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The Use of Sacred Teas and the “War on Drugs” in the United States, Canada, and Europe James T. Richardson Jennifer Shoemaker.

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Presentation on theme: "The Use of Sacred Teas and the “War on Drugs” in the United States, Canada, and Europe James T. Richardson Jennifer Shoemaker."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Use of Sacred Teas and the “War on Drugs” in the United States, Canada, and Europe James T. Richardson Jennifer Shoemaker

2 Background Use of ayahuasca, a decoction of two native plants, developed in Amazon jungles of Peru and Brazil among indigenous tribes; exact beginning is unclear; probably within last century but perhaps much longer Ayahuasca use has become globalized in recent decades, spreading rapidly to urban areas in Brazil and to other continents, including North America and Europe, as well as Japan and other nations in the Far East Spread has caused great consternation for drug enforcement agencies and others because the decoction contains trace amount of dimethyltrypamine (DMT) Has led to many efforts at social control by governments and major legal cases in several countries

3 My Approach Mainly descriptive, historical, and legal analyses, focusing on diffusion of the ritual use of ayahuasca around the world and reaction to this new development Diffusion pattern different but hypothesize that pattern of social control efforts will mirror what has happened in various countries with reaction to NRMs of other types Law used as major social control device; reveals normative function of the courts

4 Developments in Brazil Various religious groups use ayahuasca in rituals, including Santo Daime and O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV), which combine elements of Christianity (Catholicism), Spiritism, and indigenous religious traditions Controversy in mid-1980s, but after much study (1986 and 1992 governmental reports) these groups are accepted official religions in Brazil with thousands of adherents and churches in every major city and State; ritual use of ayahuasca accepted by the government as beneficial and therapeutic and not harmful to public “Religious tourism” has developed with people coming from around the world to participate in rituals in Brazil; some then attempt to establish groups in their home countries Church leaders from Brazil also travel to other countries to lead rituals and promote spread of their religion

5 United States Cases UDV group established in in early 1990s in Santa Fe, NM; first such development outside of Brazil; Santo Daime groups also established in various places Legal battles eventually erupted; UDV prevailed Feb. 21, 2005 unanimously in U.S. Supreme Court, using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; first time religious freedom won over “war on drugs” in U.S. Santo Daime prevailed in Oregon case, March 18, 2009, using the UDV case as determining precedent Conditions for use negotiated in these cases are onerous, but use of the sacred tea is allowed. Major RLUIP case now occurring in New Mexico in dispute over building a church for the UDV group there

6 Canadian Legal Situation 1996 drug statute precludes use or sale of cannabis, coca leaf, and opium poppy, but not plants that combine to make ayahuasca; however, preparations containing DMT are precluded Considerable relatively positive discussion of ayahuasca in literature and media in Canada in 1990s and later Church established in Montreal in 1996; imported ayahuasca until 2000, when Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized a shipment from Brazil RCMP recommended applying for an exemption under the law, which allows such for medical or scientific reasons, or in the “public interest;” Church applied under latter, and received favorable and unique administrative ruling in Sept. 2006, with “approval in principle” subject to approval from Brazil for the exportation of ayahuasca (still pending) One major case, Regina v. Uyunkar, in Ontario involving woman who died during ceremony that included ayahuasca and tobacco; Uyunkar pled guilty and was sentence to year of community service Several chapters of Santo Daime church now exist in Quebec and Ontario

7 The Netherlands Santa Daime registered as religion in 1995 Dutch Supreme Court declared in 1998 that any preparation containing a hallucinogenic chemical was illegal: Minister of Health agreed, over expert recommendations, in December, 2008. Two Santo Daime leaders arrested in Oct. 1999 for using ayahuasca in religious ritual ; district prosecutor sought to dismiss case, but church leaders refused and fought the case. Amsterdam District Court ruled on May 21, 2001 that prohibition of ayahuasca violated Article 9 of the ECHR; case involved much expert testimony for defendants, a finding of sincerity by defendants, and that the tea was not a threat to public welfare Similar case in Haarlem District Court, with same result, citing Amsterdam decision; case is on appeal, but use of ayahuasca is now legal in the Netherlands

