Once abundant, the wild growing peyote cactus plants in Texas and Mexico are being drastically reduced and becoming scarce. Peyote, a slow growing cactus contains the hallucinogenic drug mescaline, is a sacred sacrament used in the Native Americans Church (NAC). It is also used religiously by various Indian tribes throughout the country of Mexico. Although peyote is classified as a controlled substance under federal and state laws, U.S. Congress granted NAC members a “peyote exemption” pursuant to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to legally use peyote for religious purposes. In U.S. v. Boyll, the federal district court interpreted the peyote exemption law as extending its benefits and protection to non-Indians or anyone claiming to be a NAC member. However, the Boyll court failed to consider crucial federal Indian law analysis in reaching its decision. Subsequent federal and state court decisions have relied on the Boyll decision as precedents in reaching the same or similar conclusion. As a result of the Boyll decision, false NAC groups have emerged claiming to be official NAC chapters and who use illicit drugs, in addition to peyote, as their sacrament while using the federal peyote exemption law to shield their illicit activities. The Texas peyote gardens presently suffer from severe over-harvesting caused by an increasing demand for more peyote from a shrinking limited supply. Psychedelic tourism, criminal drug trade, massive land development projects, illegal poaching, global warming, worldwide internet sales of peyote, and other devastating human activities have significantly reduced the wild peyote population in its natural habitat. Indigenous tribes of Mexico have become alarmed at the diminishing peyote gardens in Mexico, which compelled the Mexican government to enact a conservation law, NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2002, classifying peyote as threaten and a protected species. NAC members are prohibited from transporting peyote from Mexico into the United States or Canada pursuant to this Mexican law. Greenhouse cultivation is considered an essential practice for Indigenous tribes to cultivate their own peyote supply locally. Significant measures must be taken to protect and conserve peyote for future generations or it too may become extinct like numerous other plant and animal species have worldwide. This paper examines the historical use of peyote by Native Americans, the development of NAC, and an evolving peyote crisis. Lastly, this paper offers recommendations for indigenous Native Americans to address these issues.
Muneta, James D.
"PEYOTE CRISIS CONFRONTING MODERN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: THE DECLINING PEYOTE POPULATION AND A DEMAND FOR CONSERVATION,"
American Indian Law Journal: Vol. 9
, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/ailj/vol9/iss1/6