Spiritual highs and legal brows: the power and peril of religious exemptions from drug prohibition.ON FEBRUARY 22, 2006, U.S. Border Patrol agents noticed a minivan and a sedan traveling close together on Interstate 10 near Lordsburg, New Mexico Lordsburg is a city in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 3,379 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Hidalgo CountyGR6.
Lordsburg was founded in 1880 on the route of the Southern Pacific Railroad. .After going east for about 10 miles, the two drivers turned onto New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S). Highway 113, traveling south, then turned around and headed north, moving in tandem Adv. 1. in tandem - one behind the other; "ride tandem on a bicycle built for two"; "riding horses down the path in tandem"
tandem . Based on "a totality of the circumstances," the agents pulled over both vehicles. The minivan was occupied by Dan and Mary Quaintance, a middle-aged couple from Pima, Arizona Pima is a town in Graham County, Arizona, United States. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the town is 1,965. History
Pima was founded by Mormon settlers in 1879. It was originally named Smithville. . Timothy Kripner, a 23-year-old from Tucson, was driving the sedan, a rented Chrysler 300 in which the agents found I72 pounds of marijuana in three plastic-wrapped bundles, two in the trunk and one in the backseat. Kripner also was carrying a walkie-talkie, which he apparendy had been using to communicate with the Quaintances on the road, and a certificate, signed by Dan Quaintance, identifying him as a "courier" for the Pima-based Church of Cognizance The Church of Cognizance (COC) was founded in 1991 by Danuel & Mary Quaintance in Graham County (Pima) Arizona, United States. Beginnings
In 1994, the Church officially proclaimed its existence to the world by recording a 16-page "Declaration of Religious . "I am the head of my church" Dan Quaintance declared, "and I have the right to have that marijuana."
That remains to be seen, although the initial signs are not promising. In late December a federal judge rejected the Quaintances' claim that, because cannabis is their church's sacrament, their right to possess it is protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (, also known as RFRA) is a 1993 United States federal law aimed at preventing laws which substantially burden a person's free exercise of their religion. (RFRA RFRA Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993
RFra Rhine Franconian (linguistics) ). They were scheduled to be tried in May at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque on marijuana charges that carry penalties of up to 40 years in prison. But their religious freedom claim, which the judge considered for several months after oral arguments last August, was by no means frivolous. The Quaintances were arrested just a week before the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that RFRA protects the American branch of the Brazil-based Uniao do Vegetal vegetal /veg·e·tal/ (vej´e-t'l) vegetative (defs. 1, 2, and 3).
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of plants.
2. (UDV) from government interference with its rituals despite the fact that the group's sacramental tea contains the otherwise illegal psychedelic drug psychedelic drug (sī'kədĕl`ĭk): see hallucinogenic drug. dimethyltryptamine (DMT See DSL. ). If UDV deserves an exemption from the Controlled Substances Act Controlled Substances Act /Con·trolled Sub·stan·ces Act/ a federal law that regulates the prescribing and dispensing of psychoactive drugs, including narcotics, hallucinogens, depressants, and stimulants. , why not the Church of Cognizance ?
Answering that question is no simple matter. It requires considering not only the Quaintances' sincerity but the nature of religion and the aims of the war on drugs. Pleas for tolerance from groups like the Church of Cognizance, pleas that will be heard more and more in the wake of the UDV ruling, pose an obvious challenge to drug warriors who claim to value religious freedom. But they also pose a challenge to critics of the war on drugs. It's not clear how the demand for protection of psychoactive psychoactive /psy·cho·ac·tive/ (-ak´tiv) psychotropic.
Affecting the mind or mental processes. Used of a drug. sacraments will affect the broader cause of drug policy reform, a cause these religious groups do not necessarily support. Meanwhile, vetting their claims involves an unseemly official inquisition into people's most heartfelt beliefs, aimed at distinguishing real religions from phony ones. Even if some groups manage to pass the test, the victory for freedom of conscience is mixed, since the flip side Flip side
In the context of general equities, opposite side to a proposition or position (buy, if sell is the proposition and vice versa). of granting exemptions to people who consume controlled substances for religious reasons is that other drug users are punished, in effect, for having the wrong beliefs.
Tea Breaks and Peyote peyote (pāō`tē), spineless cactus (Lophophora williamsii), ingested by indigenous people in Mexico and the United States to produce visions. Privileges
One reason to hope the UDV case will undermine the war on drugs is that the Bush administration clearly feared it would. After customs agents seized UDV's sacramental tea in 1999, the group filed a lawsuit asking for it back and seeking a protective injunction under RFRA, which requires strict scrutiny A standard of Judicial Review for a challenged policy in which the court presumes the policy to be invalid unless the government can demonstrate a compelling interest to justify the policy. of government actions that impinge on religious freedom. The church won the argument every step of the way. In 2002 a federal judge in New Mexico, where UDV's American branch is based, issued a preliminary injunction A temporary order made by a court at the request of one party that prevents the other party from pursuing a particular course of conduct until the conclusion of a trial on the merits.
