When Mescaline Went Underground

Publication Year: 
1983

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Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, mescaline could be purchased from several chemical supply houses in the form of sulfate or hydrochloride crystals. In 1970, mescaline and peyote were “scheduled” as part of a Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, which established penalties for possession, manufacture or distribution: “ a term of imprisonment of not more than 15 years, a fine of not more than $25,000, or both.” Title 21 proscribes possession of “all parts of the plant presently classified as Lophophora williamssi, whether growing or not, the seeds thereof, any extract from any part of such a plant, every compound, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such a plant, its seeds or extracts.”
Various forms of mescaline have continued to appear over the last dozen years but generally only in small amounts made for a few people in the counter culture. Other U.S. Citizens wishing to have a mescaline experience have there fore travelled to the Chihuahua Desert of northern Mexico to get peyote. Many of these have taken large quantities back home with them. Because of the law against possession of peyote and its constituents, recent mescaline use has been mostly sporadic and thus unritualized, exploratory and recreational.
Indian peyotists provide the main contemporary example of mescaline and peyote used as a means of psychic exploration. A quarter million practitioners have taken this potent psychedelic—often quite frequently, often for years, often in large amounts with out significant physical, psychological or social problems. The exemption provided in the law for members of the Native American Church has in fact fostered a tradition of spiritual growth and communal interaction.
The church of the Tree of Life, centered in the San Francisco by area, tried for years to develop a ritual somewhere between that of the native American Church and that followed by the Huichol Indians of Mexico. Some members felt that the Native American example was too constricted and focused; they desired a non-denominational ritual encompassing greater possibilities for expression and introspection. (“The NAC,” commented one, “hasn't produced the marvellous, artistic, creative explosion seen among the Huichols.”) although the attempt to find a middle ground was pursued seriously, the results were unsatisfactory- or “somewhat hokey.”

pp. 119, 120 Psychedelics Encyclopedia by Peter Stafford (1983)

70s peyote art
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