Psychedelic Medicine


Mescaline History and Legality with Mike Jay


Mike Jay is an author who has written widely on the history of science and medicine. His books include High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture and his latest, Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic.

In this episode, Mike discusses his research into mescaline and its extended history. Mike shares the cultural significance of huachuma and peyote for indigenous tribes in Mexico and Peru dating back over 3000 years. He also talks about western research into mescaline starting in the 19th century, and even mentions how peyote was almost incorporated into the Mormon Church!

Mescaline is considered a class A drug by many countries, and Mike discusses some of the legal “blurry areas” based on different types of cacti containing it. He also covers the environmental impact of improperly harvesting peyote, how industrial mining is destroying peyote’s environment, and what native tribes in Mexico are doing to protect this endangered plant.

In This Episode

• The origins of mescaline-related terms including san pedro, huachuma, and peyote.
• The traditional uses of huachuma and peyote.
• How mescaline was discovered and what led to its criminalization.
• The differences between peyote and huachuma.
• Why peyote is endangered and what is being done to protect it.


“All those kind of great early accounts of peyote from the 1890s are all very full-on, first-person (what we would call trip reports), written by people who are often doctors, but who are also often poets and writers. People who are very, very good at medical description. So these are kind of beautiful pieces of psychedelic literature.” [6:14]

“There are reports from the 17th/18th century of villages where everybody would get together, usually around a fire, usually at night. peyote would be passed around and people would sing and dance through the night.” [21:04]

“Your average cactus supplier, or sometimes even your cactus garden center will have huachuma. So the legal status of the cactus is kind of blurry.” [25:38]

“We kind of go, ‘Oh Psychedelics! That story started in the ’60s or ’50s.’ If you look at mescaline it’s like, no. I mean there are western stories starting way back in the 19th century.” [36:50]


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