History, Tradition, Politics, and Conservation
by Beatriz Caiuby Labate and Clancy Cavnar, Editors
January 2016, 280pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3400-4
$66, £49, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3401-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Research utilizing radiocarbon dating indicates that peyote was used by Native people more than 5,000 years ago.

This book explains the role that peyote—a hallucinogenic cactus—plays in the religious and spiritual fulfillment of certain peoples in the United States and Mexico, and examines pressing issues concerning the regulation and conservation of peyote as well as issues of indigenous and religious rights.

Why is mescaline—an internationally controlled substance derived from peyote—given exemptions for religious use by indigenous groups in Mexico, and by the pan-indigenous Native American Church in the United States and Canada? What are the intersections of peyote use, constitutional law, and religious freedom? And why are natural populations of peyote in decline—so much so that in Mexico, peyote is considered a species needing “special protection”? This fascinating book addresses these questions and many more. It also examines the delicate relationship between “the needs of the plant” as a species and “the needs of man” to consume the species for spiritual purposes.

The authors of this work integrate the history of peyote regulation in the United States and the special “trust responsibility” relationship between the American Indians and the government into their broad examination of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus containing mescaline that grows naturally in Mexico and southern Texas. The book’s chapters document how when it comes to peyote, multiple stakeholders’ interests are in conflict—as is often the case with issues that involve ethnic identity, religion, constitutional interpretation, and conservation. The expansion of peyote traditions also serves as a foundation for examining issues of international human rights law and protections for religious freedom within the global milieu of cultural transnationalism.


  • Explains the complete history of the peyote plant in the United States, presenting views from religions including Native American and Christian churches, the creation and evolution of U.S. law regarding peyote, state and federal legal protections since 1990, reasons for the plant's apparent demise, and arguments for its stronger protection
  • Identifies current peyote protective laws in Mexico and Canada
  • Documents how many U.S. residents, including Native Americans, commonly use peyote as a spirituality enhancer or illegal recreational drug within the United States, or do so as tourists when visiting Mexico
Beatriz Caiuby Labate, PhD, is professor at the Center for Research and Post Graduate Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), in Guadalajara, Mexico, and visiting professor at the Drug Policy Program of the Center for Economic Research and Education (CIDE), in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is also cofounder of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP) and editor of NEIP's website ( She is author, coauthor, or coeditor of 12 books, several peer-reviewed articles, and one special-edition journal. Labate holds a doctorate in social anthropology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policy, shamanism, ritual, and religion.

Clancy Cavnar, PsyD, is a research associate of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP) and a clinical psychologist who works at a dual diagnosis residential drug treatment center in San Francisco, CA. She combines an eclectic array of interests and activities as clinical psychologist, artist, and researcher. Cavnar is author and coauthor of articles in Journal of Psychoactive Drugs and International Journal for Drug Policy, among others. She is coeditor, with Beatriz Caiuby Labate, of three books: The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca; Prohibition, Religious Freedom, and Human Rights: Regulating Traditional Drug Use; and Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond. Cavnar received her doctorate in clinical psychology from John F. Kennedy University.


"[An] excellent, up-to-date resource . . . . Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals/practitioners."—Choice, September 1, 2016

"With its 12 chapters bringing together contributions from different areas, such as biology, ecology, history, law, anthropology, and the religious sciences, together with indigenous perspectives on the topic, this collection presents visions and approaches to peyote and at the same time explores some common and cross-cutting issues and questions. . . . Peyote today finds itself situated at a crossroads, one at which are encountered debates over environment and sustainability; national and international politics dealing with the use and trafficking of drugs; human and indigenous rights; and questions of an ethnic and religious nature. In this sense, one of the discussions raised in many different ways throughout this book is over how these diverse interests interact with one another and how they might be suitably balanced.”—NEIP, January 4, 2017

"This collection truly is a great reference for those interested in peyote, its rich history, and how it is used today. . . . Despite the recent renaissance of psychedelic research, little mention has been made of the potentials of peyote and mescaline use. . . . This hole in research is precisely why this text is of importance to the field. It offers a comprehensive understanding of the politics and history of peyote, and with the information it provides, it is a perfect place to start for psychologists who have an interest in psychedelic research or the exploration of consciousness as it pertains to spiritual ceremonies, traditions, and religion. . . . Anyone who wishes to find out more about peyote and its rich history of spiritual and indigenous use, as well as its legality, will find this collection both informative and comprehensive. The book’s truly interdisciplinary approach provides rich accounts that are so often difficult to find, or are left out entirely from research-based collections."—PsycCRITIQUES, January 11, 2017

"With different approaches, this interdisciplinary collection highlights the diversity of ways by which peyote can be employed, including both the Indigenous uses held as ‘traditional’ and the growing non-Indigenous practices related to New Age and neo-shamanic groups. Thus, the book shows how the multiple contemporary uses of this cactus are transversal and present challenges to geographic, ethnic, and analytical categories and definitions. The debates brought up in this volume address broad themes such as national and international drug policies, environmental sustainability, human and Indigenous rights, and ethnic and religious issues. With all this in mind, it is possible to say with no doubt that this collection constitutes an indispensible reference for those who want to know more about peyote, its history, and its multiple uses."—Isabel Santana de Rose, PhD in Anthropology, post-doc fellow at the Post-Graduation Program in Anthropology at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
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