Ian Benouis’ Drug War Story

I guess this my official coming out party. It’s my 15 minute Forrest Gump moment as part of the Psymposia’s Drug War Stories – Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing the Drug War. This was part of the Drug Policy Reform Conference last November 20th in Washington, DC.

This was a great lesson to me about the value of both riding the wave and also just showing up. I had not planned to go to this event as I was in activist mode without the money for the conference ticket or a place to stay.

Less than two weeks earlier, I was at the first veterans NORML conference in Houston with my veteran brother Louis Nevitt. I saw fellow veterans Matt Webb, David Bass and Lisa Nave.  Hung with fellow activists Mara Heisler Herrmann and Zoe Russell.

I got to spend time with my mentor and exemplar Jerry Patchen and his wife Linda who live in Houston where I went to law school.  Jerry Patchen helped enshrine protections for the Native American Church, of which he was a member, and took me to my first peyote ceremony, the UDV and Santo Daime in the US.  Jerry was also a Director and General Counsel of the Heffter Research Institute.   Thanks Jerry! I would have never met all my Psychedelic Godfathers, Terence McKenna, Dennis McKenna, Charlie Grob or David E Nichols without knowing you and I never would have thought that I could be some sort of entheogenic attorney without having you as someone I could look up to.

Sue Sisley was there speaking and she said Ian are you going to DC and I said I would really like to but didn’t have the funds. She said that she would let me use her badge if I went and that was good enough for me.

Soon after I accepted her offer I found out that another veteran brother Matt Kahl was going and had an airbnb place that I could stay and we could compare notes from our sacred medicine ceremony since we had seen each other last in Colorado with Ryan LeCompte and Christopher LaTona.

When I got there during the mid-week I was asked if would like to speak at the Catharsis event and of course I said yes. The next day my name was on the postcard promoting the event. How cool is that?!

I was the first speaker because I volunteered to go first. Probably not because I was courageous, but probably more that the kid from Hawaii was cold as hell wearing my slippers and not enough warm clothes and I figured if I went first I could get done more quickly.

At this conference I had the honor to meet the sweet and fiery grandmother, Ann Lee, from RAMP. I got to talk with one of my psychedelic Godmothers Julie Holland who was totally amazing in the closing talk and I was humbled and honored to be quoted by her a few times. I got to meet a good friend of my mentor Jerry Patchen, Luis Eduardo Luna, another Psychedelic Godfather whom I had met in Palenque almost 20 years earlier at the Botanical Preservation Corps conferences.  I listened to Bia Labate share her own amazing medicine story that brought the house down and had the crowd cheering for more. I got to meet Jeff Mizanskey the drug war hero serving life for cannabis that Obama had just pardoned.

And of course the veteran love is the best medicine. I got to meet Dakota Blue Serna and Barry Richardson. Well let’s just say we connected so deeply, that they are coming to Peru with me in May.  Got to hang with and be continuously entertained by TJ Thom, my Bad Manners lead singer come alive in real life and get all the latest drug war political intel from Michael Krawitz who’s been in the game way longer than any veteran I know.

So it was totally cathartic to tell my drug war story and now I get to share that with all of you. I could have never imagined how this would all turn out, and now I’m totally grateful how it did.

Aho, Ian

you know, Pharmastice Now! Just Say Know! End the Drug War! Give Peace a Chance! blah, blah, blah.


On Friday, November 20, 2015 at 7pm on the NW-side of the Washington Monument, a vigil for healing the chasms and scars of the drug war will begin. We invite you to join us for a multi-day Vigil on the National Mall. This Vigil will offer space for community building, information sharing, art, music, healing, and celebration.

An art installation, The Temple of Essence, will stand as a monument to honor the victims of the drug war. It is a peace-building structure focused on the communities impacted by this conflict and the mass incarceration of our citizens. This Temple will bring people together and create a space for reflection and healing.

For 24 hours, you are invited to share your stories of struggle, honor, remembrance, and hope within its walls.

On the evening of November 21, 2015, the event will culminate in a burning ceremony of the Temple of Essence transforming our individual stories into collective memory (burn permit pending). Then, we celebrate until the sun rises.

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About Ian Benouis

Ian is a West Point graduate, former US Army officer, Blackhawk helicopter pilot and combat veteran. He is Patient Number One for the Mission Within which treats special operators with PTSD, TBI and addiction using iboga and toad in Mexico. Ian has been helping wounded veterans for over 7 years. Ian has moderated numerous veteran’s panels including the MAPS Psychedelic Science conference in 2018 in Austin and the Bufo Congress in 2019 in Mexico City. He has founded an ONAC church chapter which was later returned to the parent church. He is a founder of a Santo Daime church which is the US chapter of a Brazilian government approved church and has founded a number of other medicine churches in the US with his law partner Greg Lake. Ian participated in Operation Just Cause in the Republic of Panama. This operation was the largest combat operation in US history focused directly on the War on Drugs and was the largest special operations deployment ever conducted. He was a pilot-in-command and his aviation brigade flew more night vision goggle hours than any unit in the military except for the Task Force 160 Special Operations which his unit was ultimately rolled up into when the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California military base was shut down. Ian grew up in Hawaii in the 1970’s where cannabis was decriminalized and fully integrated in to the culture. He has been healing himself for over 30 years with sacred plants, a spiritual practice, and being a student and practitioner of ethnobotany. Ian was a pharmaceutical representative for Pfizer after he got out of the Army witnessing firsthand the meteoric rise of the SSRI’s and synthetic opioids in the early 1990’s. He is a casualty of the drug war having been arrested for cannabis while in law school. Ian is an intellectual property attorney who has been working in the corporate world for over 20 years in the primary roles of VP of Sales and Marketing and General Counsel. He is a political activist in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space nationally and locally in Texas. Ian was previously the Chairman of the Board for a public policy foundation in Texas for over seven years. Ian was featured in the Spike Jonze produced episode Stoned Vets on Weediquette the cannabis focused series on Viceland on HBO with a number of other veterans protesting the VA’s policy on medical cannabis and trying to end the veteran suicide epidemic. In 2016 Ian organized a trip for six veterans with PTSD to Peru in May for a 10-day plant diet including ayahuasca and other plant medicines with three Shipibo trained shaman brothers that are third generation plant medicine healers. Ian also took some of the same veterans to Mexico for treatment with iboga and 5-Meo-DMT. This experience was captured on video and was released as a documentary in March 2017 entitled Soldiers of the Vine. He is member of the team supporting the movie From Shock to Awe a feature-length documentary that chronicles the journeys of military veterans as they seek relief from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with the help of ayahuasca, MDMA and cannabis. This movie premiered at the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona, AZ on June 2, 2018 where it captured the inaugural Mangurama Award for Conscious Documentary Storytelling. Ian Benouis’ Drug War Story as part of Psymposia’s Drug War Stories – Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing the Drug War. This was part of the Drug Policy Reform Conference November 20, 2016 in Washington, DC.