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Colombian Shaman Arrested for Ayahuasca on Arriving in US

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Drug War Issues

A widely known and well-respected indigenous Colombian shaman is in US custody on drug trafficking charges for possessing the psychedelic concoction ayahuasca when he arrived in Houston October 19 on a flight from Colombia. Taita Juan Agreda Chindoy faces up to 20 years in federal prison after being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Taita Juan
Taita Juan is a traditional healer of the Cametsa people who live in the Sibundoy Valley in Colombia's Alto Putomayo region. He is recognized by the Colombian Ministry of Health as a traditional healer and is widely known in his community as an established healer and leader. He was traveling to Oregon to give a presentation when he was arrested.

Although used as a religious sacrament in the Amazon, ayahuasca is banned under the US Controlled Substances Act because it contains DMT, a fast-acting hallucinogenic chemical. But in a unanimous 2006 decision, the US Supreme Court held that a US branch of a Brazilian church may use ayahuasca as a sacrament during religious rituals.

Taita Juan's supporters are organizing a campaign for his release and have created a web site, Free Taita Juan, to help mobilize support. His attorney was scheduled to meet with prosecutors Tuesday in a bid to resolve the situation. Meanwhile, the shaman remains behind bars in a US detention center.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous_is_a_user? (not verified)

So if it's legal - why is he being arrested?    This story is definately not complete.  The guy screwed up somewhere (didn't declare it)?

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 12:43am Permalink
Shelby (not verified)

The same reason they seize Medical Marijuana.  The Feds don't give a fuck. -_-  Even if it's their own law and not a state law lol.  Gah why am I not surprised? 

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 2:28am Permalink
Ari (not verified)

This is a clear manifestation of fascism.!

USA has gone down on to very scary route.

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 1:11pm Permalink

Think this is a free country?  Try challenging the status quo.  We have more people in prison than any other country in the world including countries like India and China that have much larger populations.  There are over one million people in prison for marijuana related charges which means they are in prison for how they think.  This war on drugs is a war against free thought.

The solution is in jury nullification. Register to vote--go to jury duty when called--play it smart, look as middle class as possible so you can get on a jury--then just say, "no" no matter what the judge instructs you.  It is our right as citizens to vote against laws we disagree with as jurors.

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 2:12pm Permalink
Tanja (not verified)

I still don't understand how DMT can be illegal if our body's produce the chemical when we are in REM sleep?  Are we all subject to imprisonment by not declaring we are manufacturing/producing the chemical and are guilty of transporting (or not declaring we are in possession of) the chemical if/when we travel by sleeping onboard an airplane?  LMAO, just kidding but how far are they going to go w/this???? What will they think of next? Does anyone actually know where to look up the official legal federal laws on DMT? I have looked but can't find/don't know where to look up that info. Just another bad example proving that laws on drugs are based on discrimination and a waste of taxpayers money and a waste of the courts time. This is like pandora's box once open all hell will break loose, either he stays in prison and his supporters will spend years and billions of dollars trying to defend their beliefs or he walks and those "war on drug" gurus will freak and waste billions of dollars fighting the court decision. Why, why, why does anyone have to get their nose in other people's business??? I doubt he brought the drug to market to kids on the black market, OMG! It's not like you can even get addicted to DMT and/or why is this even illegal?

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 3:15pm Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

Our asshat government is totally out of control, and a danger to the public. All the years of cancer research with pot down the tubes because our government is more harmful than pot. The little bit of research that has been done has proven pot kills certain cancer cells while not affecting surrounding tissue. This is a medical miracle being suppressed by our government for no good reason. This should be a criminal act, but I consider it an act of terrorism, by our government, on we the people. They're a disgrace to human kind, a disease on society, a cesspool of mental dysfunction. When a government is more harmful than beneficial, it's time for a new government, before it's to late. Even when they're caught in their blatant lies, they make no apologies, they go on as if everything they say should be believed. NOTHING our government says is the truth, they have a ridiculously embarrassing record of lying, how can ANYBODY believe anything they say? And every new one is worse than the last one. Look, I don't know about you America, but when I'm lied to, that's it for that persons being associated with me, I no longer will even acknowledge that persons existence. The government can lock me up if they don't approve of what do, all I can do is disassociate myself from the government. And if they don't like that, they'll lock me up. They're that much into our lives, we can't even be left alone, they force themselves into every aspect of our private lives, and demand we pay them for it. Ya know what FVCK AMERICA, and it's TERRORIST GOVERNMENT.

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 4:57pm Permalink
j.a. (not verified)

In reply to by joebanana (not verified)

Thank are on point and what's so amazing is that NO ONE SEEMS TO GET THE POINT.  AMERICA as a nation is on the slippery slope and going down fast.  We the people have no say in the actual direction those in power place upon us.  We have been duped and left looking stupid.

Sun, 11/07/2010 - 8:23pm Permalink
bkbannon3 (not verified)

I am glad to see educated people respond to such bullsh*t!  Most media sights try to make free thinkers look like nut jobs.  The constitution expressly  provides for we, as Americans to live our lives in the pursuit of happiness.  As long as we bring no harm to others or the property of others.  That which is not expressly written in the constitution is completely explained in the Federalist Papers, where the intent of the constitution is clearly expressed.  I have never understood how a person could be guilty of a crime against themselves.  It makes no sense, how can I be both the criminal and the victim in the same crime.  This is and always has been about money and big business.  I have the right to do what I want on my property as long as I harm no one, or anyone else's property.  God F**k American government.  It is no longer of the people for the people.  It is them, for them.  Screw the little people and suck them dry.  Keep educating yourself if u dare.  The more u learn, the worse it is.  Please read unintended consequences by John Ross.  One of the best novels of all time.  If you really want to understand the so called "Drug War", give Jack Herors, The emperor wears no clothes and one can quickly understand the whole drug war. 

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 6:34pm Permalink
Buzzby (not verified)

So if it's legal - why is he being arrested?  

It is currently legal only for member of a Santo Daime church.  Since Taita Juan Agreda Chindoy is a traditional healer in an established religion, I feel that this will be settled in his favor.

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 8:14pm Permalink
Someone else w… (not verified)

Once again our beloved federal government has its collective head up its tailpipe.  The US Supreme Court already granted that the substance can be used for religious purposes in the US so they need to let him go.

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 11:57pm Permalink
wayan (not verified)

Please do not play with fire Ayahuasca is illegal in the state so he did take a serious risk to go there and bring some I believe he get arrested because he was carrying some and now he is arrested that make sense no ! so we just hope that he will be soon free. Please don't be childish
Wed, 11/10/2010 - 8:03pm Permalink
wayan (not verified)

Please do not play with fire Ayahuasca is illegal in the state so he did take a serious risk to go there and bring some I believe he get arrested because he was carrying some and now he is arrested that make sense no ! so we just hope that he will be soon free. Please don't be childish
Wed, 11/10/2010 - 8:03pm Permalink

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