Is ayahuasca legal in Spain?

Is ayahuasca legal in Spain?

One of the questions we are most often asked is about the legality of ayahuasca in Spain. Is ayahuasca legal in Spain? To answer this question we have to look at international and national legislation, as well as some recent court rulings that create jurisprudence, as it is a relatively new substance in our country.

  1. The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 

Ayahuasca is not controlled under the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, to which Spain acceded in 1976 [BOE]. “In this convention, which regulates psychotropic substances, “there is no direct allusion to ayahuasca, nor to the component plants of ayahuasca: Banisteriopsis caapi, Psychotria viridis or Diplopterys cabrerana“, as lawyer Antonio Martín Pardo explained in his speech during the World Ayahuasca Conference held in Girona in 2019. Dr. Pardo is co-author of the book ‘The legal status of ayahuasca in Spain’.

What is controlled, specifically in Schedule 1 (the most restrictive) of the aforementioned convention is DMT, dimethyl tryptamine, the active component of P. viridis and D. cabreana. The fact that ayahuasca includes DMT in different percentages sometimes leads to confuse the part with the whole and to consider that since ayahuasca contains DMT and DMT is banned, ayahuasca is also banned.

But this is an aberration, as Diego de las Casas, lawyer of the Plataforma de Defensa de la Ayahuasca explains: “DMT is endogenously present in most plants and living beings in varying quantities. Strictly applying this reductionist view, tomatoes should also be banned for containing DMT”.

However, the possible confusion that the 1971 Treaty could lead to was resolved by the INCB – the UN drug control body – itself. In its 2012 report [.pdf], the UN body states: “No plants, including those containing psychoactive ingredients, are currently controlled under the 1971 Convention“. In case there is any doubt, it goes on to give khat and ayahuasca as examples: “For example, cathine and DMT are psychotropic substances included in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention, while the plants and herbal preparations containing them, namely khat and ayahuasca, respectively, are not subject to any restriction or control measures“.

Extract from the INCB document.

In the same report, the INCB clarifies that the DMT controlled in the 1971 Convention refers to synthetic DMT, not to DMT from natural sources.

  1. National legislation

While the INCB/UN does not consider ayahuasca to be a drug, it does recommend that countries that are signatories to the conventions regulate, if appropriate, the drink at the local level.

There are currently two laws regulating narcotic substances in Spain, neither of which mentions ayahuasca. The first one dates from 1967, and is an update of the 1961 UN Convention (which Spain did not sign). It lists substances such as opium, morphine, marijuana and cocaine, but there is not a single mention of ayahuasca. The second dates from 1977, when Spain had already acceded to the 1971 Convention, and ayahuasca is not mentioned either.

  1. Spanish case law

Despite the fact that the law seems clear on the issue of ayahuasca, cases of ayahuasca seizures and arrests for importing or possessing ayahuasca come to light with some frequency, publicised by law enforcement agencies and reported in the media. Why this apparent contradiction?

On the one hand, the fact that ayahuasca is not on the lists of prohibited substances of either the UN or the Spanish government does not automatically mean that it is legal to introduce it into Spanish territory. Specifically, in 2004, the Ministry of Health published an order banning the importation of a series of plants due to their toxicity; ayahuasca was included in this list. However, says Martín Pardo, “due to a formal issue, this order was annulled, so ayahuasca is not illegal at the administrative level in Spain either”.

On the other hand, many of the police operations are initiated because the security forces and judges themselves are unaware of the legal status of ayahuasca. As lawyer Antonio Martín Pardo explained in the aforementioned presentation, of the 16 seizures that finally went to trial, only one of them ended in a conviction, and that was due to an agreement between the parties. Of all the other acquittals, only two of the 15 sentences “were based on the fact that ayahuasca is not a controlled substance”, explains Martín Pardo. “The rest of the judgments, although acquitted, were based on an incorrect reasoning: ayahuasca has DMT and DMT is a drug. The idea behind publishing the book is that judges learn that ayahuasca is not a controlled substance“.

Martín Pardo’s talk took place in 2019, and barely two years later it seems that things have started to change. An elaborate sentence [.pdf] of the Provincial Court of Malaga acquitted last May a defendant accused of importing 5 litres of ayahuasca for personal consumption. The 17-page judgement argues that “ayahuasca as a plant preparation is not subject to international or national control or prohibition in Spain as a psychotropic substance, drug or narcotic“, or in other words, it cannot be included in the concept of “toxic drug, narcotic or psychotropic substance”, narcotic drug or psychotropic substance” as referred to in article 368 of the Spanish Penal Code, according to the lengthy summary of the case in the article ‘El (pen-)ultimo juicio sobre ayahuasca en España’, signed by three ICEERS members in the newsletter of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).

