Ethnobotany and Chemistry of Psychoactive Plants: Botanical Preservation Corps Field Course in Palenque, Mexico

Botanical Preservation Corps invites you to attend a private seminar on Ethnobotany and Chemistry of Psychoactive Plants with Albert Hoffman, Alexander & Ann Shulgin, Terence and Dennis McKenna, Jonathan Ott, Luis Eduardo Luna, Kary Mullis, Bertt Blosser, Christain Ratsch, Paul Stamets, Deborah Mash, Stacy Schaefer, Ken Symington, Manuel Torres and Rob Montgomery. 

two 7-day intensive field courses are to be held at the Mayan Temples of Palenque in the remote tropical rainforests of Southern Mexico.

  • botany, chemistry and cultivation of major and obscure psychoactive plants
  • history of modern ethnopharmacology and ethnomycology
  • peyote & solandra amoung the Huichol and the role of women in shamanism
  • ancient & contemporary Anadenanthera snuffs of the Atacama Desert
  • plant teachers of Amazonian shamanism and modern ayahuasca cults in Brazil
  • iboga ethnobotany and ibogaine in experimental research
  • training in field techniques used for ethnobotanical specimen collecting
  • native uses and preparations of entheogenic plants, past and present
  • practical methods for extraction, isolation and assay of active plant compounds
  • ayahuasca and admixture plants and novel ayahuasca analogs
  • ethnobotany, chemistry and cultivation of entheogenic mushrooms and fungi

Come spend a week at the ancient sacred Mayan temple city of Palenque, discovering the mysteries of the rainforest, learning all about the psychoactive plants and mushrooms form the leading experts in an informal, intensive training seminar.  Find out how to grow and prepare plant materials.  Study the sacred plants of shamanism, past and present.  Train in the methods of ethnobotany and field techniques for plant collecting right in the mystical primary climax rainforest of this ancient ceremonial center.  This is an opportunity not be missed!  The seminar will be in the form of hands-on training, practical workshops, demonstrations, instruction, talks and lectures, with a range of exotic botanical material for study.  Evenings will be devoted to slideshow presentations.  There will also be ample time for exploring the ruins and surrounding rainforest on your own.  The past BPC seminars have become legendary undergound events.  Join us!


I attended these 8th and 9th iterations of the Botanical Preservation Corps at Palenque in January of 1996 and again in January of 1997 while I was in law school.  For the second iteration I applied for and received a David Beilharz scholarship to attend.

Please briefly describe your reason for wanting to participate in this seminar.

I want to attend this seminar primarily to gain greater knowledge about native and non-native uses of entheogenic plants in both past history and presently.  According to the description of the seminar and the presenters, there will be significant coverage on tthe topics of shamanic, religious, medical/scientific and secular uses of these plant sacraments.

How might the knowledge aquired by your participation in this seminar be applied for the benefit or use by persons other than yourself? 

I have three main areas of interest that the knowledge that I would hopefully aquire that could potentially provide benefit to other people.  First, I am interested in utilizing my legal skills to preserve entheogenic religious freedom for others in this country.  Second, I am interested in utilizing my legal skills to positively affect drug policy in this country.  Third, I am interested in utilizing my legal skills to promote and protect scientific and medical studies of entheogens.

As a first year law student I clerked for Jerry Patchen, who is a criminal defense and personal injury attorney in Houston, Texas.  He is also counsel for various chapters of the Native American Church (NAC).  I had the privilege of attending one of their ceremonies and it had a profound impact on me.  Jerry has defended more peyote cases than any attorney in the country and has won every case.

Although there are presently no attorneys that solely have a practice consisting of entheogenic religious freedom work, I would like to try to practice some in that area.  I am very interested in the American Religious Freedom Restoration Act (ARFRA) and its impact on the sacrament-based religions in this country, both existing and newly developing ones.

I am interested in and have been following the development of the NAC, the Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) (with who I have been in contact with in this country and hope to attend one of their meetings in the near future), Santo Daime, some of the newer peyote churches that have sprung up in Arizona, the Temple of the True Inner Light in NYC and the various cannabis-baed religions that exist or have sprung up in thist country (my youngest brother is a Rastafarian).

I hope that I oculd use knowledge that I would gain from this seminar about past and present sacramental uses of thse plants, to help individuals and religious organizations practice their entheogenic religions freely.

As a first year law student I wrote and editorial on the War on Drugs.  It was published in the main student body newspaper (circulation 35,000) and the University of Houston Law Center newspaper, and then later reprinted in the Entheogen Review and on the internet.  A copy of this editorial is attached to this application.  I am a member of the Libertarian party and have connections to the Drug Policy Foundation and Drug Reform Coordination Network.

I would like to use my skills once I come an attorney to postively affect drug policy in this country, in such areas as legalization/decriminalizaiton of drugs.  I hope that I could use the knowledge that I would gain from this seminar about the traditional uses of these plants and specifically the talk on ibogaine as a therapy for drug addiction to change drug policy to allow individuals the choice of ingesting these substances without fear of government intervention and to allow for medical treatment of drug addiction as a viable alternative to incarceration.

As a first year law student, clerking for Jerry Patchen, I also had the opportunity to work for the Heffter Reseach Institute (HRI).  Jerry is the general counsel for Heffter.  I am the grassroots fundraising coordinator for Heffter, which has also extensively coordinated research activities with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).  The primary goal of Heffter is to conduct high quality scientific research on psychedelic drugs to be disseminated to the medical and scientific communities to btter understand the human mind and therefore have benefits to all of humankind.

I would like to use my legal skills once I become an attorney to help promote and protect this type of scientific and medical research in this country.  I hope that I could use my knowledge gained from this seminar about the medical and scientific study of these substances from such presenters as Dr. Hoffmann, Dr. Shulgin and Dr. McKenna (who is on the board of Heffter, but I haven’t yet met in person) to allow individuals to benefit from the legal use of these substances in a medical context.


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About Ian Benouis

Ian Benouis is a West Point graduate, former Blackhawk helicopter pilot, former US Army officer and combat veteran who 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 of trauma for over 25 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 busted for a friend’s 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.