Maja Kohek, PhD candidate

ICEERS & Universidad Rovira i Virgili

Ancient psychoactive plants in a global village: The ritual use of cannabis in a self-managed community in Catalonia


According to international drug laws, changes in the schedule of controlled drugs should be based on scientific evidence. However, social actions significantly contribute to many of these changes being made. There are several cases worldwide where changes in drug policies resulted from the activism of those who benefited from drug use. Biomedicine, as a source of evidence to base drug policy decisions on, is limited. Thus, other approaches are needed that show how drugs are being used in society.

Field research involving radical participation methods was conducted inside a phenomenological community of rural Catalonia, where ancient psychoactive plants (APP), such as ayahuasca or cannabis, are ritually integrated and regularly used in the community. Self- and/or community-controlled use of psychoactive plants, as medicines and as sacraments, may benefit both the individual and society by reducing potential harms and strengthening bonds between community members.

Evidence from ethnographic field work should be considered alongside evidence from biomedicine when drug policy decisions are made. The fieldwork offers a clearer picture of what is happening in society, outside of the drug research laboratories and other data sources.


Maja Kohek is a PhD student of Medical Anthropology and Global Health at the University Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. She is investigating long-term controlled ritual use of psychoactive (shamanic) plants in rural Catalonia and its personal and societal effects. She is also researching the impact of long-term exposure to ayahuasca on public health. She co-authored several papers, news paper articles, translations and held presentations on a national and international level. Since 2016 she is collaborating with the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research & Services (ICEERS) in Spain.



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