The judgement ends with an anti-prohibitionist plea against ayahuasca by the court, after having heard the arguments of lawyer Francisco Azorín, from the Brotsanbert law firm, and the ICEERS experts. Carmen Castellanos, the judge judge who has ruled on the case, states that “a policy of greater tolerance accompanied by rigorous controls and regulation, avoiding absolute prohibitionism, could be more effective, or on the whole could do more good than harm”.

If you are interested in the legal nuances behind the legal situation of ayahuasca in Spain, you can watch this illustrative lecture by Dr. Antonio Martín Pardo:

Links:

‘Precisiones en torno al régimen legal de la ayahuasca en España’, Antonio Martín Pardo, Aya2019.

‘Instrumento de adhesión de España al Convenio sobre sustancias sicotrópicas. Hecho en Viena el 21 de febrero de 1971’, Boletín Oficial del Estado, 10 de septiembre de 1976.

‘Informe de la Junta de Fiscalización de Estupefacientes correspondiente a 2012’, JIFE/INCB, enero de 2012.

‘¿De qué hablamos cuando hablamos de ayahuasca?‘, Plantaforma, 15 de julio de 2020.

‘Orden de 31 de julio de 1967, que enmienda las listas anexas al Convenio de 1961’, BOE, Ministerio de Sanidad, marzo de 1967.

‘Protocolo de modificació de la convención única de 1961 sobre estupefacientes’, BOE, 15 de diciembre de 1976.

‘El (pen-)último juicio sobre ayahuasca en España’, International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), 4 de mayo de 2021.

‘Orden SCO/190/2004, de 28 de enero, por la que se establece la lista de plantas cuya venta al público queda prohibida o restringida por razón de su toxicidad’, BOE, 6 de febrero de 2004.

Researchers from around the world call for an end to the persecution of ayahuasca in Spain

Researchers from around the world call for an end to the persecution of ayahuasca in Spain

The repeated cases of police raids on ayahuasca ceremonies are part of an intentional campaign of “fear, mistrust and misinformation” aimed at calling into question an ancestral practice that offers numerous benefits for its participants, benefits repeatedly supported by science.

The harassment of Amazonian drink facilitators in Spain has raised a wave of rejection among the international scientific community. More than a hundred leading scholars, psychologists, anthropologists and activists have endorsed the article/manifesto published by the Chacruna Institute and signed by Bia Labate, Henrique Fernandez Antunes, Galuber Loures de Assis and Clancy Cavnar with the title ‘A Call for Public Support Against the Current Demonisation of Ayahuasca Practices in Spain’.

Among the signatories of the manifesto are Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS; David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner; anthropologist Edward MacRae, leading scholar of the Santo Daime cult; Helle Kaasik, Ayahuasca researcher; Doctor of Pharmacology José Carlos Bouso; psychiatrist and writer Ben Sessa and Spanish researcher Carlos Suárez Álvarez.

The arrests of ayahuasca facilitators in Spain “have reignited the debate over the use of the concoction in the country, led by sensationalist media coverage that often ignores available scientific data. The accusations are the same: ayahuasca groups are cults that use dangerous drugs to manipulate their adherents (or “targets”), commonly described as fragile and gullible, for financial gain,” according to the Chacruna article. .

“In the midst of this scenario of arrests, prosecutions, sensational reports, and the spread of fear, mistrust, and misinformation, it is necessary to approach the issue judiciously, setting aside prejudices and preconceptions. It is crucial at a time like this to analyze the accumulated knowledge about the religious use of ayahuasca, as well as to understand the contexts in which the regulation of the drink has occurred successfully, creating public policy models that can be studied and adopted in other countries. sociocultural contexts.

In order to protect the good name of ayahuasca from the attacks it is suffering in Spain, from the Plantaforma para la Defensa de la Ayahuasca, with the support of ICEERS and the Ayahuasca Defense Fund (ADF) we have launched a crowdfunding campaign with which we will pay for a series of documentaries on ayahuasca and the legal defense of its good name in court.

If at any time you believe that ayahuasca did something good for you, it is time to say thank you.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ayudanos-a-defender-la-ayahuasca/

Thank you.

Download the press release:

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To answer these and other questions, we talk to Manuel Villaescusa, psychologist, musician, ayahuasca expert and co-founder of the Plantaforma de Defensa de la Ayahuasca.

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When ayahuasca was called “telepathine”

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One of the most disconcerting effects of ayahuasca is that it sometimes seems to allow us to “read” other people’s minds or “transmit” ideas without the need to speak. The description of this phenomenon is not anecdotal but very frequent in the scientific literature, to the point that the active principle of ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) was baptised “telepathine” back in 1915.

