The Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light, founded in Alabama in 2015, is fighting to raise awareness of the medicinal potential of marijuana and other natural drugs. The church has been licensed as a federally registered branch of the Oklevueha Lakota Sioux Nation Native American Church, which has a religious exemption allowing its members to use psilocybin mushrooms and peyote cactus. Each of the 120 members of the church carries a photo ID that identifies them as protected under this exemption.
“I smoke cannabis on a daily basis for my pain,” said Janice Rushing, president and co-founder of the church. “If I did not, I’d be on pain pills.” Oklevueha CEO Chris Rushing has said that natural, hallucinogenic plants are “God’s way of turning our brain on.” Rushing pointed out how plant or herbal medicines like marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms are illegal, while synthetic drugs that have addictive properties or harmful side effects are still legal.
“These entheogens work like tools to open up spaces and pathways of the mind,” Rushing said. “Yet it’s illegal. We all walk around producing natural chemicals that do the same.”
Last May, clinical psychologist Peter Hendricks spoke at an event sponsored by the church about research that he has conducted on psilocybin. “I don’t support criminalizing any drug use,” Hendricks said. “People who have addictions are not helped by criminalization. If it were up to me, there would be more emphasis on providing treatment, less emphasis on punitive measures for people who are addicted.”