Transforming Society’s Relationship with Psychoactive Plants with Benjamin de Loenen

Founder of ICEERS Ben de Loenen shares his vision of a more cohesive and informed ayahuasca community, and how we can combat the ignorance of law enforcement.

ICEERS is a pioneering organization that aims to defend the rights of plant medicine users around the world, and transform the way we think about plant medicine in contemporary culture.

Here, Benjamin de Loenen talks to us about his experience of the legal challenges to plant medicine use, and the ways in which we can grow and succeed as a community fighting for equal rights and religious and cognitive freedoms.

Ben speaks about the ignorance of public policy makers, and law enforcement, when it comes to the therapeutic power of ayahuasca and other plant medicines. It often seems that ignorance is the biggest barrier to progress in the psychedelic arena.

He emphasizes the importance of nuance in court cases dealing with psychedelics, as they often just revolve around trying to assert the toxicity of a substance or its ‘threat to public health,’ without properly considering religious and cultural freedoms, or the potential benefits to social wellbeing.

An ideal legal system would also allow for us to differentiate between ethical plant medicine practices, and opportunistic or dangerous psychedelic providers. There is rarely this ability to differentiate in the current system.

MUST READ: The Seeker’s Guide to Ayahuasca

The globalization of plant medicines shows, according to Ben, that people are seeking new ways to engage with life. We have lost our trust in authorities and religious institutions, and are looking for alternatives. Ben describes plant medicines as “cultural adaptogens” – substances that have allowed communities to cope with colonialism, extractivism, and destruction… and this process may be happening in Western culture now, as a reaction to the mental health epidemic that our dominator culture has caused.

We also discuss the unethical practices we see as a result of globalization – untrue health claims, opportunistic marketing, and unsafe facilitation. These all threaten the future of the psychedelic movement, and can prevent us from managing the real risks of psychedelics.

One of the most harmful practices is to call psychedelics a “quick fix,” whereby all your problems will be “cured” with a single dose. As Ben clarifies, there is no such thing as a quick cure for problems like addiction or cancer, and suggesting otherwise misunderstands the nature of psychedelics and actively does harm to the movement.

MUST READ: The risks of irresponsible promotion of ayahuasca ceremonies

Ben shares the advances that the Ayahuasca Defense Fund has made in protecting individuals from unfair prosecution for taking or providing plant medicines. He highlights that while the ADF have had a lot of successes, they often have to settle for guilty pleas in order to reduce sentences. Ben wishes more people were aware of the legal risks before deciding to enter the world of providing plant medicine ceremonies where doing so is prohibited.

Finally, we discuss how to unite the ayahuasca community under a common banner of furthering plant medicine freedoms. Ben suggests bringing ayahuasca providers together on a more local level, to discuss the ethics and practicalities of serving ayahuasca. With improved education, we can make sure that providers are all better informed, to avoid unnecessary legal risks and to make sure all ceremonies are ethical and forward-thinking.

About Benjamin De Loenen

Benjamin De Loenen studied audiovisual media in The Netherlands, where he graduated with his documentary “Ibogaine-Rite of Passage” (2004), a film that remains an important reference on this subject matter. Since this achievement, Benjamin has been dedicated to making ayahuasca, iboga and other plant practices into valued and integrated parts of society. In 2009, he founded the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research & Service (ICEERS) –, a charitable non-profit organisation with United Nations consultative status, where he serves as Executive Director. Benjamin is the author of several publications and films, has presented at conferences around the world, and has participated in various leadership roles, including as a member of the Board of Directors of the Global Ibogaine Therapist Alliance (2012 – 2014).

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1 Comment

  1.' Darryl Bickler on August 21, 2021 at 3:12 pm

    The discussuion is framed within a false paradigm, ayahuasca cannot be legal or illegal, legality vests in action not substances, it is not criminalised, we are! One day these groups will understand what they are doing, but for all the worthwhile sentiment, the legal and linguistic paradigms are straight out the prohibitionist mindset.

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