Alvaro Céspedes/Texas Standard
Johnson lives in Mirando City; it’s a town of less than 200 people and is about 35 miles east of Laredo. He’s lived there pretty much all his life. After graduating from high school in 1966, Johnson joined the Air Force and was deployed to Vietnam. When he came back home, he followed in his father’s footsteps.
Peyote is a small, round cactus. It has no thorns, but has unique properties that make it an especially resilient species. If you cut what’s called the “button,” which is used in ceremonies, the root has the ability to slowly regrow a new button. Still, wild peyote is on the decline. According to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there’s been at least a 30% decline over the last 20 years.
“We are overharvesting the shrinking area of the planet that actually supports wild peyote,” says Martin Terry, a professor of botany at Sul Ross State University in Alpine
Peyote sellers in Texas are required to first register with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and then with the Texas Department of Public Safety. They must report how much peyote they harvest from the wild, and renew their license every year. Currently, there are only four licensed peyote distributors in Texas, and one of them is Salvador Johnson.
“Since the Spaniards set foot on these shores, there has been persecution of people who used peyote, and that continues to the Drug Enforcement Administration of today,” Terry says.
Salvador Johnson, licensed peyote distributor, at his home in Mirando City.
“My father was still living and he had moved back to Mirando. He sold peyote for about 18 years. I came out back here and I applied for my license, and I started selling peyote. I’ve been doing it ever since,” Johnson says.
Terry has been studying peyote for three decades. He says overharvesting is happening because Texas does not allow for peyote cultivation.
In The Only State Where Selling Peyote Is Legal, The Cactus Is Threatened And Still Controversial Peyote sellers in Texas must register with the Drug Enforcement Administration in order to