A Native man in Utah who says peyote has the power to cure society’s ills has been charged with a dozen counts of drug trafficking and one count of racketeering, reports Associated Press.

James Warren “Flaming Eagle” Mooney, a former cop and prison guard, says the mystical power of the tiny peyote cactus can free people from drug addiction and mental illness.

But on Oct. 10, sheriff’s deputies raided Mooney’s home and his adjoining church, seizing a ceremonial pipe, a computer and 33 pounds of peyote.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Mooney has also become a peyote pariah, scorned by some First Nations healers who say peyote should be reserved for Native people.

Mooney says he will do what it takes to get the medicine to those who need it.

“Being prosecuted and facing these charges — this is coming from my heart –I consider it an honour,” he told AP.

For the roughly 250,000 members in 100 branches of the Native American Church, peyote ceremonies are a sacred sacrament, the flesh of God put on earth to provide clarity and bring followers closer to the Creator.

It is illegal to ingest peyote, a hallucinogen, in Utah and at least 27 other states. But in 1994, Congress made exemptions for “the practice of a traditional Indian religion” by members of federally recognized tribes.

Utah prosectors argue the exemptions don’t apply to Mooney, who is not enrolled in a tribe and administers peyote primarily to white people.

Mooney was a member of the Oklevueha Seminole Band — which is not federally recognized – until the new chief threw him out for conducting peyote ceremonies. He makes no apologies for giving peyote to white people.

Mooney is suing Utah County claiming religious discrimination.

The tiny, spineless peyote cactus grows in the desert of southern Texas and northern Mexico. The bulbs are either eaten or brewed into a tea consumed during prayer ceremonies that can last all night.

The plant is bitter and can cause vomiting. It contains a small amount of mescaline and botanists say the effect is similar to LSD.

Mooney, 57, hardly fits the mold of a drug trafficker.

He says he is a descendant of the great Seminole chief Osceola and was blessed by his grandfather to be a medicine man at age 4 after narrowly surviving a violent sexual attack.

He is a practicing Mormon but also leads the Oklevueha Earthwalks Native American Church.

He spent 10 years in law enforcement, six working in the Utah State Prison and volunteering to perform Native rituals.

A framed commendation from Governor Mike Leavitt for his prison work hangs on the wall of his church.

While working in prison, Mooney helped several prisoners with drug addictions turn their lives around by giving them peyote.

“This has brought me a lot closer to God. It has helped me to heal,” said one prisoner.

Mooney said he was cured of manic depression by peyote and was commanded by his chief, Little Dove, not to deny peyote to anyone.

”My only concern is to heal the pain of this society,” he said.

“These Native American ceremonies sustained this culture through the greatest atrocities and holocaust this world has ever known. Can you imagine what it can do for the ailments of this society that is crying for peace?”