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Court Win for Ayahuasca Shamanism

The Santo Daime movement has won a court decision allowing them to continue importing the shamanic brew ayahuasca into the United States, on the basis of the preservation of freedom of religion. The decision was also guided by an earlier Supreme Court decision in which the UDV prevailed:

On March 18, 2009, a U.S. District Court judge, Owen Panner, found that the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects the Santo Daime’s use of DMT-containing ayahuasca as part of their sincere religious practices.

This U.S. District Court (the lowest type of U.S. federal court) based its decision on a U.S. Supreme Court decision from February 2006 in a case where the UDV (another ayahuasca-using church) sought a preliminary injunction to stop the DEA from seizing the ayahuasca they import into the United States. The Supreme Court granted that preliminary injunction in favor of the UDV.

Judge Panner writes, “Guided by the unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court in a very similar case, Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao de Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006), I conclude that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb to 2000bb-4, requires that plaintiffs be allowed to import and drink Daime tea for their religious ceremonies, subject to reasonable restrictions.”

“Plaintiffs have established their prima facie claim by more than a preponderance of the evidence. Plaintiffs have established that they are sincere in their religious beliefs, and that the ceremonial use of the Daime tea is essential to their religion. It is obvious that prohibiting the use of Daime tea would substantially burden the exercise of plaintiffs’ religion.”

“The government has failed to show that outright prohibition of the Daime tea is the least restrictive means of furthering its interests.”

The Erowid story also has links to the full texts of the decisions, as well as to the previous UDV court decision. Perhaps these are the first steps in allowing some freedom for individuals to pursue shamanism as their ‘religion’ of choice…

Previously on TDG: