Ethical Concerns about Toad Smoking in the Sonoran Desert

By: Gary Paul Nabhan

Because of the recent publication of disturbing articles in the New Yorker and New York Times about the damage being done to people and to animal populations in and near Indigenous communities in the Sonoran Desert, we wish to voice our deep concern.

First, any Indigenous community member has a right to participate in whatever ceremony they wish to, and they typically know how to do so in ways that do not deplete local populations of plants or animals used in the ceremony. But therapeutic ceremonies undertaken by or on behalf of individuals new to a community and landscape may unwittingly generate dire consequences: endangerment of biological populations; conflicts between neighbors who for are or against the use of psychotropic organisms; disparities in who gets rich and who does not; and cultural appropriation of imagery in songs and visual arts.

We urge those who have the need to use 5-MeO-DMT for legitimate therapeutic reasons to obtain synthetic 5-MeO-DMT through credible sources rather than furthering the depletion of Sonoran Desert toad populations already being threatened in ponds and reservoirs over hundreds of square miles of Sonoran Desert terrain.

The Indigenous pueblos of the Sonoran Desert are far richer culturally and far more worthy of our respect than what they are being recognized for by many of the thrill-seeking or therapy-needing newcomers to their homelands.

Let us value their enduring presence in every way possible.