CHILE: We found him in the foggy mountains of central Chile, near the town of Aguila Sur, conducting a ritual at dusk with two assistants.
Dr. Milton Flores, 58, is not the leader of a religious sect or underground cult. He’s a psychiatrist who’s unusual in many respects. But in this South American country, it’s his crusade to legalize marijuana that has earned him notoriety.
When asked to describe marijuana, he says it’s “a tool and a medicine.” Flores has used cannabis for years to treat patients with different conditions, including depression and anxiety.
He also admits he has smoked pot since he was 14.
Flores is Chile’s main advocate for the legalization of marijuana and similar drugs including peyote, ayahuasca and San Pedro. Flores and other experts call these drugs entheogens. They’re all psychoactive plants that were used in Latin America by shamans and healers in religious ceremonies well before the arrival of European conquerors in the 16th century.
Flores’ main contention with these drugs’ illegal status is that the state gains nothing by criminalizing individuals who use them for medicinal or spiritual purposes the way he does.
“Cannabis is neither good nor bad,” he says. “Its use can be appropriate or inappropriate. It’s a tool that can have very significant effects.”