A preliminary injunction is regarded as extraordinary relief. telling the government to stop harassing the church, an order that was upheld by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in 2003 and by the entire court in 2004. The supposedly faith-friendly Bush administration, parting company with religious conservatives who supported UDV, refused to leave the tiny sect alone until the Supreme Court insisted that it do so.
That attitude stands in sharp contrast with government policy in Brazil, where Uniao do Vegetal (Portuguese for "Union of the Plants") was founded in 1961 by a rubber tapper named Jose Gabriel da Costa The surname da Costa derives from the Portuguese word for coast. It may refer to:
A hallucinogenic brew made from the bark and stems of a tropical South American vine of the genus Banisteriopsis, especially B. (also called hoasca and yage), a tea typically made with Psychotria viridis
Psychotria viridis is a shrub from the coffee family, Rubiaceae. leaves, which contain DMT, and the Banisteriopsis caapi
free grace, grace of God, grace - (Christian theology) the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God; "God's grace is manifested in the salvation of sinners"; "there but for the grace of God go and an emphasis on living in harmony "Living in Harmony" is an episode of the 1967-68 television series The Prisoner. It differs from most other episodes of the series in that it does not begin with the show's standard opening credits sequence. with nature. UDV holds that "ecology and spirituality are indivisible INDIVISIBLE. That which cannot be separated.
2. It is important to ascertain when a consideration or a contract, is or is not indivisible. When a consideration is entire and indivisible, and it is against law, the contract is void in toto. 11 Verm. 592; 2 W. " and describes itself as "a religion based on the superior Christian values The term Christian values usually refers to the values the speaker feels represent those found in the teachings of Christ as described in parts of the United States.
The biblical teachings of Christ include
In Brazil, where the church has about 10,000 members, the government somehow has managed to tolerate all of this for nearly half a century, exempting UDV's ceremonial use of hoasca from the country's drug laws. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. a seven-year Brazilian government investigation of religious ayahuasca use, completed in 1992, "The followers of the sects appear to be calm and happy people. Many of them attribute family reunification Family reunification is a recognized reason for immigration in many countries. The presence of one or more family members in a certain country, therefore, enables the rest of the family to immigrate to that country as well. , regained interest in their jobs, finding themselves and God, etc., to their religion and the tea. ... The ritual use of the tea does not appear to be disruptive or to have adverse effects upon the social interactions of the sects' followers. To the contrary, it appears to orient them towards seeking social contentment in an orderly and productive way." But in the U.S., where the UDV church has attracted about 140 members since the American branch was founded in 1993, the federal government acted as if letting them drink ayahuasca would mean the collapse of drug prohibition. "The Government's argument," observed Chief Justice John Roberts, "echoes the classic rejoinder The answer made by a defendant in the second stage of Common-Law Pleading that rebuts or denies the assertions made in the plaintiff's replication.
The rejoinder allows a defendant to present a more responsive and specific statement challenging the allegations made of bureaucrats throughout history: If I make an exception for you, I'll have to make one for everybody, so no exceptions?'
This position was especially puzzling because the U.S. government has long permitted the ceremonial consumption of peyote, cactus buttons cactus buttons Drug slang A popular term for mescaline. See Mescaline. that contain mescaline mescaline (mĕs`kələn), perception-altering substance found in peyote. See hallucinogenic drug.
Hallucinogen, the active principle in the flowering heads of the peyote cactus. , by members of the Native American Church Native American Church, Native American religious group whose beliefs blend fundamentalist Christian elements with pan–Native American moral principles. . Like UDV, the Native American Church combines Christianity with indigenous beliefs and rituals, but it's much larger, claiming hundreds of thousands of members in North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. . Church members credit the ceremonial use of peyote with curbing alcoholism, reducing domestic violence, and promoting community, and the federal government seems to agree that its effects have been positive. UDV repeatedly cited the peyote precedent in pressing its RFRA claim, and the Bush administration was never able to explain satisfactorily why it could accommodate one group but not the other. The best it could do was refer to the federal government's "special trust relationship" with the nominally sovereign Indian tribes.
That relationship is the legal rationale for the American Indian Religious Freedom Act The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (commonly abbreviated to AIRFA) is a 1978 United States federal law and a joint resolution of Congress which pledged to protect and preserve the traditional religious rights of American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native Hawaiians. of 1978, which protects "the traditional religions of the American Indian American Indian
or Native American or Amerindian or indigenous American
Any member of the various aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of the Eskimos (Inuit) and the Aleuts. , Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians This is a list of notable Native Hawaiians:
A bona fide purchaser is one who purchases property for a valuable consideration that is inducement for entering into a contract and without suspicion of being traditional ceremonial purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion" which had been protected by federal regulations since 1965. It's a remarkable law, not only extending special privileges to a particular church but creating a racial requirement for exercising those privileges, in apparent violation of the First Amendment's ban on "an establishment of religion" and the right to equal protection of the laws Noun 1. equal protection of the laws - a right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution and by the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment .
