By Bia Labate and Matthew Meyer

We have published a previous post with a mistake. Please see the correction (in bold type) below.

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 interesting to note, that unlike the UDV, the CHLQ did not argue that there was an equal protection claim regarding the Native American Church’s use of peyote. According to Roy Haber, the Santo Daime lawyer, “the CHLQ has consistently made it clear that it does not claim it has an equal protection argument regarding the Native American Church. The CHLQ did however, argue that there was an equal protection claim that the government could not agree to permit the UDV to import the hoasca tea and deny the same right to the Santo Daime. There was no need for the Judge to reach that issue because we prevailed on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” (By the way, an interesting future research project would be to investigate the backstage relationships of the UDV and Santo Daime in the USA, since both have been for a long time involved in legalization issues, where the initiative of one group always related to the other in one way or another).

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.

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