Alexander Rojas Rey told us he started taking dried cactus plant – which contained traces of mescaline – after he was diagnosed with cancer
Alexander Rojas Rey, who is originally from Colombia, told theSunday World this week that he started taking dried cactus plant – which contained traces of mescaline – as part of healing rituals popular with indigenous people in South America after he was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago.
“It’s not a party thing, it’s a spiritual journey,” he said this week, as he explained the sequence of events which led Gardaí to wrongly believe he was an international drugs trafficker.
Mr Rey was originally convicted after a jury trial but successfully appealed the decision and a retrial was ordered.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to possession of mescaline for sale or supply contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act at his apartment at River Towers, Lee Road, Cork, on January 23, 2018.
However, he left Cork Circuit Court without a conviction at the end of November after Judge Helen Boyle agreed to give the accused the benefit of a dismissal under the Probation of Offenders Act.
He told the Sunday World that he was taking the cactus powder to help him deal mentally with the situation he was in and he was not trying to claim mescaline cured cancer.
Mr Rey explained how he left Colombia 25 years ago and came to Ireland 13 years ago and worked as a financial adviser.
“I have lived in this financial world which is demanding and busy and everything is about money and material things. When I was living in that world, I was diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago and I had an awakening,” he said.
He knew from his childhood that indigenous people in his home country used plants in rituals for thousands of years but he immersed himself in that after his cancer diagnosis.
“When the cancer happened, I was living in Belfast and they did an operation,” he said.
Mr Rey said he was told he would die within two years if he didn’t take chemotherapy and that news shocked him.
“It’s not even the cancer, it’s the circumstance of being told you will die. It’s an awful thing to hear from an oncologist.
“I went back to the jungle in Colombia and started to take different herbs in the jungle with indigenous communities.”
He said the practice of using herbs as part of rituals was known as ‘shamanism’.
“I started to study with elders in the Amazon who kept wisdom through the generations, not from books but from oral traditions passed on in how to heal your body with plants. This is something that in the Amazon in the jungle has been around way before us.”
He said the process is about healing the mind and understanding emotions.
“When people go to South America and experience these ceremonies or rituals they go through a cathartic moment where they get exposed to all those emotions that were trapped inside and they transmit all these emotions into peace and joy because they are able to feel the freedom within.”
He became a shaman himself and returned to Ireland, where he continued to use dried cactus plants containing mescaline as part of his healing rituals.
However, he found himself at the centre of a major Garda operation in Cork in January 2018 after he ordered some to his apartment.
“The person who was packing the parcel wasn’t caring too much about the packing so certain herbs were leaking out of the box and that’s why it caught attention.
“They did some tests and they came out that it had mescaline in the chemical components.”
Gardaí then carried out a controlled delivery of the package to Mr Rey’s apartment
“They impersonated a delivery worker and did a delivery where I signed for it.”
Shortly afterwards a team of gardaí raided his apartment.
“It was very traumatic. There were 14 gardaí in my place. All of them were very nice and polite but it was very traumatic.
“I was thinking what are the neighbours thinking, ‘14 gardaí came to this guy’s apartment’. I had been in that property for 12 years, so it was very traumatic and stressful.”
He said the gardaí probably thought he was a big drugs trafficker before carrying out the raid.
“I understand they were doing their job and were sent to investigate it. Maybe they thought I was someone else and could have millions in the apartment but they didn’t find anything else.
“When this happened to me it was a traumatic experience for me. I’m a person who never had any convictions or any problems with the police.”
Mr Rey said he was shocked when gardaí initially claimed the package contained €800,000 worth of mescaline.
“It was ridiculous. They said they came to this amount because of the street value of mescaline – but what I had was powder of a cactus which was completely different. It cost me around €100.”
He said while it did contain mescaline, he estimated that was only one per cent of the package as it had not been chemically extracted and was just dried cactus crushed up.
Gardaí eventually lowered the estimated value of the package.
“Initially it was an enormous amount and the last time in court it was down as €6,000 I think, but even that was too high. That wasn’t the value of this.”
He said he believes the State were confused by the difference between pure mescaline, which had been chemically extracted from a cactus, and dried cactus crushed into a powder without chemical extraction.
He would put the powder into a tea and drink it and said he wasn’t doing it to get kicks.
“It is a healing process; you don’t get this mental state where you’re off the rails. They presume you are getting high but it’s not true.
“You change your perceptions but you’re in this meditative mood for seven hours or so. It’s a spiritual journey to the inside. It’s not a party thing, it’s a spiritual journey.”
He said he wasn’t taking it to cure cancer but to help with his state of mind in dealing with his situation and give him some control over the situation.
“I never said that, no. Mentally. it’s an alternative way but that’s not to say you should drop any other [medical] approaches.”
At his sentencing hearing Judge Boyle said she didn’t want people to think mescaline was a suitable alternative to mainstream medical treatment for cancer and Mr Rey said he accepted it was something he used in addition to mainstream treatment.
“The judge said ‘I don’t want you to come out to the public saying everyone should do this’. I’m not saying the medical [treatment] is wrong, it helps, but everyone should take responsibility for their own health.
“It helps in my healing process but I’m not saying it completely cured myself.
“It’s helpful because it changes your mentality and approach from being a victim of what happened to you to take action and also to break the fear.
“It’s a big thing to overcome the fear of dying. Nowadays people are not afraid to die, they are afraid to live.”
Mr Rey said that he is good health nowadays and after leaving the financial world behind he is now involved in range of work including as a massage therapist, a dance instructor, a somatic movement instructor and a holistic therapist amongst other things.
He counts gardaí, barristers, doctors, lawyers and a priest amongst his clientele and said he is happy in life.
“There is a phrase the shaman often say, the moment you stop singing and dancing you start dying,” he said.