"The courts have justified that time and time again by saying that it's not a racial or an ethnic thing" says Richard Glen Boire, an attorney specializing in drug law and a senior fellow at the Center for Cognitive Liberty Cognitive liberty is the freedom to be the absolute sovereignty of the individual’s own consciousness. It is an extension of the concepts of freedom of thought and self-ownership. and Ethics. "What it's about is that the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. has always had a unique relationship to Indian tribes because of the history of the United States “American history” redirects here. For the history of the continents, see History of the Americas.
The United States of America is located in the middle of the North American continent, with Canada to the north and the United Mexican States to the south. . ... That's what courts for decades used to say: Hey, the Native American Church gets to do this because, essentially, we've stripped them of everything else about their Native Americanness, and we're not going to take this religion away from them" In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently : Sorry about the genocide; have some peyote.
Earl Arkinson, former president of the Native American Church of North America, an umbrella organization
An umbrella organization is an association of (often related, industry-specific) institutions, who work together formally to coordinate activities or for peyote groups, says the American Indian Religious Freedom Act simply recognizes the right of the continent's indigenous people to continue practicing the rituals they observed long before Europeans arrived. Although the syncretistic syn·cre·tism
1. Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion, especially when success is partial or the result is heterogeneous.
2. practices of the Native American Church developed in the late 19th century and the church itself was not established until 1918, the ritual use of peyote dates back thousands of years in Mexico. "This medicine was here before Columbus came here"Arkinson says."It's been here 10,000 years. ... It's even older than Catholic religion. The natives always used it as a medicine."
'Each Religion Needs to Stand on its Own'
Whatever the justification for the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, members of the Native American Church also can claim protection under RFRA, which was written with them in mind. Congress passed RFRA in response to Employment Division v. Smith, a 1990 ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court said "neutral laws of general applicability" do not violate the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom simply because they make it difficult or impossible for people to practice their religion. The case involved two Oregon members of the Native American Church, Alfred Smith Alfred Smith may refer to:
In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not have the authority to impose this requirement on the states, but it is still binding on the federal government. And given RFRA's provenance, there's no question Congress wanted it to protect Native Americans' religious use of peyote. That's why the Bush administration's invocation of the U.S. government's special relationship with Indian tribes was a red herring Red Herring
A preliminary registration statement that must be filed with the SEC describing a new issue of stock (IPO) and the prospects of the issuing company.
Notes: in the UDV case. Unlike the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, RFRA clearly applies to the Native American Church but also is clearly not limited to it. The law gives any religious group whose practices are barred by the government the right to demand a justification. No one disputed that UDV members were sincere, that their religion was authentic, and that the government was imposing a substantial burden on their freedom to practice it by treating their sacrament as contraband. Under RFRA, the Bush administration therefore had to show that depriving UDV of its tea was the least restrictive means of serving a compelling state interest.
It did not even come close. UDV presented expert testimony Testimony about a scientific, technical, or professional issue given by a person qualified to testify because of familiarity with the subject or special training in the field. that the hazards of ayahuasca use as practiced by the church were minimal. It also emphasized that the risk of diversion to nonreligious use was extremely low--not only because the church guards its sacrament but because there's not much interest in recreational use of ayahuasca, which tastes bad, causes vomiting and diarrhea, and may lead to disturbing visions. (Recreational use of peyote is rare for similar reasons.) In the end, the government's argument came down to the one mocked by Chief Justice Roberts Justice Roberts can refer to two separate United States Supreme Court justices:
Contrary to the Bush administration's fears, the UDV decision does not mean the government will have to make an exception for everyone who claims to have had a spiritual epiphany after dropping acid or smoking pot. (See "Looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. God in All the Wrong Places," page 50.) It does not even necessarily mean that groups similar to UDV will be protected by RFRA. Consider Santo Daime Santo Daime is a syncretic spiritual practice, which was founded in the Brazilian Amazonian state of Acre in the 1930s and became a worldwide movement in the 1990s. Santo Daime rituals involve the consumption of Daime, the name founder Raimundo Irineu Serra, or Mestre Irineu gave ("Holy Give Me"), another religion founded by a Brazilian rubber tapper that incorporates Christian beliefs and uses ayahuasca in its rituals. Santo Daime is three decades older than UDV, but it has a reputation for being looser and more open, which are not positive qualities from the perspective of a government determined to maintain tight control of drug use. Another potentially problematic aspect of the church is that in Brazil it uses marijuana (known as Santa Maria Santa Maria, city, Brazil
Santa Maria (sän`tə mərē`ə), city (1991 pop. 217,592), Rio Grande do Sul state, S Brazil. It is a major railroad terminus and the site of an important military base. ) as well as ayahuasca in its rituals, a practice American and Dutch churches have abandoned to avoid controversy.
Although still small compared to the Native American Church, Santo Daime has considerably more followers than UDV does. Solid numbers are hard to come by, but there are several Santo Daime churches in the U.S., including branches in California, Oregon, and Hawaii. According to the Dutch researcher Hans Ossebard, "the modern use of ayahuasca as a sacrament of Santo Daime in the United States and Europe has involved thousands of persons" which suggests the religion has hundreds of followers, at least, in the U.S.
