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    ritual cannabis Catalonia

    The Ritual Use of Cannabis in a Self-Managed Community


    Ancient psychoactive plants in a global village: the ritual use of cannabis in a self-managed community in Catalonia

    Maja Kohek, Constanza Sánchez Avilés, Oriol Romaní, and José Carlos Bouso.

    International Journal of Drug Policy



    About the study

    This paper, led by Maja Kohek, ICEERS’ associate researcher, about her field work on the ritual use of cannabis in a self-managed community, presents various examples of non-problematic drug use observed in a community in Catalonia, where a variety of psychoactive substances are used in ritual settings.

    Ethnographic field work was conducted in a phenomenological community in rural Catalonia called Wonderland [País de las Maravillas] as part of a PhD thesis in Medical Anthropology and Global Health at the University Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain (Kohek, 2020).

    The results suggest that social control can help avoid substance misuse and that the decriminalisation and regulation of drug use targeting social learning and harm reduction should be preferred over prohibition.



    Background: Cannabis is a plant with a rich history of medical, recreational, industrial and spiritual uses. This paper aims to explore drug use rituals as methods of community-controlled use that help maintain a self-regulated and healthy relation to the substance in questions. Furthermore, it explores how cannabis is used in developing spirituality and a sense of community. The ritual use of cannabis is discussed in the context of drug policy.

    Methods: Ethnographic research methods, such as fieldwork, participant observation, in-depth interviews, and qualitative analysis, were used to research a phenomenological community in rural Catalonia, where ancient psychoactive plants (APP), such as ayahuasca and cannabis, are regularly used in a ritual context.

    Results: Cannabis has a long history of ritual/spiritual uses and is still being used for such purposes in Catalonia. The rituals are effective harm reduction techniques and can even generate beneficial effects for the individual as well as the community by strengthening bonds between community members. The rituals associated with APP are seen as spiritual or religious practices, as well as forms of self-care and community-care, rather than involving drug dependence or addiction.

    Conclusion: The contemporary use of APP in Western societies is gaining popularity. International drug policies and the schedule of controlled drugs claim to be based on scientific evidence, but this evidence is limited. The contemporary myopic focus on the risks and harms of drugs overlooks important realities, such as the benefits of non-problematic drug use. These omissions could in part be rectified through the consideration of scientific findings from the field of ethnography regarding the spiritual and community dimensions of drug use.


    Link to the article


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    Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash.

    Categories: Studies & papers , Cannabis
    Tags: cannabis , scientific research , study , drug policy , community , ritual