Starr County men charged with illegally harvesting peyote

Two men arrested for harvesting peyote in Starr County

Two Starr County men are behind bars after they were caught harvesting a hallucinogenic plant native to parts of the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) game wardens arrested 52-year-old Tomas Pia and 37-year-old Jose Eden Pia, Jr. on January 14th.

Both men are charged with possession of a controlled substance after harvesting 32 pounds of peyote, a cactus with hallucinogenic properties.

TPWD Capt. Ramiro Coronado spoke to Action 4 News about the arrests.

Illegal Harvest

Capt. Coronado said a game warden was called out for hunters trespassing on a ranch off Margarita Road near Salineo.

Game wardens found a car parked in the area and waited for the owners to return.

Investigators reported that the the two men returned to the car with machetes and five gallon buckets filled with peyote.

Peyote, which grows in northern Mexico and South Texas, contains a hallucinogenic chemical known as mescaline.

Although it is legal to harvest peyote for Native American religious ceremonies, it can be abused as an illegal drug.

Capt. Coronado said only people who have a special license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) can harvest peyote.

Facing Charges

Both men allegedly told game wardens that they intended to deliver the peyote to a drug dealer in nearby Rio Grande City.

Starr County Jail records show that Tomas Pia posted a $20,000 bond while Jose Eden Pia, Jr. remains in custody under a $20,000 bond.

Court records show that Tomas Pia had previously served 12 months probation for having a baggie of marijuana back in July 2008.

Records show that at the time of his arrest, Jose Eden Pia, Jr. had a previous DWI but was also in the middle of serving two years probation for a January 2013 marijuana smuggling case.

The case has been forwarded to the Starr County District Attorney's Office. Court dates remain pending for both men.