Roy Haber, an attorney for the Santo Daime church in Oregon, says the federal government seized one of the group's tea shipments around the same time UDV's ayahuasca was confiscated con·fis·cate
tr.v. con·fis·cat·ed, con·fis·cat·ing, con·fis·cates
1. To seize (private property) for the public treasury.
2. To seize by or as if by authority. See Synonyms at appropriate.
adj. , but since then there have been no prosecutions and no further interceptions. In 2000 Haber successfully petitioned the Oregon Board of Pharmacy for an exemption from state drug laws covering Santo Daime rituals. "It seems apparent to the board," it said, "that the sacramental use of the Santo Daime tea in the context of a bona fide religious ceremony by practitioners of the Santo Daime religion as described does not constitute abuse of a controlled substance." This was a striking turnaround for a state that back in the 1980s still viewed the use of peyote by members of the Native American Church as a crime, a position that gave rise to the Supreme Court's Smith decision, which in turn prompted Congress to pass RFRA. Haber believes RFRA protects Santo Daime as well as UDV from federal harassment, but so far that proposition has not been tested in court, and it is not a foregone conclusion. As Haber notes, "Each religion needs to stand on its own."
By Their Suits Ye Shall Know Them
Dan and Mary Quaintance's Church of Cognizance did not, in U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera's view. Members of the church revere Revere, city (1990 pop. 42,786), Suffolk co., E Mass., a residential suburb of Boston, on Massachusetts Bay; settled c.1630, set off from Chelsea and named for Paul Revere 1871, inc. as a city 1914. cannabis as both a sacrament and a deity, identifying it with the Zoroastrian haoma and the Vedic soma. Their credo: "With good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, we honor Marijuana as the teacher, the provider and protector." The group is loosely organized, operating out of "monasteries" in members' homes; it claims 130 or so members, about 50 of whom live in Arizona.
In rejecting the Quaintances' argument that their church's marijuana use should be protected by RFRA, Herrera applied a test established by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (which includes New Mexico) in the 1996 decision U.S. v. Meyers. That case involved David Meyers, the founder of the Church of Marijuana, who claimed RFRA protected him from prosecution on federal drug charges. Without questioning his sincerity, the district court concluded that what Meyers considered a religion--focusing on the medical, psychological, and social benefits of marijuana--was actually "a philosophy or way of life." It drew this distinction based on five factors: "ultimate ideas," "metaphysical beliefs," "moral or ethical system" "comprehensiveness of beliefs," and "accoutrements ac·cou·ter·ment or ac·cou·tre·ment
1. An accessory item of equipment or dress. Often used in the plural.
2. Military equipment other than uniforms and weapons. Often used in the plural.
3. of religion."
The last category includes Judeo-Christian hallmarks such as prophets, sacred texts, gathering places, keepers of knowledge, ceremonies and rituals, organization, holidays, dietary rules and fasts, special clothing, and proselytizing.
The court cautioned that "no one of these factors is dispositive dis·pos·i·tive
Relating to or having an effect on disposition or settlement, especially of a legal case or will. " and that judges "cannot rely solely on established or recognized religions in determining whether a new and unique set of beliefs warrants inclusion" in RFRA'S protection. Yet these criteria, which the 10th Circuit accepted when it upheld the lower court's ruling, create an unmistakable bias in favor of religions with familiar features. They allow a judge to decide that a spiritual system that seems bizarre or unsatisfying is not really a religion at all. According to Herrera, the Church of Cognizance scores a bit higher on the Meyers test than the Church of Marijuana did, but it is still not elaborate, sophisticated, or comprehensive enough to qualify as a religion.
Herrera went further, questioning whether the Quaintances truly believed what they claimed to believe. "The evidence indicates that Defendants adopted their 'religious' belief in cannabis as a sacrament and a deity in order to justify their lifestyle choice to use marijuana," she wrote. "The Court concludes that Defendants do not sincerely hold a belief that marijuana is a sacrament and a deity. Defendants cannot avoid prosecution for illegal conduct simply by transforming their lifestyle choice into a 'religion'"
Herrera may be right that the Quaintances were only in it for the pot. But if so, they went out of their way to call attention to themselves for no apparent reason. After Dan Quaintance founded the church in 1991, he filed a "declaration of religious sentiment" with the Graham County Graham County is the name of three counties in the United States:
tr.v. a·noint·ed, a·noint·ing, a·noints
1. To apply oil, ointment, or a similar substance to.
2. To put oil on during a religious ceremony as a sign of sanctification or consecration.
3. oil. Dan Quaintance estimated that each member requires 20 pounds a year, close to an ounce a day.
