"It broke their hearts, and that was the beginning of the end of Immanuel's last marriage," Kent says. "From the time we knew him until he died, he was celibate."


Zapf and Kent were introduced to Trujillo in October 1977. They were in their mid-20s and recently had married in their home state of Pennsylvania.

They arrived at Trujillo's fledgling church through circumstance.

A man they had caught a ride with while traveling across the country had rescued Trujillo's elderly mentor, Yoakum, who had become trapped behind a refrigerator in his home.

"He would have died had our ride not entered his remote cabin and pushed it off him," Zapf says.

The two had been at Peyote Way, still called the Church of Holy Light, for a few days when Trujillo showed them a tray of drying peyote and offered them the opportunity to go on a spirit walk.

Soon after their first experience with the drug, the two decided to stay and join the church. They were designated by Trujillo as the "Reverend" Zapf and "Rabbi" Kent, although they have no formal affiliations to Christianity or Judaism.

Over the next several years, Trujillo, Zapf, and Kent worked to incorporate the burgeoning business, Mana Pottery, and to formally found the church, which officially was registered as a nonprofit organization in 1981, according to public records.

The pottery business expanded with the arrival of the married couple. Back in its heyday, Goldwater's Department Store carried Mana Pottery. Celebrities, including former NBA star and tie-dye-wearing big man Bill Walton, collected the colorful pieces featuring images of peyote and animal figures. And the Smithsonian Institution gave Trujillo's work a place in its permanent collection at the National Museum of the American Indian.

But the road to establishing the peyote-based church wasn't without obstacles. At various times, Trujillo, Zapf, and Kent each faced prosecution for possession of peyote, designated a schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

In the early '80s, Zapf and Kent were arrested in Texas while on a "spiritual mission" to purchase peyote from an authorized dealer. Trujillo was arrested at least twice, once in Denver in the '60s and again in 1986 in Globe, for eating part of a peyote button in front of a police officer.

Trujillo was acquitted in 1966 of possession of peyote in the Denver case and again in 1987 in the Globe arrest. Dr. Andrew Weil, a Tucson guru of alternative medicine and health food who teaches at the University of Arizona, acted as an expert witness in Trujillo's 1987 case.

During his testimony for the defense, Weil detailed his studies of peyote at Harvard University, the drug's impact on health and well-being, and the hallucinogenic effects of ingesting the plant.

Mescaline (the ingredient that makes people hallucinate) is the most commonly known psychoactive alkaloid in peyote, but as Kent is quick to point out — and as Weil attests in the court transcript — peyote has more than 50 different active alkaloids that make it unique.

"The effect of eating peyote is due to the interaction of all of these alkaloids. It can't be equated with eating pure mescaline, and so I think that [this] creates a lot of confusion in research because most of the research had been done with isolated mescaline and not with peyote," Weil stated. "I don't think the two are equivalent."

Through his testimony, Weil described his observations of individuals who had taken peyote.

"The initial effects, if a sufficient dose is eaten, are — probably within 30 minutes to an hour — some feelings of physiological distress, nausea, discomfort, fullness in the stomach, sweating, chills," he testified.

"These symptoms may last for one to two hours, and then usually subside and are replaced by . . . calmness, relaxation — during which the psychological changes occur, he said. "The total length of effects of eating a sufficient dose of peyote are . . . in the range of 10 to 12 hours."

The dosage necessary to experience hallucinations is hard to predict, Weil continued. But during his testimony, he explained that most people who take the drug need to ingest more than six cactus buttons to have a measurable effect. (The 21 grams used for Peyote Way's spirit walks is much more than that.)

Weil, who admitted taking peyote on at least three occasions, testified that the drug isn't harmful, particularly in the right setting.

"I think these are safe drugs if they're used in the appropriate context," Weil told the court, "much safer than many drugs we routinely administer to people for medical purposes."


Inside a small greenhouse at Peyote Way, thousands of button-size cacti cover the room's dirt floor like a rumpled green carpet. Kent estimates that there are 8,000 to 10,000 individual plants ranging in age from 10 to 100 years old. It's hard to imagine that it's a felony, technically, to cultivate, distribute, or consume each of the fragile-looking plants.

Because the DEA classifies peyote as a schedule I drug (along with LSD, heroin, Ecstasy, and marijuana) the penalty for "unlawful distribution, possession, or intent to distribute" any amount could result in up to a $10 million fine and 30 years in prison, although prosecutions rarely happen. Special Agent Ramona Sanchez with the Phoenix division of the DEA, says she's not aware of any recent peyote cases in Arizona.

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2 comments
hurricaneric
hurricaneric moderator

Here's a Letter to the Editor we received from Peyote Way Church:


1. Carlos Castenada’s work has long been regarded as fiction by scholars. For more accurate and scientific information about peyote’s alkaloids, please consult MAPS or EROWID, or Edward Anderson’s Peyote the Divine Cactus.

2. No one is getting rich off Peyote. The holy sacrament Peyote is not for sale at the Peyote Way Church. The gross income listed in the article does not reflect the taxes paid by Mana pottery, or the cost of upkeep for buildings, vehicles that wear out quickly on the rough roads, or minimal salaries for minimal staff. Our records are available upon request
 
3. The church is tolerated and even admired by many of its Mormon and non-Mormon neighbors. Mormons tend to know a thing or two about religious persecution and do not tend to practice it. The many other friends of the church, in and out of Graham County public office, will go unnamed, but we know who you are and appreciate your kindness, acceptance, and often support over the decades.
 
4. When Immanuel and his associates purchased the land in Aravaipa, it was not in foreclosure. It was Immanuel who was often battling foreclosure to hold this beautiful 160 acres as a sanctuary for all race Peyotism.
 
5. Membership is not a one time fee, but an annual donation. We, like all other non profit organizations, depend on membership support.
 
6. To a person who considers Peyote a Holy Sacrament it is painful to hear it described as a hallucinogen. We consider the word hallucinogen to be a pejorative. It is an inaccurate term that has been used since the 50’s and 60’s to denigrate the Peyote experience and not an accurate description.
 
7. The establishment of discriminatory Peyote laws that limit Peyote use strictly to Native American members of the Native American Church, while prohibiting these same people from cultivating their holy sacrament, is a threat to the survival of this sacred plant.

Rev. Anne L Zapf, Apostle, with approval of the Peyote Way Church of God Board of Stewards

mtomchee
mtomchee

It's difficult not to quickly judge these individuals as peyote, a healing medicine to our Native peoples, has provided psychological benefits through mind-body connections. It's not surprising that non-natives have embraced this herb to heal PTSD and other ailments in their quest for spiritual enlightenment. In the early years (1950s and 1960s) the Native Americans fought unwaveringly to legalize the possession/use of this healing herb. The result is the passage of the Native American Religious Freedom Act of 1978. This non-profit group should follow the same suite in all fairness.


 
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