For inquiries regarding the utilization of ethnobotanicals, or in case you are experiencing an adverse situation or difficulty integrating and experience, please read this page. For inquiries regarding legal support , please read this page.

  • We don’t offer sessions of ayahuasca or iboga.
  • We don’t recommend centers or people who perform/do sessions.

    map mapa marcador ICEERS


    Carrer de Sepúlveda, 65 , Oficina 2, 08015 Barcelona España +34 931 88 20 99
    ayahuasca legality legal myths realities FAQ ADF



    Is the ADF only about ayahuasca?

    We named the project the ‘Ayahuasca Defense Fund’ for the sake of clarity and communications: 99% of the arrests that come to us are ayahuasca related. In a prior stage of the project we used the description ‘teacher plants’ translated from the term used in shamanism ‘plantas maestras’, that includes other traditional plants like San Pedro, peyote, and iboga. Though we simplified the name to ayahuasca, the ADF focuses on the ceremonial, therapeutic or personal/spiritual development work with all ‘teacher plants’ sacred to traditional cultures worldwide. These plants or their concoctions do not fall under the UN 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Drugs, even though they can contain molecules that are prohibited under that convention, like DMT or mescaline. Though the ADF does not focus on cannabis or opium poppy, two of the three plants prohibited under the UN 1961 Convention of Narcotic Drugs, traditional use of mambe (Coca leaf), the third plant, does fall into the ADF’s area of operation.

    How can the ADF help? How does it work in practice?

    There is a knock on the door… ”Police!! Open the door! This is a drug raid!” Arrested for a practice that is sacred to me and to communities around the world… What now?

    Step #1: Stay calm!

    Step #2: Don’t declare anything until you speak to your lawyer.

    Step #3: Get in touch (and get your lawyer in touch) with the ADF – the Ayahuasca Defense Fund ASAP.

    In terms of legal defense, the ADF accompanies and works with select defendants facing legal troubles for working with ayahuasca and other similar traditional plants. From the very first moment, we accompany defendants through the whole legal process. We get all the facts of their case, strategize with them, discuss the requirements of what a suitable lawyer would be and, if they haven’t found one, activate our network to find such lawyer. We work with the lawyer by providing the defense arguments of prior cases and a full understanding of the subject matter in terms of international drug conventions, health and cultural dimensions. We engage with policy makers and respected local leaders to encourage the justice department or court to give sensible treatment to the case. We activate our network of ayahuasca research scientists to write letters and testify and work with local respected scientific experts to fully educate them about the peculiarities of ayahuasca so they can testify in court and write an expert report in support of the defense.

    The role of the ADF in legal defense is one of close collaboration with defendants and defendants’ lawyers, accompanying them in each step, together unfolding the right process that leads to an acquittal. Here is an overview of the ADF’s support process as well as a breakdown of the 3 levels of support we provide.

    Can I ask the ADF for money to pay for my legal costs?

    Through monthly donations from the community, match donations by organizations, and contributions or commitments from philanthropists, our aim is to grow a strong financial capacity within the Fund so that the Fund can cover part of the financial costs of cases.

    In order for us to invest community resources in a case, we need to establish that a defendant will be 100% collaborative with us in all steps of the support process, build a relationship of trust, and move forward together. We take 18 criteria into account in the process of decision making as the collaboration unfolds. We have established three levels of support. At the third level of support, we will help partly cover legal costs, but requests for aid without effort to meet our criteria and work with us closely will be denied.

    For example, we have received emails from people we hardly have cultivated a relationship with or never heard of before asking for us to cover the writing of a scientific report by an expert asking 500€/hour. In those cases all we could answer was we have already developed a scientific report signed by the most renowned biomedical ayahuasca researchers in the world…It doesn’t make sense to start from 0 again while experience and work from prior cases can be utilized. With the accumulated experience of the ADF’s joint expert committee, our networks, database of court sentences, letters from national and international government bodies, scientific reports, etc. we can significantly reduce the costs of legal defense by closely collaborating with defendants and lawyers.

    How can I monitor how ADF contributions are utilized?

    The ADF is committed to transparency and utilizing community resources efficiently and responsibly at all times. We will publish an annual report with information about funds raised, expenditures, cases we supported (respecting confidentiality and protection of private data), educational and policy activities, relevant data about the ADF’s operations, and lessons learned through our interventions. We welcome input and questions from the community at all times. You can read more about the ADF’s fundraising strategy.

