Defending the boundaries of human identity

The first time I contacted Richard Glen Boire, an American attorney and author who specializes in writing about cannabis and other entheogenic substances, he reacted with caution.
“I’m a criminal defense, appellate and research attorney,” Boire said, “and I have learned that you can never be too careful.”

After I convinced Boire that I was indeed a bona fide journalist rather than an agent of government doom, he directed me to meet him in a secret location hundreds of miles from either of our homes. The interview and photo session were to take place in a private garden owned by one of Boire’s top-level legal clients. I had to pass through multiple checkpoints and endure the steely gaze of private security officers before I met Boire and his beautiful female companion, a tall and sensual doctoral candidate who massaged Boire’s shoulders as he firmly shook hands with me.

Boire is a diminutive, sweet-tempered man, with an intense gaze and the face of a teenager. Totally inscrutable. What else did I expect from the man who wrote Marijuana Law and published the lauded ‘Entheogen Law Reporter?’

Boire’s Marijuana Law is an information-rich guide to pot laws in the United States, but it’s also a politically-charged documentation of the drug war’s dismantling of the American constitution. Americans have long been told that their constitution is the most important socio-political document ever written. Boire’s book shows that if that’s true, then the drug war should be considered a crime against humanity. Even if you don’t live in the US, you’ll find Boire’s book an interesting read.

‘The Entheogen Law Reporter’ is a feisty and timely newsletter. Boire covers the latest news about peyote, mushrooms, cannabis, DMT, MDMA and other consciousness-altering substances. For those of us who have explored inner space using only cannabis, Boire’s newsletter and website ( are quite enlightening. There are other highs, other plants, other chemistry beyond our beloved cannabis!

Boire’s legal training and sharp wit allow him to dissect technical and philosophical aspects of entheogen law, and his feisty defense of personal freedom is practical and inspiring.

He has successfully represented dozens of drug defendants, but says he is becoming burned out on the American “justice” system because the legal tools that defense lawyers used to use are being stripped away by anti-liberty rulings at all levels.

As the sun spun across the azure sky, my interview with this iconoclastic genius commenced.

Pete Brady: You are one of the youngest-looking attorneys I’ve ever seen. Where did you get your legal training? What made you decide to specialize in civil liberties and drug law?

Richard Boire: I have a doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of California, Berkeley, the Boalt Hall School of Law. I graduated in 1990 and shuffled around law firms in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento before accepting the idea that law firms were toxic environments; at least for me.

Fortunately, such day work provided me with enough funds to pay down a large mountain of student debt. Disillusioned with practicing law, I decided that if I was going to remain a lawyer, I would have to practice law in my own manner and address issues that really matter to me.

In law school they train you to argue any side of any legal issue; to advocate for whatever the client ? usually a behemoth corporation ? orders. But I am not a hired gun. I only work on issues I believe in. Anything else is a waste of life, an exchange of mental autonomy for a complete living-room sofa set and similar lifestyle accoutrements. I’m not going to yield control of my mind to the highest bidder, nor do I think control should be wrestled from me by the government telling me, under threat of imprisonment, that some states of consciousness are off limits.

P Brady: You’ve said that entheogen users are today’s “Mystery Church.” What does that mean?

R Boire: Entheogens can catapult consciousness outside of mainstream cultural paradigms, rearranging perception so dramatically, that a reliance network of other believers can be very helpful and encouraging. Any person whose sacrament has been outlawed by the government, and who is made a criminal for going to his or her church, has no option but to operate in secret. Having to choose between serving God or serving Caesar is not a new dichotomy, nor are Mystery Churches a thing only of the present. Just the opposite. Many people who have discovered forbidden wisdom and power have had to hide themselves in small tribes of believers. The “mystery,” the “hidden knowledge,” is taken as a precaution against the intrusive tactics of Big Brother. Preservation and respect, not paranoia, is the motivation.

I use the term “church” liberally. Any organization with prefabricated beliefs is bound to become ossified or dogmatic and inimical to the creativity and freedom of its members.

PB: That’s a cool idea, that pot people and other users of entheogens are a kind of church. Is your publication, ‘The Entheogenic Law Reporter,’ is a way for church members to communicate with each other?