That may seem improbable, but so is the idea that the Quaintances, with their modest home, chronic car troubles, and spartan lifestyle, were professional pot dealers. And it is hard to question Dan Quaintance's sincerity after reading his testimony about the spiritual journey, featuring the avid study of ancient texts in dead languages, that led him to found the church. In disjointed but enthusiastic detail, he describes how analyzing and comparing passages in the Bible, the Zoroastrian Avesta, and the Hindu Rig Veda convinced him cannabis is a holy plant. But all of this is beside the point if, as Herrera concluded, the Quaintances' beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not constitute a religion. "She doesn't fully understand our doctrine," Dan Quaintance complained to the Arizona Daily Star The Arizona Daily Star is the major morning daily newspaper that serves Tucson, Arizona, and Southern Arizona. It is currently owned by Lee Enterprises.
The Star is in a joint operating agreement with the Tucson Citizen after Herrera's decision.
A Hindu and a Rastafarian Walk into a Bar
In addition to ruling on what is and what is not a religion, judges in cases like these are called upon to decide which aspects of a particular religion are central and which are dispensable dis·pen·sa·ble
Capable of being dispensed, administered, or distributed. Used of a drug. . Back in 1967, for instance, the psychedelic guru Timothy Leary appealed his conviction on federal marijuana charges, arguing that he had a First Amendment right to use cannabis as a member of the Brahmakrishna sect of Hinduism. (At the time the federal courts were applying the "compelling interest" test that the Supreme Court renounced in Smith and RFRA re-established.) "The Hindu sect in India of which [Leary] became a member uses marihuana for religious illumination and meditation," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit conceded. It noted testimony in which an American Hindu monk said "marihuana plays a very important part in the rituals" of the sect. But the monk "admitted that he was partially able to achieve and practice his religious beliefs in the Hindu sect without the use of marihuana." Because marijuana was hard to get in the U.S., "he [was] forced to use other psychedelic drugs [which, unlike marijuana, were still legal in the early 1960s] in conjunction with meditation and prayer."
Based mainly on that admission, the 5th Circuit concluded that marijuana was not essential to Leary's religion, so he did not have a First Amendment right to smoke it. "There is no evidence in this case that the use of marihuana is a formal requisite of the practice of Hinduism," the court said. In any event, "it would be difficult to imagine the harm which would result if the criminal statutes against marihuana were nullified nul·li·fy
tr.v. nul·li·fied, nul·li·fy·ing, nul·li·fies
1. To make null; invalidate.
2. To counteract the force or effectiveness of. as to those who claim the right to possess and traffic in this drug for religious purposes. For all practical purposes the anti-marihuana laws would be meaningless, and enforcement impossible."
This concern seems to be the main reason the courts have almost uniformly rejected the argument that the religious use of marijuana should be protected, whether by the First Amendment or by RFRA. Unlike peyote or ayahuasca, marijuana is widely popular, and the government does not want the burden of preventing diversion or of distinguishing between sincerely religious users and fakers.
Carl Olsen's unsuccessful quest for official tolerance illustrates the problem. Beginning in 1983, Olsen, a priest of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church is a new religious movement which incoporated in Florida in 1975. The members of movement say it is based on the teachings of Marcus Garvey and also claim that cannabis is the Christian sacrament. . , repeatedly asked the Drug Enforcement Administration The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was established in 1973 by President richard m. nixon as part of the Justice Department, thus uniting a number of federal drug agencies that had often worked at cross-purposes. (DEA DEA - Data Encryption Algorithm ) for a religious freedom exemption from the Controlled Substances Act covering the sacramental use of marijuana by members of his sect. Followers of the church, which originated in Jamaica and identifies itself as Christian, consider the black nationalist Marcus Garvey a prophet, see themselves as descendants of the Israelites, and believe the Bible repeatedly refers to marijuana (ganja Ganja: see Gyandzha, Azerbaijan. ), which they identify with "the eucharistic spiritual body and blood of Christ The Blood of Christ in Christian theology refers to (a) the physical blood actually shed by Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the salvation which Christianity teaches was accomplished thereby; and (b) the Eucharistic wine used at Holy Communion Salvation
n. pl. im·men·si·ties
1. The quality or state of being immense.
2. Something immense: "the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water" of the marijuana abuse problem in the United States and the magnitude of the criminal activity surrounding the production and trafficking in this substance," said DEA Administrator John Lawn, "the interest of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church in the ceremonial use of marijuana is outweighed by the compelling government interest in controlling the use and illegal distribution of marijuana in the United States."
Olsen went back to the courts, arguing that the DFA DFA - Deterministic Finite-state Automaton. See Finite State Machine. had not adequately explained its denial of his petition. When the case was remanded so the DEA could try again, he offered to observe several restrictions aimed at assuaging the agency's concerns: Marijuana would be used only during the church's three-hour Saturday night prayer service, and the participants, limited to adult members who had undergone the church's confession ritual, would remain at the meeting place until eight hours after the ceremony. The DEA responded that"such restrictions could not be monitored or enforced without significant intrusion by the Government into the religious practices of the Church. The monitoring of such restrictions would be extremely burdensome on an agency which is charged with enforcement of a very comprehensive drug law." No doubt the DEA was sincere in wanting to avoid the hassle of keeping an eye on Olsen's church, but its concern about government interference with the group's religious practices is hard to take seriously, since the alternative to supervision was prohibition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit nonetheless upheld the DEA's decision.
