Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard people talking about DMT. The Amazonian plant gets props for being all the buzz. But what exactly is ayahuasca? Is it legal? What is an ayahuasca retreat?
Ayahuasca is not just a trend made popular by tech nerds in the Silicon Valley. People who live in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil have been using it for literally thousands of years. Read on to learn more about the evolution of ayahuasca.
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Until recently, Banisteriopsis caapi, or ayahuasca, was used almost exclusively by communities in the Amazon. Adherents claim the plant has medicinal properties that promote mental, emotional, and physical healing. The end goal is to achieve greater spiritual connection and heal oneself from past trauma.
Because of its ritual use and mind-bending reputation, ayahuasca and the DMT derived from it remain illegal in some countries, including the United States. However, for those who are curious, there are legal ways to try it.
Proponents claim ayahuasca differs from DMT because it is used for religious purposes, and this argument has been upheld in court. In 2006, a shipment of ayahuasca was seized by US law enforcement.
The group that was supposed to receive the shipment filed a court case, claiming that their rights were protected under the Religious Freedoms Act.. In Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418, the Supreme Court ruled in the group’s favor.
After the ruling, ayahuasca retreats started popping up everywhere. Today, on any given weekend, you can find ayahuasca ceremonies in many medium and large-sized US cities.
Finding Legal Ceremonies
Legality varies depending on which group is being considered. The UDV is the only religion legally allowed to use ayahuasca throughout the United States. In Oregon, California, Washington State, and Massachusetts, Santo Daime has branches which are allowed to use ayahuasca in ceremonies.
Two other churches, Ayahuasca Healings and Soul Quest have both submitted exemption requests to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Outside of these organizations, other groups do not have explicit legal permission, so it’s a good idea to investigate any retreat prior to your visit.
Busted for Ayahuasca
The laws surrounding ayahuasca remain somewhat ill-defined. In the United States, ayahuasca convictions were handed down for the first time in 2018. Two men, one Colombian and one Canadian, were arrested for possession enroute to the U.S.
While attending a retreat is probably safe, always remember that the laws are new and evolving. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time could spell trouble, so you might want to have the phone number to a good attorney who works on a lawyer contingency fees basis, in case your night of mindfulness and spiritual reckoning takes a wrong turn.
What Happens During an Ayahuasca Ceremony?
When you first arrive, you will be introduced to a shaman, a type of healer that is required to have extensive experience. The shaman boils the leaves and stalks of the plant in water. Then once the liquid is reduced, more of the plant is added to make a very thick, darkly-colored tea. The tea is allowed to cool and then strained.
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Side effects of drinking ayahuasca tea may include the following:
- Unsubstantiated fear
Pre- and post-ceremony rituals are considered highly important, and often include the avoidance of alcohol. The effects from the psychedelics take about 1 hour to manifest after initially ingested, then can last for up to 6 hours. Ceremonies may last much longer, and be held several nights in a row.