Anonymous contribution specially written to this site (*)
The claims of the “Ayahuasca Healing Retreats” as being “completely legal” in the United States are false. The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the Drug Enforcement Administration’s view that ayahuasca is a “schedule one controlled substance” under the laws of the United States. It’s unauthorized importation and distribution is considered a felony criminal act punishable by imprisonment.
This organization’s misunderstandings seem to be rooted in the belief that because they have declared themselves to be a “Native American Church” and their use of ayahuasca is “rooted in personal healing and spiritual intentions”” they are exempt from prosecution. They would not be the first people to be incarcerated believing this fallacy to be true.
It appears their mistaken beliefs with regard to the laws of the United States are based upon a misunderstanding of an exemption for the religious use of peyote (another controlled substance) by a legitimate religious organization called the Native American Church, established in 1918. The unauthorized expropriation of that name does not make them a bona-fide Native American Church, nor provide any legal protection to the purveyors or purchasers of this kind of illegal activity.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (cited on the group’s website) only provides access to the court’s for those accused of violating a “generally applicable” law, in the exercise of “sincerely held” religious belief. The undeniable commercial objectives of the enterprise, as well as the fraudulent claim of religious legitimacy, would likely completely undermine this organzations’ possible defense when tested, in the context of a criminal prosecution.
This of course does not mean that people who seek the organization do not have sincere religious beleifs, and/ or that the use of ayahuasca should not be legalized.
Note from the editor:
(*) This note does not necessarily reflect the position of this site. Other perspsectives are also welcomed.