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New group pushes Vt. to decriminalize hallucinogenic plants

Updated: Jun. 19, 2021 at 12:05 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A new group in Vermont is pushing for the decriminalization of plants and fungi that they say have healing powers.

“DecriminalizeNature Vermont” says entheogenic plants have been used for thousands of years to guide people in spiritual self-exploration and healing.

Rory Van Tuinen says he took an entheogenic plant from South America called Ayahuasca to beat drug addiction.

“It instilled in me a sense of peace and serenity,” Van Tuinen said.

Van Tuinen says he after taking Ayahuasca, he immediately stopped abusing heroin, which he had been addicted to for a decade.

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew that, when taken, can lead to hallucinations or out-of-body experiences.

Van Tuinen says he had visions and a divine intervention.

“Definitely had visions of the past and it gave me a chance to relive some experiences in the past, maybe traumatic experiences, and just kind of get a new perspective on it,” he said.

Some research shows Ayahuasca and other entheogenic plants can treat PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse and depression.

Carly Nix, a leader of DecriminalizeNature Vermont, believes plant medicine can help people expand their consciousness and compassion.

“To help people move past traumas and heal from terrible things that have happened in the past— to keep that from people, I think is really a travesty,” Nix said.

DecriminalizeNature Vermont is pushing the state legislature to pass H.Bill 309, which seeks to decriminalize naturally occurring entheogens statewide.

“People are all about nature in Vermont and healing with beautiful nature,” Nix said. “And also, I already believe that people should be able to grow their own cannabis and heal with cannabis so this seems like a pretty natural next step.”

DecriminalizeNature Vermont is also looking into how entheogen-use would be regulated upon decriminalization and how to avoid dangerous acts such as hallucinating while driving. Nix says they want to create spaces, in places like community centers or houses of worship, where people could go to safely take plant medicines while under the supervision of a trained guide.

Some research does warn of risks associated with Ayahuasca. Some studies reveal Ayahuasca can increase heart rate and blood pressure and can be dangerous when taken with certain medications like anti-depressants. It also suggests that people who have a history of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia avoid Ayahuasca, as it could worsen those symptoms.

DecriminalizeNature Vermont held their first meeting on Thursday night.

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