Because of this history, it was startling star·tle
v. star·tled, star·tling, star·tles
1. To cause to make a quick involuntary movement or start.
2. To alarm, frighten, or surprise suddenly. See Synonyms at frighten. when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit suggested that RFRA might protect ganja use by Rastafarians. Like the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, the Rastafari movement, which has some I million followers worldwide and perhaps 5,000 in the U.S., originated in Jamaica and follows the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Rastafarians believe the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I (a.k.a. Ras Tafari Makonnen) was the personification personification, figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstract ideas are endowed with human qualities, e.g., allegorical morality plays where characters include Good Deeds, Beauty, and Death. of God and consider ganja a holy source of wisdom. The 9th Circuit decision, handed down in 2002, involved a Rastafarian named Benny Toves Guerrero who was arrested at the Guam International Airport with five ounces of marijuana and 10 grams of marijuana seeds. Although the Supreme Court has said RFRA is not binding on state governments, the 9th Circuit concluded that it does apply within "the federal realm," including U.S. territories such as Guam. But the court ruled that the statute did not bar prosecution of Guerrero for bringing marijuana into Guam, since "we are satisfied that Rastafarianism does not require importation of a controlled substance." That much was consistent with previous rulings by the 9th Circuit and other federal courts involving marijuana smuggling smuggling, illegal transport across state or national boundaries of goods or persons liable to customs or to prohibition. Smuggling has been carried on in nearly all nations and has occasionally been adopted as an instrument of national policy, as by Great Britain by Rastafarians. At the same time, the court implied that prosecution for simple possession might be a different matter.
Our Drugs Are Not Drugs
Meanwhile, the Native American Church of North America, the one group you might think would be cheering on sects seeking permission to use their sacred substances, has reacted to such cases with skepticism and fear, if not outright hostility. Earl Arkinson, who was the church's national president during the Uniao do Vegetal litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. , says his organization (which does not include all Native American peyote churches) decided not to support UDV, partly because it worried about jeopardizing its own protected status. Among other things, UDV argued that it was wrong to suppress its rituals while tolerating the Native American Church's. In theory, one way of resolving the inconsistency would have been to eliminate the Native American Church's privilege rather than extending it to other religions.
"If whites make an establishment claim, the church's fear is that [the American Indian Religious Freedom Act] would be struck down," says Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, who after the Smith ruling in 1990 helped organize the push for statutory protection of peyote rituals. "Generally, the Indians are very fearful that white people will endanger their religious freedom by their promiscuous claim that their drug use is religious and entitled to the same protection that the Native American sacramental use of peyote has been given."
That anxiety was evident in a September 2005 article in Indian Country Today Indian Country Today is a weekly U.S. newspaper which describes itself as "The Nations' Leading American Indian News Source." Focusing on news of interest to the Native American community, the newspaper was founded in 1981. , a leading Native American newspaper, that grouped UDV with James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney, a self-identified medicine man in Utah whose peyote rituals were open to people of all racial backgrounds. The Native American Church of North America rejected Mooney and his followers, saying they were not members of recognized Indian tribes. But in 2004 the Utah Supreme Court The Utah Supreme Court is the state supreme court of Utah. It has final authority of interpretation of the Utah Constitution. The Utah Supreme Court is composed of five members: a chief justice, an associate chief justice, and three justices. unanimously dismissed state drug charges against Mooney and his wife, ruling that the state Controlled Substances Act incorporates the federal exemption for religious use of peyote. Contrary to the DEA'S interpretation, and despite the law's references to "Indian[s]," the court also concluded that the exemption applies to all Native American Church members (which Mooney and his followers claimed to be), regardless of their ancestry. Mooney and his wife were later arrested on federal drug charges, but those were dropped after the U.S. Supreme Court's UDV ruling."These court cases are as unfortunate as they are dangerous," said the unsigned article in Indian Country Today, which complained that UDV's lawsuit was "dragging the long-fought-for understanding of the peyote church into a self-serving court battle for the new syncretic syn·cre·tism
1. Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion, especially when success is partial or the result is heterogeneous.
Because of this attitude, the national leaders of a once-persecuted minority religion with strange drug rites--the very religion whose legal defeat gave rise to RFRA in the first place--were, if anything, rooting against UDV, while mainstream groups such as the Baptist Joint Committee, the National Council of Presbyterian Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is an agency dedicated to coordinating cooperative ministry for evangelical denominations of Protestant Christians in the United States. , and the American Jewish Committee
But there is more to the Native American Church's stance than anxiety about losing its privileges. Explaining how UDV's situation differs from the Native American Church's, Arkinson says "they were using that [ayahuasca] as a drug" By contrast, he says, peyote is "not a drug to the Native American population. It's a medicine" Similarly, the Native American Church of Strawberry Plains,Tennessee, says on its website that "peyote is not used to obtain 'visions' but to open portals to Reality."
