COMMUNITY FORUM: Exploring Legal Strategies, Harm Reduction and Best Practices for the Ayahuasca Community
Robert Heffernan, Ben Christie, and Andrea Langlois
Saturday, April 22, 2017 • 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM • Oakland Room
In this community forum, participants will be invited to join in a discussion about two intimately related issues. First, how we can secure and expand the legal protection for ayahuasca practices in the US. And, secondly, how we can facilitate and enhance the health, safety, and integrity of the ayahuasca community in the US, while playing a responsible part in the global ayahuasca community. While these matters have always been important, changing political climates and the increasing expansion of ayahuasca practices creates a greater need for genuine dialogue on these issues. In this session, we will create a space within which to explore a diversity of perspectives on these topics and to catalyze and empower one or more working groups to come together to continue to work together in developing a collective response in the months and years ahead. Some of the issues that will be explored include: understanding legislation and case law concerning ayahuasca; how groups can organize themselves and adhere to basic legal protocols even if they don’t apply for exemptions; and how to acknowledge the diversity of practices and people who lead and participate in ayahuasca ceremonies and the many issues that arise in this complex ecosystem (such as ethical responsibility, collective responsibility, mental health concerns, questions concerning money, qualifications for leading groups, public promotion of ceremonies).
Rob Heffernan has been involved in the Peruvian curandero tradition and the Santo Daime for the last 16 years. He was a member and chairman of the North American Santo Daime Legal Committee for a number of years. He has been engaged in independent research and active in ad hoc groups promoting legal clarity and ethical integrity in the Ayahuasca Community. He is also a certified Integrative Sound and Music Practitioner; Shamanic Breath Work Facilitator; and a long time student and practitioner of Buddhist Dhamma. He has BA in Communications and Social Studies from Fordham University, and works in the AV/IT communication industry.
Ben Christie is Coordinator of the Ayahuasca Defense Fund, assisting in the day to day operation of the Fund and its different areas of focus: advisory and support services for current arrests and court cases, mapping legal frameworks and developments in different countries and regions, education and lobbying for interested stakeholders in media and policy spheres, and providing reliable and clear information to the global community of ayahuasca and other teacher plant practitioners and users. He has a background in strategy and communications across a range of sectors and organisations.
Andrea Langlois works for the International Centre for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service (ICEERS) and provides communications support to the Ayahuasca Defense Fund. Andrea holds a Masters in Media Studies, and has published two edited collections about autonomous media and pirate radio in the Canadian context. She is passionate about community engagement, dialogue, and community-based research. Previous to entering the psychedelics field, Andrea worked for over 10 years in HIV/AIDS research, community engagement, and communications.