Rob Heffernan – Psychedelic Liberty Summit: Religion and Plant Medicines

In this episode, Kyle sits down with Rob Heffernan, an independent researcher and activist. In the show, they talk about churches, Ayahuasca, accessibility and the Psychedelic Liberty Summit by the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. Rob is also part of Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants

The Council for the Protection of Sacred plants is “an initiative of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines that endeavors to advocate for the legality of sacred plant medicines among indigenous peoples and non-indigenous communities, encourage legal harm reduction practices that protect those who use them, educate about conservation of plant species, document relevant legal and social issues, and consult on legal cases including possible litigation. ” 

3 Key Points:

  1. The Psychedelic Liberty Summit is a gathering on legal, cultural, and political issues around the emerging psychedelic renaissance.
  2. Accessibility is not just about whether or not people can afford psychedelic therapy, people cant even afford regular therapy, the whole healthcare model is an issue.
  3. A lot of churches get a bad name, but really most churches are built around community. Psychedelics can help revitalize churches.

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Show Notes


About Rob

  • Rob is a member of the Chacruna Council for protection of sacred plants
  • He is an integrative sound and music practitioner
  • He is involved in the Santo Daime
  • He has been drinking Ayahuasca for over 20 years
  • He began to ponder and ask a lot of questions about involvement with medicine communities

Psychedelic Liberty Summit

  • Rob will be hosting a talk on religious exemptions and more
  • There will be speakers of all different initiatives, from decriminalization to indigenous relations
  • There are a lot of investors interested in the psilocybin market
  • The issue is complex because there is this ongoing cultural history of the US and other countries exploiting those cultures and removing resources (oil, medicines, etc)


  • The first time Rob drank Ayahuasca was back in 2000, where there weren’t Ayahuasca retreats going on then
    • People who lived in the area were not familiar with Ayahuasca use
    • People started coming from around the world to use Ayahuasca
    • There are feedback loops between the cities and the forests
  • People typically think integration is what happens afterwards, but really it is also the sacrifice from the start, the preparation, such as a dieta
  • We need to honor what we have learned from the indigenous, and give back
  • Traditional dietas don’t involve actually drinking the Ayahuasca, the culture has come a long way


  • While these medicines are relatively safe, you can get in trouble using these substances recreationally, there is a role for the therapeutic support
  • It’s not just about whether or not people can afford psychedelic therapy, people cant even afford regular therapy, the whole healthcare model is an issue

Santo Daime

  • It was founded in the 1930’s in Brazil
  • The reason that the Santo Daime looks more white in the USA is due to the segregation
  • There are all sorts of ways that the Santo Daime may look
    • When Rob first got involved in drinking Ayahuasca, he wasn’t sure that he wanted to get involved in the Santo Daime, but he said the container was so strong
    • There are hymns sung, and it’s very structured
    • It allows you to really go deep
    • Sometimes it can look like drumming, dancing, and fire, but there is also a style of sitting in silence
  • There is a profound ethical foundation which is really important
    • All of the elements make for a really important container
  • In the traditional form, you do not touch anyone, unless there is a certain circumstance, and a prior consensual agreement, and waivers signed, etc
    • There have been issues of sexual abuse in the psychedelic realm, the Santo Daime takes many precautions against this


  • There are legal churches in the US through the Daime and the UDV (União do Vegetal)
  • The Daime has 5 churches that are explicitly legal
    • The government has decided not to pursue or prosecute Ayahuasca for those other churches
  • From Shock to Awe
  • Someone tragically died at the Soul Quest Church, but it wasn’t related to ayahuasca
  • There are a lot of people that claim to be a part of a Native American church that are not
    • A lot of people reach out to Chacruna on how to become a part of the Native American Church to hold ceremonies, and it’s not easy, you almost have to already be a part of it, instead of just joining
  • Some people don’t like the word church, but it originates from the words ‘congregation’ and ‘assembly’
  • The problem is the controlled substances act, that these things are illegal in the first place” – Rob
  • “The experience in all those settings is about community. The goal isn’t to have spiritual experiences, its to have a spiritual life” – Rob
  • Psychedelics and entheogens could be central to creating a new hub
  • It is possible to create psychedelic churches outside of the Santo Daime
  • The Ayahuasca tradition really uses the potential of group process
  • “How individual is the psychedelic experience, where you need some one-on-one work?” – Kyle

Psychedelic Liberty Summit

  • April 25-26 in San Francisco
  • Discount Code: PsychedelicsToday for 10% off at checkout


Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicine

Psychedelic Liberty Summit 


About Rob Heffernan

Rob Heffernan has been involved in the Peruvian curandero tradition and the Santo Daime for the last 16 years. He was a member and chairman of the North American Santo Daime Legal Committee for a number of years. He has been engaged in independent research and active in ad hoc groups promoting legal clarity and ethical integrity in the Ayahuasca Community. He is also a certified Integrative Sound and Music Practitioner; Shamanic Breath Work Facilitator; and a long time student and practitioner of Buddhist Dhamma. He has a BA in Communications and Social Studies from Fordham University, and works in the AV/IT communication industry.

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