The Native American Church is not alone in distinguishing between its psychoactive sacrament and the chemically identical "controlled substances" banned by state and federal law. "Because drug use itself remains so powerfully stigmatized in our society" says Eric Sterling, "churches are loath to see their worship in any way linked to the stereotypical antisocial antisocial /an·ti·so·cial/ (-so´sh'l)
1. denoting behavior that violates the rights of others, societal mores, or the law.
2. denoting the specific personality traits seen in antisocial personality disorder. drug-using behavior." UDV's website, for instance, says "the hallucinations Hallucinations Definition
Hallucinations are false or distorted sensory experiences that appear to be real perceptions. These sensory impressions are generated by the mind rather than by any external stimuli, and may be seen, heard, felt, and even characteristic of LSD LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide (lī'sûr`jĭk, dī'ĕth`ələmĭd, dī'ĕthəlăm`ĭd), alkaloid synthesized from lysergic acid, which is found in the fungus ergot ( and recreational drug use Recreational drug use is the use of psychoactive drugs for recreational purposes rather than for work, medical or spiritual purposes, although the distinction is not always clear. do not occur within the religious context at issue in this case. The effect of drinking the tea for the UDV members is an enhanced state of spiritual awareness." When I refer to UDV ceremonies as"drug rituals," John Boyd objects. "This is a sacrament that has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years," he says. "There may be some naturally occurring DMT in their religious sacrament, [but] they don't think of it as a drug ritual."
Roy Haber offers a similar correction on behalf of the Santo Daime church he represents. "When these psychedelic plants are used in rituals, they're not drugs" he says. "This is not a drug use:' Haber likens the ceremony to transubstantiation transubstantiation: see Eucharist.
In Christianity, the change by which the bread and wine of the Eucharist become in substance the body and blood of Jesus, though their appearance is not altered. in Catholic Communion. "For the Santo Daime," he says, "the belief is that when the leaf and the vine are brewed together, there's a point in time where they coalesce co·a·lesce
intr.v. co·a·lesced, co·a·lesc·ing, co·a·lesc·es
1. To grow together; fuse.
2. To come together so as to form one whole; unite: ... and the Daime is born. It's believed that Jesus is in the tea"
It's certainly true, as scholars such as Norman Zinberg and Andrew Well have been pointing out for decades, that context shapes the experiences of drug users, especially in the case of psychedelics. The same drug can be used for radically different purposes, and the user's intent, expectations, and environment make a big difference. Furthermore, each religious group determines for itself what its rituals mean; outsiders won't get anywhere by arguing that Jesus isn't really in the tea. Yet by insisting that they are not taking drugs, these groups create a false distinction that calls into question the relevance of their struggle to the broader cause of drug policy reform. From their perspective, their quest for religious freedom is not even a drug policy issue. "They're trying to fundamentally divorce themselves from pharmacological reality," says Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a U.S.-based non-profit organization that assists scientists to design, fund, obtain approval for and report on studies into the risks and benefits of psychedelic drugs (including MDMA, ibogaine and . "What they're trying to do is to say that our drugs are somehow not drugs. They're trying to make this fundamentally incorrect and fallacious argument that their substances are sacraments, unlike LSD, and it's just completely and totally bogus. The visions can be very similar"
Just Say Know
Another potential concern for opponents of the war on drugs is that permitting the religious use of otherwise illegal substances, like permitting the medical use of marijuana, helps prohibitionists look humane and may reduce the pressure for reform. Both kinds of exceptions also reinforce the idea that you need a special, officially approved reason to use these substances, which is a far cry from being sovereign over your own body and mind. And just as medical exemptions force the government to define disease (even if only by deferring to government-licensed physicians), religious exemptions require the government to decide what counts as a religion, which means investigating people's beliefs and giving some a higher legal status than others. Still, assuming inconsistent injustice is better than injustice uniformly applied, it surely counts as an improvement when at least some people who use politically incorrect drugs do not thereby risk arrest and punishment.
Graham Boyd, director of the Drug Law Reform Project at the American Civil Liberties Union American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), nonpartisan organization devoted to the preservation and extension of the basic rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution. , says the question of how religious use of controlled substances affects drug policy "would be viewed by most people who are engaged in this debate [as] beside the point, in the sense that most of the religious organizations, including those that use drugs for their own religious purposes, don't see this as a fight about broader drug policy issues. These really are folks who have sincere religious beliefs and want to be left alone." At the same time, he adds, "whenever the courts and the media and the public are able to have a conversation about drugs that is not framed in the usual terms of 'how long should we lock people up?' ... it brings reason and rationality to a subject that is usually much more about fear and untruths."
