it.

How are BIPOC issues being addressed such as inclusion pertaining to legislation, accessibility , and financial: business licensing that doesn’t exclude the BIPOC community so we don’t create the same issues that happened within the cannabis movement. How do we ensure funding goes towards organizations that provide education and resources and support that has a focus on the BIPOC community?

Supporting IPCI as well as the National Council and respecting their Peyote conservation initiatives, strategies and request for respecting Indigenous sovereignty around the indigenous medicine of this land – is supporting BIPOC issues. The requests around how to handle this medicine in the legal arena come from BIPOC people.

Who is behind decriminalization?

No one organization that we know of speaks for the entirety of the decrim movement. The decrim movement is vast and multi-faceted. We believe the underlying intention is to end the war on drugs that leads to incarceration instead of healing.

Is IPCI and PMHA advocating for people to be thrown in prison for growing a plant?

Certainly not! The request to not include this medicine in generalized decriminalization measures is about acknowledging this medicine, due to reasons articulated in other answers, deserves to have its own legal and regulatory pathways directed by indigenous folks and that honor the AIRFA amendments.


What is “Indigenous sovereignty” and why is it important?

“Indigenous Sovereignty” arises from Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, belonging to each Indigenous nation, tribe, first nation, community, etc. It consists of spiritual ways, culture, language, social and legal systems, political structures, and inherent relationships with lands, waters and specific biocultural organisms relied upon for cultural continuity. Indigenous sovereignty exists regardless of what the nation-state does or does not do. It continues as long as the People that are a part of it continue. It is distinguishable from Tribal Sovereignty in that it is not a nation-state recognition of inherent sovereignty under nation-state dominion.

Indigenous Sovereignty links Indigenous Environmental Justice; anti-racism; Indigenous Just Transition; social

equity and justice; opposition to the commodification and financialization of nature (and carbon specifically through carbon trading, carbon pricing, carbon taxing, polluter “pays”); the Rights of Mother Earth; desecration of sacred sites; destruction and assaults on lands and waters; and protecting and nurturing tribal sovereignty.

This time of a psychedelic movement calls upon us to not overlook issues of sovereignty, consent, benefit sharing and respect for traditional and culturally-based relationships to medicines as they become integrated into new cultural and legal frameworks.

Salmon conservation is occurring with the participation of federal EPA, local and state government agencies, local indigenous communities, and local stakeholders. It’s not a closed process restricted to one group. Why is it right to close participation to all except 4 groups for Peyote?

The salmon analogy is useful to impart the lesson that if IPCI’s chosen conservation strategy is not undertaken in the coming years, it may be a self-limiting predicament. Indigenous peoples with rights to harvest salmon know in real terms what it means to NOT be able to take specific species of salmon in the different seasons of the year due

to threats of extinction, and crashing populations. But salmon is in a different situation due to the treaty rights of certain Indigenous groups, a right which is a shared right with non-Indians. Salmon are also present in streams and rivers on the public domain, and are impacted by the presence of federal dams. Peyote, in contrast, is all on private ranch lands in south Texas.

How is Peyote being protected/kept under care of Native people/church?

All of the Peyote in south Texas is on private land. IPCI was able to purchase a 605-acre ranch parcel in October of

2017 with the generous support of private philanthropists. Any protection/conservation strategy therefore involves the cooperation of the ranching families in south Texas. As discussed in other sections, NACs who voluntarily and on their own terms choose to undertake establishing their own greenhouses are free to do so as a matter of cultural sovereignty, navigating tribal and federal legal hoops, and financial and botanical challenges to the task. The NAC is in dialog with and optimistic that the Biden administration will remove many if not most of these hoops.

How can we best honor conservation efforts while ending the war on drugs?

Follow the strategy adopted in the bill now being considered by the California legislature, S. 519. See the earlier discussion of this strategy and the reasons for it. Also see the IPCI website and links found there on this topic.

I would like to learn more about the importance of the ceremony associated with the sacred medicine.

See the video clips of NAC leaders at www.IPCI.Life.

Do we think the NAC is appropriately assessing risk to their religious practices from decrim efforts?

IPCI and its Indigenous allies are very concerned that the Decrim movement will overwhelm them and their holy sacrament and wittingly or unwittingly destroy a fragile and precious way of life. The position taken with respect to S. 519 speaks to that concern and to the need to respect their rights as biocultural stewards of Peyote. We are gaining more and more allies in the Decrim community all the time.