RB: ‘The Entheogen Law Reporter’ (TELR) is alive and well. New issues come out seasonally. It is the primary vehicle for disseminating my thoughts on the Holy War on Drugs and was started in the winter of 1993 shortly after I had an experience with traditional ayahuasca. The potion energized me in every way, and finally motivated me to start disseminating legal commentary on the interspace of personal mental freedom and the government control of consciousness.

The legal landscape of entheogens is vast and paradoxical, horrifying and comical. TELR tries to shed light on the disinformation juggernaut and ignorance-by-design of entheogen law. Although I’m generally pessimistic about the likelihood of any legal change in the near future, I continue writing TELR because I feel it is a fairly open-ended vehicle for self-expression, allowing me much leeway in analysis and speculation.

It is a very helpful publication. You show how people can save themselves a lot of trouble by knowing the law and not making stupid mistakes. I also like what you have done to critique that diabolical police-worshiping show called ‘Cops.’ I have always thought that those kind of shows were blatant public relations vehicles for police.

I started generating the COPSwatch report after seeing an episode of the FOX network’s ‘Cops’ television show while at a friend’s house. I was stunned by how many constitutional violations I saw on that episode, causing me to give my friend a running commentary of everything the cops were doing that was unconstitutional.

The more I thought about it, the more disturbed I became. Here was a nationally televised show that week after week glamorized the violation of constitutional rights. Understand, I embrace necessary law enforcement, and believe that any society comprised of millions and millions of people must have a system for restraining people who are dangerous to others. What I don’t like is when that system itself becomes dangerous, its transgressions and crimes invisible and even embraced.

I conceived the idea of writing a weekly emailed legal commentary on the show, giving birth to the concept of the “media parasite,” a new species of information virus ? one that attacks malignant bad ideas and actions and attempts to transform them.

I wrote these reports for a full season of shows, more than 30 of them.

They were sent by email to anyone who wanted to read them. When we pulled the plug there were hundreds of subscribers, all drawn by word-of-mouth. Many wanted the commentaries to continue, but I was overworked and could not continue them.

I am planning to restart the service in January, assuming that the ‘Cops’ TV show is still on the air. The project will be named “The COPSlaw Report: Media Parasite G2.” We may utilize Real Audio this time rather than, or in addition to, email text.

PB: How does cannabis use fit in with other entheogens? Why do you think people use cannabis? Are there situations and/or people that are not compatible with positive cannabis use?

RB: Any drug may be abused; cannabis is no exception. A mature society would provide its citizens accurate information on wisely using any technology ? natural or artificial ? not issue a decree to “just say no” and then spread false information.

I believe that a great deal of cannabis abuse is a result of the cultural clamp of criminalization. The dissemination of information on wise cannabis use has taken a distant second seat to the American government’s $195 million media campaign, backed up by force of criminal law, calling for complete abstention. As a result, kids and other first-time smokers necessarily encounter cannabis under cover of “badness,” and “defiance.”

The current laws are simply going to produce a world of unsophisticated adult marijuana smokers, many with the attitudes and understanding of 16-year-old “stoners.”

The establishment hates the plant because it promotes non-linear thinking. If you are programmed every day by TV, the number one drug, to believe that all choices are binary, then non-binary thinking is perceived as scary or wildly dangerous. Creative thinking causes serious unrest in corporate board rooms.

PB: I hate corporations. They have all the rights of a real person but none of the responsibilities! Anyway, I read in your writings that entheogen users are cultural catalysts. What do you mean?

RB: All breakthroughs and innovations in science and culture are directly tied to alternative modes of perception and conception. Be they from the creative “ah ha! Eureka!” moment, dreams, DMT, novel visual or mental juxtapositions that trigger new associations, or getting struck by lightning through a telephone wire.

The 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry was shared by Kary Mullis whose pioneering break-through work in RNA and DNA was inspired by his use of LSD. I think that some roots of deconstructionist philosophy can also be traced to the use of entheogens by certain people. And it’s not only such “monumental changes” that are catalyzed by entheogens or entheogen users. Entheogens, wisely used, can elicit personal revelations that motivate a person to re-organize his or her life in a healthier way, or to adapt to change.