8 Germany First arrived in 1989; no serious issues at first, with New Agers promoting use of ayahuasca Trouble developed in 1994 with very negative article in Der Spiegel; but several churches were established in major cities, although not successful in forming a national unified organization. Effort in 1998 to develop national church centered in Bad Berka near Weimar, at Schloss Gutenberg Sept. 25, 1999 a major raid ay Bad Berka by nearly 100 heavily armed federal law enforcement; arrested visiting group of Brazilian church leaders; took 62 liters of tea Raids shortly thereafter also in France and Netherlands, as well as in Hannover, Stuttgart, Berlin, and Hamburg Bad Beka community moved to Netherlands to escape harassment, but continued legal battle; case finally dismissed in 2007 and tea returned Achieved official registration in 2004; have openly practiced rituals with ayahuasca since

9 Spain Ayahuasca introduced in 1985; officials of Santo Daime Church arrived in 1989 for first church rites in Europe Branches now in Madrid, Barcelona, and several other cities, with hundreds involved Considered registering as legal entity in 1993; pursued in April, 2000 after three arrests in Madrid, with sensationalistic media coverage Judgment in favor of Church on Oct. 20, 2000, after scientific studies of ayahuasca considered Sought legalization of Church after that; finally succeeded due to mistake by administrative agency. Church is now legal entity but problems remain with importation and use of tea; drug enforcement officials not accepting of sacramental nature of ayahuasca

10 Italy Santo Daime groups developed in mid-1990s in Assisi and Genoa; were well-accepted; had applied for legal status under Italian law Tea imported under certification by Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture for several years, but this stopped in early 2000s, with subsequent problems importing after that 24 Church of Santo Daime members arrested in Assisi on March 18, 2005; charged with violating drug laws; huge outpouring of negative media coverage against the group Court of Cassation ruled, on appeal, on Oct. 6, 2005, that ayahuasca is not an illegal drug, as it is from natural substances All charges dropped on April 4, 2006, but subsequent cases arose in other areas. On May 13, 2008, national Santo Daime organization registered by governmental agency; all tea returned, but issues remain

11 United Kingdom Santo Daime groups operated in U.K. since mid-1990s; Two churches established (London and Devon) in 2006) Press coverage began in 1996 and continued intermittently August 2009 officials in U.K. and across Europe began confiscating ayahuasca and arresting practitioners; two arrested in U.K. Peter Aziz sentenced to 15 months; cut to four months Use of Ayahuasca remains in limbo; practitioners forced to use water in rituals; but research on ayahuasca now allowed Applying for charitable status, which is pending

12 France Ayahuasca legal from January 13 to May 3, 2005, after two long abortive trials involving one group of users and one therapy group One case involved Santo Daime members charged in 1999 with “acquisition, use, sale, and international traffic of illicit substances pertaining to a sect;” case finally dismissed on appeal Jan. 13, 2005: ”insufficient legal basis” and confiscated tea was returned Lyon case: upset Father of 25 year old daughter who was undergoing psychotherapy (but not using the tea) by therapists connected to users; developed large inflammatory report and sent to many agencies including MILS and ADFI, causing huge media outcry and leading to indictment of several; case initially dismissed but refiled by government, but failed again Cases failed because ayahuasca was not illegal, but French Ministry of Health acted quickly to criminalize, and did so effective May 3, 1005 “Sectoϊdal” was new term used in government report used to support new designation, as tea supposedly induces chemical submission to dishonest leaders of groups classified as sects.

13 Conclusions Conflict with “war on drugs” continues; Ironic that many governments known for promoting religious freedom have difficulty accepting ritual use of ayahuasca and exempting it from coverage by drug laws; usually involves years of litigation and negotiation Individual, non-ritual use of ayahuasca is still not legal in most countries, but probably not a major issue given the negative aspects of ingesting the decoction Trend seems to be toward legalization, using expert testimony concerning lack of negative effects and danger to the public, plus freedom of religion grounds Pattern seems similar to what has happened with NRMs in Western actions; courts playing major role

14 Pattern of Outcomes Legal: FreedomLegal on Illegal of religion other grounds Brazilyes Canadayes U.S.Yes Netherlandsyes Spainyes GermanyYes ItalyYes U.K.(?) FranceYes

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