What are the Indigenous teachings about what happens when someone misuses this medicine? What are the teachings about the responsibility to protect this medicine and what will happen if Native people allow this medicine to be misused by others?

Please visit www.IPCI.Life and watch the video clip of our Board Member Steven Benally.


How to support Peyote Conservation?

In the United States, The California Decriminalization bill was a very good example of how to approach respecting this biocultural sacrament while remaining clear on the overall goals of ending the drug war. This is a good model for City and State level decrim efforts. Also, being in clear alignment with tribal liaison offices is important as they are a vehicle we have for navigating issues that overlap city level efforts with tribal issues.

How should non-native people talk to other non-native people about decriminalization?

Tim Ferriss and David Bronner have recent blog posts that get to the heart of this issue. There are serious moral and ethical issues inherent in non-natives thinking they know what is best for “saving” Peyote. IPCI and the NCNAC are sincere in their efforts to educate the non-Indigenous world about the collateral damage the decrim movement can do to their sacred way of life that has been followed for generations.

Some Native groups strongly oppose changing laws for Peyote. Is IPCI taking the time to discuss other viewpoints?

IPCI does its best to engage with as many representative voices from the NAC world as possible. The NAC world is not a monolith, just as the decrim movement is not a monolith. Many allies and BIPOC leaders in the decrim movement have heard the voices of the Indigenous leaders of IPCI and the NCNAC and fully support the inherent biocultural sovereignty.

What is your current stance on non-indigenous communities integrating and or cultivating Peyote as decriminalization and legalization is sweeping the nation? How might this stance change into the future? How can we best support your conservation efforts?

Sincere non-native spiritual communities who hypothetically cultivate their entire Peyote supply are not the primary concern; however insofar as these communities at all supplement with wild harvested Peyote, this is a grave concern. Given how long it takes for Peyote to mature, it is unlikely that wild Peyote would not supplement. In a future where Peyote is plentiful and on a sustainable basis, and in respectful dialog, the NAC position could well evolve. To support IPCI and its conservation strategies, take the time to learn about the NAC position and strategy, and please consider financially supporting the IPCI and spread the word to friends in the decrim space to do the same. We believe that supporting indigenous medicine sovereignty at this time by not interfering with traditional Peyote peoples leadership on these matters will lead to much healing.

Where can allies donate to support the regeneration of Peyote and strengthen Indigenous sovereignty?


People have raised concerns about the financial interests of supporters of this movement that are outside of the Native American community. Do profits from Peyote farms directly or indirectly benefit individuals, businesses or corporations outside of the Native American community?

Philanthropic supporters of IPCI who are not Native Americans do not receive any profits and do not, nor ever will, conduct any business with this medicine, and none of them have endorsed the decriminalization of Peyote. Most are long-time philanthropists whose work in the world is to support not for profit social benefit organizations who are making the world a more just, sustainable place. There are no profits from Peyote farms. Under Texas law private ranchers cannot charge for the sale of Peyote to the licensed distributors. They are paid an access fee under lease agreements. No one inside or outside the Native American community, other than the ranchers that are paid this access fee and the current legal distributors, derive any income.

Why does the NAC support non-indigenous people being deprived of liberty and possessions, thrown into jail along with rapists, murderers and criminals, because of their reverence towards this sacred plant medicine?

We do not agree with this characterization, and are not aware of anyone ever being arrested for cultivating Peyote (versus trafficking in wild Peyote). The request is to not include this sacred plant medicine in generalized policy efforts that don’t account for conservation, history, culture and sovereignty issues associated with it as a unique biocultural entity. Rights and responsibilities come together. See the Tim Ferriss blog post on the ethics of plant medicine utilization.


If the National Council represents 4 church organizations, how many other NAC are there that are not represented by the NCNAC?

The National Council is made up of representatives of 4 umbrella church organizations each of which have large numbers of separate church chapters with delegates. The National Council comes together to work on issues that affect all NAC and Peyote peoples such as issues related to the protection of feathers with religious use and significance, federal and Texas Peyote regulation, and TSA treatment of sacred items. This is the body that founded IPCI. NAC organizations not affiliated with these four umbrella organizations who live a Peyote way of life are included in IPCI strategies. The mission of the organizations is to protect and serve the medicine.