For example, entheogens have shown great utility in fostering the psychological adjustment necessary by people diagnosed with a terminal illness. Only the very tip of their potential has been uncovered. Many entheogen potentialities are in lockdown under the criminal laws which bar almost all research projects utilizing them.

PB: Give us a sales pitch for your books ‘Marijuana Law’ and ‘Sacred Mushrooms and the Law.’

RB: These books provide accurate legal information on topics that have been cloaked in government disinformation and wide-spread urban myth. ‘Marijuana Law’ concentrates on educating people about their constitutional rights on numerous topics, including encounters with police, searches, drug courier and drug package profiles, telephone taps and hi-tech surveillance. ‘Marijuana Law’ arms people with a solid understanding of their rights and how to invoke them to protect their privacy and liberty.

‘Sacred Mushrooms and the Law,’ featuring a foreword by Terence McKenna, covers all the law pertaining to psilocybin and psilocin as well as the mushrooms that endogenously produce those natural entheogens. Most states don’t have laws that explicitly outlaw mushrooms. Instead prosecutors argue that mushrooms are illegal because they are “containers” or “mixtures” with the scheduled substances psilocybin and psilocin. This is so absurdly reductionistic that it would be impossible to take seriously, if people weren’t being convicted under it.

‘Sacred Mushrooms and the Law’ discusses the cases were people have been arrested for cultivating or possessing entheogenic mushrooms and critiques the argument that mushrooms are properly considered within the legal meaning of “mixture” or “container.” The book also discusses the laws related to mushroom spores and companies that sell them.

PB: What uses and challenges are presented by drugs such as DMT?

RB: Dimethyltryptamine, otherwise known as DMT, is an outlawed substance, but is naturally produced by many plants. Some of these plants, like Psychotria viridis which is added to ayahuasca, are used in bona fide religious ceremonies. In Brazil, where the largest ayahuasca churches operate, the brew is explicitly legal. But its legality is not so certain in the USA.

It is certainly a crime to possess or smoke laboratory-made DMT, but I have a deep philosophical objection to the government outlawing nature. On what authority can a government declare that a living organism in the natural world is illegal, and that other humans are not to interact with it? My outrage about this is amplified when the particular lifeform outlawed is the central sacrament of someone’s religion. The government has set itself up as God and kicked us all out of the Garden of Eden.

It is absurd for goon squads to helicopter down an armed team of black-dressed agents who slash and burn flowering plants and pack off the grower to a penitentiary for a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. I know someone who once called an official of the DEA and asked her why low-THC hemp was illegal to cultivate. The official screamed, “Because it’s against the law!” and slammed the phone down. It’s illegal because it’s illegal! This is the unexamined tautological logic that pervades society.

PB: How did governments get the idea that they could control our ability to alter consciousness? Has this been codified into law?

RB: I am working on this topic for an academic book titled Religious Convictions. I hope to finish it in the next year or so. I believe that the War on Some Drugs is a religious war, a Holy War fought over conflicting world views.

This goes back, of course to the Protestants who wrote the laws for America. They were scripture-based and looked askance at pleasure and individuality. Individuals were considered “born sinners” who needed an authoritarian community to keep them in line.

Law is based on precedent. Our entire legal system, including the laws against entheogens, rests on a fundamentally Protestant base ? on a Judeo-Christian model of reality. I believe this underlies a great deal of the Holy War on Drugs. This war is not really about “saving our children” ? it’s about what it fundamentally means to be a human being. It’s also about power ? who wields it and who yields to it. It’s about who gets to define what “normal” behavior is. It’s about the right to control our consciousness and our view of reality.

Marijuana and other entheogen legalization is far more than just the right to smoke a weed or drink a potion or chew a chemically-enhanced piece of paper, it’s about defending the boundaries of human identity. It’s about the investigation of the self, and the need to do so. The corporate-government alliance does not want you to explore yourself and reality ? they need drones to run copy machines all day. If drones rebel, how will their owners make their BMW car payments?

PB: I heard that a form of DMT occurs naturally in our brains, and that this means that are brains our illegal.

RB: The government’s position ? that anything that contains a controlled substance, such as DMT, is itself an outlawed substance ? would make our own brains illegal since all mammals have small amounts of DMT naturally in their cerebrospinal fluid.

This illustrates the absurdity of the government’s reductionistic and scientifically specious position with respect to naturally occurring entheogens.

