Newsbrief: New Mexico Church Wins Ruling in Ayahuasca Case 9/12/03

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A New Mexico-based branch of the Brazilian Uniao do Vegetal (Union of the Vegetable, UDV) church has won a second victory in its legal battle with the US government over the church's sacramental use of hallucinogenic ayahuasca tea. On September 5, a three-judge panel of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that the church's use of ayahuasca is likely to be protected under US religious freedom laws. Earlier, a US District Court in New Mexico had granted a preliminary injunction against the US Attorney General, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other government agencies that seek to bar ayahuasca use for religious purposes. In granting the preliminary injunction, the New Mexico court found that the UDV "demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success" of winning an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act for sacramental ayahuasca use.

Ayahuasca, a concoction brewed from two plants found only in the Amazon basin, contains DMT, a hallucinogen listed in the Controlled Substances Act. (In another case, federal courts in Georgia have ruled that the CSA listing of ayahuasca is correct -- see for info). The current case originated in 1999, when US Customs agents raided the UDV's offices in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and seized some 30 gallons of the tea. Unluckily for the feds, the president of the US UDV is Jeffrey Bronfman, heir to the Seagram's whiskey fortune, who promptly sued for relief, claiming violations of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The UDV, with tens of thousands of members in Brazil, is recognized as a church there. In the US, where membership is in the low hundreds, the church, and its sacrament in particular, have yet to gain official approval.

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Issue #302, 9/12/03 Oops! -- "Killer Ecstasy" Study Retracted, NIDA Credibility on the Line, RAVE Act Still Law | Marijuana as Budget Saver? Study Looks at Implications of Legalization in Massachusetts | Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Newsbrief: Human Rights Watch Calls California's Anti-Syringe Laws a Violation of Human Rights, Details Police Harassment of Exchanges | Arianna Huffington Speaks at UC Berkeley SSDP-Volunteer-Organized Event | Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Sentenced to Nine Months on Bong Charges | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: West Africa Drug War -- Business As Usual, Except for the Lizards | Newsbrief: Canadian Cities Federation Stays Firm in Support of Cannabis Decrim | Newsbrief: New Mexico Church Wins Ruling in Ayahuasca Case | Newsbrief: Pakistani Prison Officials Call for Different Treatment of Drug Offenders | Newsbrief: Dutch Government Seeks to Ban Cops from Enjoying Coffee Shops | Newsbrief: Connecticut Democrats to Propose Sentencing Reforms | The Reformer's Calendar

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