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    Peru ayahuasca



    General situation

    Peru is one of the only countries in the world where ayahuasca is legal. Ayahuasca grows wild in the Upper Amazon and indigenous peoples there have used it for healing, divination, hunting, and diplomacy since time immemorial. When Peru signed on to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances it made a reservation specifically for ayahuasca (and the cactus San Pedro). In 2008 Peru officially recognized the traditional use of ayahuasca by indigenous peoples as national cultural heritage.

    Ease of access to the Upper Amazon coupled with widespread ayahuasca use among resident tribes has made Peru the number one destination for ayahuasca tourism in the world. The current expansion is followed by a great enthusiasm and a series of controversies, as well as the expansion on research on ayahuasca and the positive and negative effects of ayahuasca tourism.

    In other countries where only certain groups are exempt from blanket prohibition, ayahuasca’s partial legality is a victory for religious rights and traditional indigenous use remains unprotected. In Peru, traditional use of ayahuasca and the rights of indigenous peoples were the primary considerations behind Peru’s ayahuasca reservation to the Convention and its recognition of ayahuasca use as national heritage.

    International law

    The Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971) subjects several psychoactive compounds contained in plant species to international control. DMT (N,N-dimetyltryptamine, a tryptamine alkaloid contained in Psychotria viridis and other plants generally used in the preparation of ayahuasca) is a Schedule I controlled substance in the Convention. However, according to the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) Report for 2010 (par. 284) ‘no plants are currently controlled under that Convention […]. Preparations (e.g. decoctions for oral use) made from plants containing those active ingredients are also not under international control’.

    There is no general consensus among judges and law enforcement officials on whether ayahuasca is illegal because it contains DMT, or not. It is up to national governments to make the final decision in their own jurisdictions on whether to impose controls on these plants and preparations, including ayahuasca.

    National drug legislation

    In 2008 the Peruvian government declared traditional ayahuasca use to be National Cultural Patrimony. In the declaration, the director of the Peruvian National Institute of Culture took care to distance traditional ayahuasca use from de-contextualized, consumer, and commercial use.

    That the Peruvian government apparently intends to protect mainly traditional use is evident in its reservation to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic substances, where it speaks specifically about protecting ayahuasca use for ethnic groups in the Amazon (and San Pedro use for ethnic groups in the Andes). As a matter of fact, the Peruvian Government’s position on ayahuasca expansion does not seem clear. As ayahuasca tourism and commerce in Peru grows, the argument for government regulations on non-traditional use apparently gets stronger.

    The Ayahuasca Defense Fund has received reports that ayahuasca lodges in Iquitos are working towards establishing standards to regulate safety and quality in the local ayahuasca economy, the largest in any city in the world. There have also been initiatives from the government in this regard. Many institutions of shamans, healers, and curanderos have tried to form, but not many have met with much success. Informal law and rulemaking has been relatively effective, but new Peruvian drug legislation regulating ayahuasca remains a possibility on the horizon.


    Ayahuasca is legal in Peru. Any cases that arise, such as for illegal business practices or harmful actions will only indirectly involve ayahuasca.

    Categories: Countries
    Tags: legality , ayahuasca , map , Peru