PB: Have you experienced personal persecution or professional censure for your entheogen advocacy?

RB: Well, there is no doubt that what I have written would preclude me from getting a job as Ross Perot’s legal counsel. Drug law is very political, and taking the position that the drug laws need a thorough re-write does not go over well with members of the status quo.

The great benefit of working for yourself is that you are responsible only to yourself. This is a great responsibility if you believe in what you think, but it is also an insulation against public criticism. I am not impressed with a public that sucks the pacifier of network television, feeds at the troughs of fast food shops, shuffles up and down the polished hallways of mega-malls. Their profound indifference to what I do does not amount to censorship or persecution.

PB: Obviously, personal safety is a big concern of yours, but you seem willing to risk all for entheogens.

RB: Well, I really don’t consider myself an “activist.” I think the laws will not change until pop culture wants them to change. I do not believe that pot “rallies” held on the steps of state capitols do much good at all. My books and especially my newsletter are my vehicles for expressing my thoughts on entheogen policy. I’m not so much concerned about personal safety as I am with practicing what I preach by maintaining my privacy, particularly from the number one privacy invader, the US government.

PB: What are your predictions about the future of the drug war?

RB: The drug war has been very successful in doing what it was secretly designed to do: keeping the poor classes immobile, and the middle-class scared out of their wits. Elites know this and are not about to give in. US infrastructure operates largely on inertia. When the Volstead Act was repealed, thousands of police, including, Harry J. Anslinger, were out of work overnight. The War on Some Drugs is a boon to law enforcement, the prison industry, the pharmaceutical and alcohol lords and to those companies that manufacture hi-tech devices for testing body fluids and conducting surveillance.

As for the future, the Drug War is serving exactly who it was designed to serve. The middle-class, at large, do not perceive it as an abomination because they are too afraid of becoming the lower-class. Until there is real protest from much of the citizenry, nothing much will happen. The outcome of the medical marijuana issue may be decisive, and certainly an indicator of things to come.

PB: What do you think people are trying to achieve when they experiment with entheogens?

RB: Their intentions are varied and individualistic. I suspect that many people don’t have much intent. They are just interested in learning what all the hubbub is about. Some of those people end up having profound experiences that convince them of the enormous potential of entheogens. Others may never move beyond just getting altered.

The people I represent are very serious about their entheogen use. For most of my clients, entheogens are sacraments. For some, they are powerful tools for stimulating creativity or for gaining psychological insights about themselves. Others believe in their value as cognitive enhancers or intelligence boosters.

PB: What cautions or information would you offer to people who use entheogens? From your research and observation, what contributes to maximizing the therapeutic and transcendental potential of entheogens, and to minimizing possible negative effects?

RB: The entheogen users who have most impressed me always enter into an entheogen experience with a set intention, whether it be to reach a mystical or visionary state, tackle a problem which seems intractable, ponder a particular possibility, or to get a deep felt-experience of the organic web of life.

Whatever it is, they spend time before the experience thinking about and setting their aim. This is usually done in conjunction with a fast for at least the twelve hours preceding the experience. Fasting is beneficial for a number of reasons. It can help reduce nausea during the experience and, with certain entheogens that employ an MAO inhibitor (ayahuasca for example), fasting prevents what could be a dangerous drug or food interaction.

In addition to setting their intentions, wise users are very cognizant of the environment or setting in which they will be ingesting their entheogen. They carefully select the physical environment as well as the people ? if any ? that they will interact with. If they take them in a group setting, they agree upon ground rules prior to ingestion. Things such as the kind of music, if any, that will be used, and whether they will remain silent or talk amongst themselves.

In short, the people who really get a lot out of their experiences, tend to be pretty serious about why, how, and when they ingest entheogens. Entheogens are enormously powerful, and wise users treat them as such.

The glyphs framing the page are derived from a 16th century Aztec sculpture of Xochipilli, ecstatic Prince of Flowers. They represent various hallucinogenic plants: from left to right, the glyphs represent: tendril of the morning glory; flower of tobacco; flower of morning glory; bud of sinicuiche, stylized caps of psilocybe aztectorum and mushroom cap.
– From ‘Plants of the Gods’ by Schultes and Hofmann.