A new coalition, the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance (PMHA), launched on Earth Day with a goal of decriminalizing all plant and fungi medicines for home growing, group healing and religious purposes.
The Alliance, which is working in partnership with leaders from the medical community, veterans and indigenous stakeholders among others, has a dual mission of improving access to plant medicines while simultaneously promoting sustainable sourcing and respect for the human, plant and animal ecologies where the medicines grow.
In recent years, Oregon has led the way in dismantling the failed “War on Drugs” to focus on healing, harm reduction and treatment. The PMHA effort is complementary to the psilocybin therapeutic model championed by Measure 109, as well as the “treatment not jail” decriminalization policy championed by Measure 110, by allowing home cultivation of plant medicines and healing in ceremony with, for example, the Amazonian tea ayahuasca.
Group healing with plant medicines has been a core part of various indigenous traditions for centuries, and more recently it has become an important healing component for many people suffering from trauma in the west, including veterans suffering from PTSD.
“Every day, we lose 20 veterans on average to suicide,” said Chad Kuske, former Navy Seal. “Many if not most of those losses are preventable if we make small changes in public policy — by giving legal protection to healing together in ceremonies with plant medicines like ayahuasca, we can help thousands of veterans who need support.”
Heroic Hearts Project, an organization committed to helping veterans with PTSD find healing to overcome trauma, organizes trips for veterans to other countries to participate in traditional Amazonian medicine ceremonies. These ceremonies include the use of ayahuasca which is still illegal in Oregon. The Heroic Hearts Project is a core supporter of the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance because they see this work as crucial for veterans in the community to get the help they need on US soil versus having to travel abroad at great expense.
Dr. Rachel Knox, a board advisor to PMHA and a leader in health equity said, “More change is needed if we want to help everyone suffering from trauma. We need legal recognition of people’s rights to heal with other plant medicines like ayahuasca, as well as to cultivate their own medicine in their own homes, which is the most economical form of access of all.”
Dr. Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe, a doctor in Counseling Psychology and PMHA board advisor added, “This movement and our proposed policy is about affirming the value of entheogens beyond medicalization and western ways of knowing and healing. It’s about acknowledging that these plants exist within webs of relationships with humans, other plants, and non-human beings that we honor as a whole. We know that sacramental use of entheogenic plants and fungi dates back thousands of years in indigenous spiritual communities.”
Dr. Hernandez-Wolfe continued, “Furthermore, we acknowledge that entheogens are essential to spiritual practices that deserve a space to be freely practiced. We envision a future where all people, especially BIPOC and LGBTQIA communities, have legal protection and community support to access these medicines, and believe that Portland can help lead the nation and beyond in this effort.”
The Plant Medicine Healing Alliance is kicking off its work by asking the Portland City Council to decriminalize these plant and fungi medicines to allow for spiritual growth and treatment people need. As this effort advances, we’ll be sending very occasional updates and ways to get involved.
More about the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance’s policy and its Board of Advisors can be found at plantmedicinehealing.org.