*Please remember that this webinar did not include indigenous leadership from Mexico and as such we are not speaking for them

Peyote knows no borders, and the depletion of endemic habitats throughout the Chihuahuan desert in the US and Mexico is of most urgent attention by all who revere this sacred plant. Is it probable that depletion of SouthTexas Peyote lands will cause NAC members to seek to supplement supplies from their southern indigneous neighbors?

NACs in the United States respect their brothers and sisters in Mexico and have no intention of making the conservation challenges there worse. IPCI’s conservation efforts as described above have the explicit aim to ensure Peyote is plentiful for many generations to come for all indigenous Peyote people in Mexico, US and Canada.

What is the specific IPCI/NAC plan for stopping the depletion of the Mexican Peyote habitat by the more than 500,000 members of the NAC in the next few years to prevent Peyote from going from “threatened” to “endangered” status?

It is not legal to import Peyote from Mexico to the United States. There is substantive poaching of wild Peyote in both S. Texas and Mexico and this problem continues to grow and is a big concern. The formation of the IPCI and enacting the above described multi-pronged conservation strategy is the NACs long term solution to this problem. NACs in the United States have great respect for their brothers and sisters in Mexico who are the traditional caretakers of Peyote, and who are facing massive threats to the sustainability of their plant and culture.

What is the conservation status of Wirikuta and more generally the Huichol, their culture, and lands where Peyote is harvested?

Mining, agricultural and Peyote tourism pressures also threaten the wild Peyote in Wirakuta. There are promising signs that Mexican government policy will soon allow Wixarika and other tribes to cultivate Peyote.

When we’re talking about centering indigenous voices, we need to make sure we’re centering a diverse,nternational perspective, and not allowing specific groups to speak on behalf of everyone and erase dissent. What outreach have y’all done to the Wixarika and Mexican indigenous tribes?

The NAC leadership has been and continues to be in dialog with Wixarika leaders about supporting eachother and coordinating conservation efforts north and south of the border.

What is the conservation status of Wirikuta and more generally the Huichol, their culture, and lands where Peyote is harvested?

Mining, agricultural and Peyote tourism pressures also threaten the wild Peyote in Wirakuta. There are promising signs that Mexican government policy will soon allow Wixarika and other tribes to cultivate Peyote.

How many people from the Wixarika Nation have actually expressed their voice on the matter? Or are youmisguidedly assuming that the Wixarika Regional Council for the Defense of Wirikuta represents the consensusof the Wixarika people? How did you reach that conclusion?

NAC leadership is not aware of any representative leadership of the Wixarika who support decriminalizing Peyote for non-native use and furthering escalating demand pressure on wild Peyote. The NAC is also not aware of any other organization other than IPCI that has the intent and ability to engage indigenous stakeholders and mobilize resources that it will take to conserve and put Peyote on a long-term sustainable basis.

How can we create a binational open and transparent working group to ensure Mexican Indigenous voices areheard, without being pre-screened?

Support IPCI in their important work dialoging and engaging tribes and Peyote people north and south of theborder on Peyote conservation.


Would the true solution be for the modern psychedelic therapy movement to simply leave Peyote alone? I personally feel that it is naive to think that the majority of non-indigenous seekers will truly respect the sacred plant. Should we focus on a synthetic Peyote or simply utilize other psychedelics?

IPCI agrees and favors the approach taken in California S. 519.

What does the ICPI think about decriminalizing synthetic mescaline?

Synthetics can be an option that enables non-Indigenous people to avoid Peyote.

Given that US law schedules by substance, how do you envision mescaline itself and other sacred cacti being decriminalized while keeping restrictions on Peyote?

They can be treated differently as California S. 519 demonstrates.

What is your stance on Peyote being grown and consumed by individuals, and do you believe that they should face criminal repercussions for doing so?

IPCI respectfully asks people to take full advantage of other sources of mescaline. See recent blogs by Tim Ferriss and David Bronner.

Knowing that white America won’t stop using drugs that they feel entitled to and with a focus on sustainability, what about the use of San Pedro and other non-endangered cacti and plants for Mescaline? or the use of synthetic sources?

IPCI believes there are excellent alternative sources of mescaline that will enable people to avoid using Peyote, and that there are people who respect indigenous sovereignty. You mention a few here.