When Spanish explorers first stepped onto America’s soil, several tribes in northern Mexico had already used peyote for a dozen generations.
Today, peyote grows chiefly in northern Mexico and south Texas. The plant is a small, woolly cactus shaped like a button and is traditionally consumed either in tea made from dried buttons or by swallowing the buttons.
Along with causing its user to become violently ill, peyote eventually results in a feeling of intense well-being and produces a number of other psychological effects, including hallucinations and richly colored visions.
In federal law, peyote is listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Schedule 1 is for substances with hallucinogenic properties that are thought to have high potential for abuse.
Robert Paiz, spokesman for the Houston division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, said distributors of peyote are required to register with the DEA. “The primary restriction is that they distribute only to Native Americans and that they distribute for religious rites,” he said.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports only a handful of registered distributors who are permitted to sell peyote, and sell only to persons who can prove at least one-quarter blood lineage to a Native American tribe.
Medicine men who live too far from the Texan plains to harvest their own peyote purchase it from such distributors, who must follow regulations from the DEA and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Peyote can be mailed using the U.S. Postal Service if both the distributor and the purchaser of the peyote meet the government’s requirements.
Salvador Johnson, a peyote distributor in Mirando City, Texas, said the DEA has pressured him in recent years to be more selective in deciding to whom he should sell peyote.
He said that while membership in a Native American church used to be sufficient, his clients must now prove American Indian ancestry. […more…]
– Source: Peyote and peyote law, The Daily Herald, USA, May 22, 2005
A study of the effects of peyote on American Indians found no evidence that the hallucinogenic cactus caused brain damage or psychological problems among people who used it frequently in religious ceremonies.
In fact, researchers from Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital found that members of the Native American Church performed better on some psychological tests than other Navajos who did not regularly use peyote.
A 1994 federal law allows roughly 300,000 members of the Native American Church to use peyote as a religious sacrament. The five-year study set out to find scientific proof for the Navajos’ belief that the substance, which contains the hallucinogen mescaline, is not hazardous to their health even when used frequently.
– Source: No harm in Navajos’ peyote use, study finds, AP, USA, Nov. 4, 2005