Media Report: Ayahuasca Arrests on the Rise in Spain

In the last three months, Spanish law enforcement agencies have intervened in four ayahuasca and other psychedelic plant ceremonies, arresting the facilitators, who now await trial. The arrests and seizures have been widely reported in the Spanish media, which have echoed the press releases issued by the police departments.

Is the Spanish government planning to ban ayahuasca, as Italy and France have done in recent years? The consumption of ayahuasca by neo-shamanic groups and ayahuasca churches (the União do Vegetal and Santo Daime) has been happening discreetly and without interruption in Spain since the 1990s. ​​However, only recently has this practice begun to attract media attention, often in a sensationalist manner.

To date, the Spanish authorities have not enacted specific legislation regarding ayahuasca and other psychedelic plants, perhaps because they have been under the radar and there are no reports of serious accidents or complaints about the practice.

Francisco Azorín, a lawyer who advocates for the right to use plants as entheogens, believes that the latest police operations against ayahuasca can be explained by a statistical issue. “This [practice] has always been done underground until, suddenly, ayahuasca associations and retreats started to emerge and the complaints began,” he says.

Azorín has been involved in defending Spanish cannabis clubs for years, and in 2021 he obtained a historic acquittal in an ayahuasca case. The court recognized that the tea cannot be considered a “toxic drug, narcotic or psychotropic substance.” In this context, it is significant that out of about a hundred complaints related to ayahuasca – almost all of them for seizures by customs officials– all but one ended in acquittal.

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Ayahuasca Arrests on the Rise in Spain

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