Best Practices for Protecting and Empowering Sacred Medicine Communities: A Dialogue with Sean McAllister and Rob Heffernan

Wednesday, June 17th from 12pm-1:30pm PST
Presented Live Online via Crowdcast


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Event Description:

The use of ayahuasca and other sacramental medicines in the United States has greatly expanded over the last 20 years. What began as an obscure Amazonian sacred plant medicine used in small hidden groups has blossomed into a vibrant movement that includes other fungi, plants and sacramental medicines. It now involves everything from extremely well organized churches who have won major court cases to traditionally-based shamanic and syncretic groups that have organized themselves into incorporated spiritual congregations to some questionable “new age” endeavors and occasionally fraudulent practitioners. 

This discussion will offer perspectives on some of the social and legal challenges and opportunities that sacramental medicine communities face in the US including recent seizures by Homeland Security and lawsuits filed agains the DEA/DOJ. Sean and Rob will suggest ways groups can organize and protect themselves, engage in legal harm reduction and associate with like minded groups. They will also outline how Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants can support the community in these efforts. 


Rob Heffernan is an independent researcher and activist who has been involved in the vegetalismo, Santo Daime and other syncretic traditions since 2000. He has been involved with legal issues and organizing efforts in the Santo Daime and ayahuasca community for the last 12 years and has recently begun to speak and write about these matters publicly. He is a Chair of the Board of Directors of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines and part of Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants. He is involved with integration work as a certified Shamanic Breathwork facilitator and a certified Integrative Sound and Music Practitioner (sound healing). This is complimented by a long term involvement with Buddhist Dharma. He has recently begun to write and speak about the integration of Buddhist Dharma and medicine work.

Sean McAllister is one of nation’s leading drug policy reform lawyers. In 2004, after working for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office for several years, Sean opened a solo law practice focused on criminal defense and represented hundreds of people charged with state and federal drug crimes. That same year, he founded the drug policy reform non-profit Sensible Colorado. Sean served as the chair of the Board of Directors of Sensible Colorado while the organization co-chaired the Colorado recreational marijuana legalization campaign that voters passed in 2012. Sean has also worked on broader drug policy reform issues as a member of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Today, Sean’s law firm, McAllister Garfield, P.C., has 15 lawyers in four states working primarily on cannabis business law and licensing matters. As part of his work, Sean’s firm has sued regulators numerous times under the administrative procedures act, petitioned the DEA to reconsider a harmful CBD rule, and represented Native America Tribes attempting to participate in the cannabis and hemp industries. In addition to cannabis, Sean is the General Counsel to the Decriminalize Denver campaign and an appointed member of the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel, which is the first ballot initiative in the U.S. designed to remove criminal penalties for the possession of psilocybin. Sean also acted as a legal advisor to the Decriminalize California campaign, which is seeking to decriminalize and regulate psilocybin mushrooms by ballot initiative in California in 2020. Sean is a member of Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants and Chacruna’s co-General Counsel.

Community Partner:

The Future of Psilocybin Therapy: The Oregon Approach w/ Sam Chapman Wednesday, August 12th, from 12pm-1:30pm PST *REGISTER FOR TICKETS HERE* Scholarships Available: APPLY HERE.

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