The term was coined by the famous Colombian botanist Rafael Zerda Bayón, and appeared for the first time in his paper ‘Informes sobre mi excursión científica en las regiones colombianas de Caquetá, Bogotá, Colombia’ (Reports on my scientific excursion in the Colombian regions of Caquetá, Bogotá, Colombia). However, the error persists of attributing the discovery to the American ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, who began to use the term “telepathine” during the 1940s. Since Schultes studied yagé in Colombia, it is very likely that he was aware of Zerda Bayón’s studies and writings three decades earlier.

But it was neither Bayón nor Schultes who popularised the telepathic abilities of ayahuasca but the novelist and drug addict William Burroughs, who in his ‘The Yage Letters’ to his friend, the poet Allen Ginsberg, wrote the following:

“A Colombian scientist isolated a substance from yagé which he called telepathine. I know from my own experience that telepathy is a fact. I have not the slightest interest in proving telepathy to anyone or anything. I want to have the useful knowledge of telepathy”.

The book was published in 1963 (although it was written ten years earlier, in 1953) and aroused great interest in ayahuasca in North America, giving the starting signal for the ayahuasca tourism that is so common in the Amazon region today.

Telepathine, a personal experience

Like Burroughs, many of us who have been touched by the ayahuasca angel can affirm that telepathy is a fact. I had the certainty exactly one year ago, during the summer solstice of 2019. It was in Madrid, at a ceremony of my dear Nak, then president of the Plantaforma. Rita and I went together, once again, and spent a good part of the trip in each other’s arms, our heads in contact, and we were able to have telepathic “conversations” without uttering a word or even looking at each other. I felt like his brain was mine and I could directly access his thoughts.

-Don’t worry, I’m fine.

-But you’re making me worry by telling me that.

The next day we confirmed these and other “words” by word of mouth. Rita had a hard time that night and tried to reassure me, but I knew – I could see – that she was having a hard time.

Harmina = telepathine

Unfortunately, the evocative name “telepathine” is no longer used (the last references are in the writings of Claudio Naranjo in one of his last books ‘Ayahuasca’, which is also written half a century ago, during the 50s and 60s). The reason is that telepathine is exactly the same molecule as ‘Harmine’, a beta-carboline described a few years earlier and which takes its name from harmel, the common name of the Syrian rue (Peganum harmala), a plant widely used in the traditional pharmacopoeia of Arab countries and which some call the “European ayahuasca”.

*”The first among us who undertook its study was Dr. Rafael Zerda Bayón, of pleasant memory, a true man of science, who spent most of his life observing nature with the idea and conviction of one day extracting from it some of its hidden secrets.

He made a famous scientific expedition to Caquetá and Putumayo with the purpose, among many others, of studying more closely and in detail the active principle of this plant, which was the object of a profound and conscientious work, by means of which he managed to suppose, after multiple experiments without managing to isolate it, that this plant must contain as its active principle an alkaloid, which he baptised with the name of telepathine because of the very particular and curious effects produced by the ingestion of its preparations.

In honour of the memory of this illustrious scholar, the alkaloid which we have isolated, and which he supposed to exist, should retain the name of telepathine”.

‘Study on the active principle of yagé’, Guillermo Fishcher Cárdenas.

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The influential Anglo-Saxon historiography places the first contact between the white man and ayahuasca somewhere between the 19th and mid-20th centuries, that is, during the career of two great scientists: the English naturalist Richard Spruce (1817-1890) and his namesake, the American Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001), who some consider to be the first white man to take the sacred drink of the Incas and the Amazonian peoples, specifically from the hand of the taita Salvador Chindoy.

However, it is doubtful, to say the least, that the thousands of Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, missionaries and settlers who lived with, subdued and tried to Christianise the ‘Indians’ did not get to know ayahuasca and other indigenous remedies centuries before the aforementioned scientists.

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Marc Lane defines himself as a ‘phoenician world traveler’ and has been living in Ibiza for the last 15 years. It’s not unusual seeing him around, giving to the people some microdoses of a dark and sweet jam made of San Pedro that Marc himself cooks at home: «I’ve spent years trying to find a nice flavour to wachuma, because people usually feels its flavour beeing too bitter».

The effect of San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) in microdose are subtle but crystal clear. It’s like the doors of perception suddently were clystal clear, using the famous words of Aldous Huxley. The british novelist had a revealing experience with mescaline, the active principle of San Pedro, when he wrote ‘The doors of perception’ and ‘Heaven and Hell’, two brief essays that pioneered the psychedelic literature.

«The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend».

