By Bia Labate & Matthew Meyer

ayahuasca-4

Recently, as a lot of you might have heard, the Cefluris Santo Daime branch Church of the Holy Light of the Queen (CHLQ) won a favorable ruling in its case in Oregon (USA). As usually happens with questions involving ayahuasca on the internet, a lot of information is going around.

We’d like to clarify some basic things about the case.

First of all, it is important to clarify that the decision is not the end of the road: there is still the question of what form the permanent injunction will take [see update below], and especially the level of oversight the DEA or other government agencies will have over the group. Judge Owen Panner did imply that he may allow the DEA to test the CHLQ’s Daime periodically. And if the UDV case provides any guide, we can expect the government to appeal and drag its feet as long as possible. (Although the UDV has been operating under a preliminary injunction for the past few years, there is still no permanent settlement in that case.)

Judge Panner’s decision is quite similar to the favorable opinion rendered in the UDV case: the judge found that CHLQ had a valid claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that the government had failed to show that it had a compelling reason to prohibit the CHLQ from using ayahuasca in its rituals. The government’s arguments about the dangers of ayahuasca were based on comparisons with injected synthetic DMT and with LSD that Judge Panner found irrelevant to the case.

The Santo Daime case generated quite a bit of curiosity, even if it was kept – differently than the UDV one – much more discreet and unknown to the public (in addition to proceeding at a faster pace). There was a general sense that the CHLQ would face a tougher battle than the UDV did because of its looser organizational structure and allegations of cannabis use within the Cefluris group of which the CHLQ is a part. These issues did not seem very important to Judge Panner.

It is also interesting to note that Judge Panner based his decision entirely on RFRA, and did not render a decision on the CHLQ’s Equal Protection claim, which argued that the government could not legally allow the Native American Church an exception to use peyote while denying the CHLQ the right to use ayahuasca. Still, Judge Panner quoted from documents discussing the importance of peyote to the NAC, drawing an implicit parallel in much the same way that the Supreme Court did in the UDV case.

This decision by Judge Panner is an important moment in the ayahuasca universe, and even if much is yet to be determined, it should be celebrated by all of those who are concerned about human rights, freedom of religion, and consciousness issues. In the next days it is expected that the judge will specify the details of the injunction, instructing the CHLQ and the government of their rights and responsibilities.

UPDATE:

On March 19th, the day after ruling in favor of the Oregon-based Santo Daime group Church of the Holy Light of the Queen, district court Judge Owen Panner set out the terms of a permanent injunction allowing the CHLQ to import and use Daime in its religious rituals.

The injunction is based on the temporary order that has structured UDV use of hoasca for the last few years, which itself is grounded in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) regulations for importers of controlled substances.

Here are the major points of the injunction:

1. The DEA must expedite the CHLQ’s application for status as an importer of a controlled substance;

2. The CHLQ must give the names and Social Security Numbers of those who handle Daime to the DEA;

3. The DEA may conduct inventories of Daime stock, although the CHLQ can withhold inspection if they believe it interferes with their religion (this includes a ban on inspection during ceremonies);

4. The CHLQ must inform DEA of quantity of Daime imported and give it a sample (about 60ml from each batch imported) for testing for DMT content, and must also keep a sample from each batch in Brazil;

5. The Daime must be stored in a padlocked refrigerator;

6. The CHLQ has to specify how much Daime is served in each ceremony, and how many people participated (but not how much DMT each person received, as the CSA ordinarily requires);

7. The CHLQ must advise participants or potential participants with a history of psychosis to seek medical help, and that they are susceptible to an adverse reaction.

Of course, the government still has the option of appealing the ruling within 60 days. This decision will likely hinge on the depth of the changes that have occurred within the Department of Justice with the Obama administration’s ascendance.

source = Bia Labate