    I don’t want my donations being used to support problematic practitioners. How can this be guaranteed?

    As many of us are aware, there are problematic practitioners out there offering ceremonies or therapy sessions with plants like ayahuasca. Some do aggressive marketing on Facebook and elsewhere, others make false claims (e.g. being the first legal church while not having a license, their ability to cure cancer, etc.) to attract publicity. There are cases of sexual abuse, messianic or guru-like behavior, psychological manipulation, financial abuse, and worse.

    That is the unfortunate reality of something not regulated, without systems in place to efficiently address such problematic behavior (through an ethics board or regulatory system). The ADF’s biggest challenge is to work efficiently advancing its objectives within that reality. Luckily there are many people involved in these practices with their heart in the right place, people who are well trained and organized, wanting to contribute well-being to their community, who uphold strong ethics and responsibility. The ADF expert committee and steering committee members have extensive previous experience and decades of accumulated knowledge from dealing with other cases in the past.

    The ADF decides its level of involvement with a defendant on a case-by-case basis. Our Steering Committee follows clear guidelines to make that decision. Decisions are not made based on a checklist, but human interaction. During our initial contacts, we cultivate a relationship to learn who our defendants are, how they work, what their values are, and their reputation in the community. We are committed to utilize community resources efficiently and responsibly at all times. We have distinguished three levels of support. It is important to note that, even though we don’t feel the ADF should invest community resources into supporting problematic practitioners, we don’t believe jail sentence for the mere fact they work with ayahuasca (or similar plants) is the way to go. If practitioners engage in criminal activity (sexual abuse, etc.) that should be what they are prosecuted for, not the ayahuasca.

    Where can I receive information about legality and tendencies of arrests or policy developments?

    On the ADF website you will find a continuously updated section about legal situations internationally and legally. We invite you to subscribe to the ADF newsletter on the website and follow the ADF’s Facebook page and Twitter. There we will offer webinars and announce other educational events.

    Does the ADF protect or defend people who have suffered adverse situations, abuse or manipulation by practitioners?

    This does not fall into the field of work of the ADF. Other services focus on that, such as ICEERS’ Support service. The ADF however is alert to incidents of this kind to be informed about the behavior of practitioners worldwide.

    Does the ADF support member-churches of the Oklevueha Native American Church (ONAC)?

    The ADF will not contribute resources to defend organizations that have chosen to affiliate with ONAC with the belief they are legally protected under ONAC’s umbrella.

    The ADF is of the opinion that the “legal protection” the ONAC offers to groups working with ayahuasca is false and that members are putting themselves at risk, often publicly announcing ceremonies. It is up to the lawyers of ONAC to offer legal consultancy and support to those who pay them to be a member, but the ADF has serious doubts about the validity of their ‘legal construction’.

    In our view groups who want to be ‘legal ayahuasca churches’ and engage in publicity and subscription to ceremonies online should go through a process of applying for a license or exemption based on religious freedom from the appropriate legal authority.

    What about the indigenous peoples in their home countries that are affected by ayahuasca tourism and exploitation?

    Though ayahuasca was traditionally made and utilized by indigenous peoples in the Upper Amazon, virtually all recent arrests for the importation or use of ayahuasca have taken place abroad. The lack of legal certainty for practices involving ayahuasca outside of the Amazon is in part causing problems in indigenous communities related to ayahuasca tourism and exploitation.

    The objective of the ADF is to work with defendants, including both indigenous shamans who travel abroad to do ceremonies as well as non-native providers. The ADF believes that in a world with interconnected societies where cultural practices spread, influence, inspire and sometimes clash, that it is crucial to foster a correct understanding of the value of these practices in front of the authorities so that sensible policy response can be given based on compassion, evidence and human rights.

    The ADF is not an initiative that directly focuses on the cultural protection of indigenous communities or addresses ‘ayahuasca tourism’, but we believe that if we advance in achieving legal frameworks for responsible utilization of these plants in other territories that will positively influence the ayahuasca globalization process.

    The ADF is a project with clearly defined objectives and other projects that ICEERS or other organizations have developed are focused on the specific issue of cultural protection of indigenous traditions.

    Categories: NEWS , ADF
    Tags: psychoactive , legality , ayahuasca , Ayahuasca Defense Fund