«This medicinal plant that is called San Pedro, ‘Wachuma‘ or ‘Iwakoya‘, but a lot of people like to refer to the active ingredient which is mescaline», explains Marc while pointing one of the dozens cacti that grows in his garden. His relantionship with the plant started 12 years ago, when «some gentleman was here [in Ibiza] and he had a bag of San Pedro powder that he brought from South Africa. When I started taking it, it made me feel really really good…. I wasn’t taking full doses, but just enough to… it was like turning on the light to reality», explains Marc Lane.

«For a few years, I got involved a little bit with with ayahuasca and other different experiences, but the San Pedro was always there there in the background somewhere», recalls Marc. The epiphany was about to happen:

«Five years ago, I finally went to Peru and I made my direct connection with the plant. I could not find anybody to really teach me about the ‘Wachuma’, but instead I was learning from directly from the plant itself. It was guiding me, so when I was coming back I wanted to bring some with me and one of my maestros told me let’s go ask for the ‘apus’ -the great mountain spirits- for permission. I could have just gone to the market and bought it, but instead we went up to mountain and we made an offering to the ‘apus’. At that moment, I received a message and the message was ‘You take this and you give it to everybody. You just put it in your mouth; no ceremonies, no stories, no complications. You don’t put yourself between the plant and the people. The cactus is a lot smarter than you or anybody else».

Why do you think the ‘wachuma’ has chosen you for this ‘mission’. «Well, the cactus is very very powerful but it doesn’t have hands neither legs, it doesn’t feed doesn’t have a mouth, so i’m just letting him use mine», repplies Lane.

Since then and following this aim for spreading the plant, Marc has been growing the cacti and developing different ways of taking the San Pedro. «The most important thing trying to make it taste good, so be more pleasant to take because some people say that it tastes bad».

Applications for San Pedro

Mescaline its well kwown for its psychoactive effects (due to mescaline, the same active principle of peyote). Nevertheless, this is not the effect Marc it’s looking for with the microdoses: «To me it’s like taking it like you would take a normal medicine, taking a little pill every day in small quantities. I don’t go for large doses or for psychedelic experiences. I think a slow buildup is a much more effective long-term therapeutic, and it’s also a lot easier because it’s a much easier to manage».

Taste is relevant, but safety it’s much more important for Marc. There is no much information about safety with mescaline, but Marc Lane defends its ‘observational experience’: «I have given San Pedro to literally thousands of people ranging from very small children to very old people. There has never been a bad side effect. It’s the safest substance I’ve ever come across. It’s safer than coffee, it’s safer than anything that I know. Before that, it works for many different conditions. for a person that is let’s say okay, it improves your mood but it also improves sleeping for insomnia and also for children with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hypeactivity Disorder] or even autism.

There are some parents that have been giving very small doses of San Pedro to children with autism or children with ADHC, and the results have been incredible: the anxiety is gone, the stress is gone all this tendency to to flip out just gets smoothed; all is serenity and peace (…) Nothing gives me the satisfaction that when one of these children just comes up to me and hugs me… I just start crying».

The ‘antidepressant cacti’?

There is a vigorous movement in the U.S. trying to ‘decriminalize nature’, more specifically, all the psychoactive plants and fungi used for millenia by humankind. In this aspect, Marc considers that «San Pedro should be legalized and it should even be classified potentially as a nutritional supplement». Nevertheless, Echinopsis pachanoi «can basically replace most psychiatric medication. It is more effective than antidepressants and than most anti-anxiety medicines and also than most mood elevators out there, without any side effects and that’s also one of the reasons I believe that it’s always been kept on the side: because it basically take out a big chunk of pharmaceutical business». While other psychedelic compounds like MDMA or LSD also work in different ways, they also have their side effects some of them are addictive and, eventually, are very dangerous to stop taking, this one is is anti-addictive actually: the more you take the less you want to take».

I ask Marc if there are any scientific studies to support his findings in the issues of those patologies: autism, depression and ADHD: «It depends on what you consider a scientific study. There is no scientific studies for San Pedro or mescaline in general, and the ones that there are very small. I mean, if we want to look for example even the work that MAPS is doing with MDMA, even all their trials have been with a few dozen people. Is that a real study ? I’ve been doing a real life study with thousands of people for years, perhaps not scientific but surely observational, and I found out that ‘wachuma’ is both safe, useful and powerful».

Links:

‘The doors of perception’, Aldous Huxley (1954)

«Las plantas maestras pueden paliar la crisis de salud mental de los olvidados por el sistema de salud de EE.UU.», Plantaforma, 18 de marzo de 2022

-‘Decriminalize Nature, the citizen’s movement behing de decrimalisation of psychdelics in the U.S.‘, BMed, 22 de marzo de 2022