Despite his objections to the anti-drug rhetoric of UDV and the Native American Church, Rick Doblin also is hopeful that legal protection for their rituals will help undermine drug prohibition. "People have had massive propaganda for decades about the dangers of these drugs," he says. Religious use of psychoactive substances such as peyote or ayahuasca "suggests that people can take this powerful drug and end up better people for it. How is that possible with what's supposedly a bad drug? You are helping to normalize normalize
to convert a set of data by, for example, converting them to logarithms or reciprocals so that their previous non-normal distribution is converted to a normal one. the use of the drug, you're helping to show the people it has benefits, and you're reducing the effectiveness of the propaganda."
Senior Editor Jacob Sullum (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use (Tarcher/Penguin).
Looking for God in All the Wrong Places
How can you have a religion without a church?
WHEN HE WAS 21, a prominent drug policy reformer recalls, he climbed a cliff overlooking Mount McKinley National Park Mount McKinley National Park: see Denali National Park and Preserve. after taking LSD. "God came to me and commanded me to acknowledge Him as the ruler of the universe," he says, "and He was as powerful and as real as any appearance of God is to anybody. I got down on my knees and thanked God for revealing Himself to me. That was a completely authentic, real spiritual experience."
But it is not the sort of experience that would be protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Lacking a formal organization or a recognized religious tradition, individual spiritual seekers cannot gain the status accorded to members of Uniao do Vegetal or the Native American Church. Yet it seems clear that many independent psychedelic users are seeking experiences that are fundamentally similar to those of legally privileged peyote and ayahuasca users.
In an often-cited 1962 experiment, Walter Pahnke, a physician and minister who was working toward a Ph.D. in religion and society from Harvard, investigated the spiritual potential of psilocybin psilocybin (sĭl'əsī`bən), perception-altering substance found in some species of mushroom. See hallucinogenic drug. , the main psychoactive ingredient in "magic mushrooms magic mushrooms See Peyote. ." Pahnke's academic adviser was the Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary, who at the time was conducting psilocybin research in which he eschewed standard scientific methods and took the drug along with his subjects, who included graduate students--loose practices that would eventually get him thrown out of the university. Pahnke's approach was notably more rigorous. He gave either psilocybin or nicotinic acid nicotinic acid: see coenzyme; vitamin. (a placebo with noticeable physical effects) to 20 Protestant divinity students who were participating in a Good Friday service at Boston University's Marsh Chapel. "All of a sudden," one of the subjects who took psilocybin later recalled, "1 felt sort of drawn out into infinity, and all of a sudden I had lost touch with my mind. I felt that I was caught up in the vastness of Creation. ... The meditation was going on all during this time, and [the minister] would say things about Jesus and you would have this overwhelming feeling of Jesus. ... It was like you totally penetrated what was being said and it penetrated you."
Based on written descriptions, questionnaires, and interviews, Pahnke assessed the extent to which the subjects and the controls had mystical experiences. He used eight criteria: a sense of unity, a transcendence of time and space, a sense of sacredness, a sense the experience is objectively real, a deeply felt positive mood, ineffability in·ef·fa·ble
1. Incapable of being expressed; indescribable or unutterable. See Synonyms at unspeakable.
2. Not to be uttered; taboo: the ineffable name of God. , paradoxicality, and transience. He also asked about lingering positive effects. Pahnke reported that "eight out often of the experimental subjects experienced at least seven out of the nine categories. None of the control group, when each individual was compared to his matched partner, had a score which was higher." In every category, the average score of the students who took psilocybin was much higher than the average score of the students who took the placebo.
A quarter century after the Good Friday Experiment, the psychedelic researcher Rick Doblin managed to get seven of the subjects and nine of the controls to fill out questionnaires again. Their scores and the gaps between them were remarkably similar. In the open-ended part of the questionnaire, Doblin reported, "experimental subjects wrote that the experience helped them resolve career decisions, recognize the arbitrariness of ego boundaries, increase their depth of faith, increase their appreciation of eternal life, deepen their sense of the meaning of Christ, and heighten their sense of joy and beauty."
While the Good Friday Experiment was conducted in a conventional religious environment, a 2006 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins suggests the setting was not crucial. The researchers recruited 30 subjects who had never used psychedelics but who reported "regular participation in religious or spiritual activities." The subjects were randomly chosen to receive either psilocybin or Ritalin, a stimulant with a similar duration and effect on mood. During individual eight-hour sessions, they were encouraged to close their eyes, listen to classical music, and "direct their attention inward." At a second session two months later, the two groups were switched.
While a few of the volunteers had bad trips after taking psilocybin (as did some of the divinity students in Pahnke's study), questionnaires the subjects filled out indicated that for most it was a very positive experience. Six out of 10 subjects met the criteria for a "complete mystical experience" after taking psilocybin, compared to about one out of 10 after taking Ritalin. Four-fifths said the psilocybin session improved their sense of well-being or life satisfaction "moderately" or "very much," compared to one-fifth who said the same of the Ritalin session. Two-thirds of the volunteers considered the psilocybin session among the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives, a rating less than one in 10 gave the Ritalin session.
"The Good Friday Experiment was all people together in a recognized church service," notes Doblin. "The Johns Hopkins study is people [using the] same drug, but not in a religious context, in a scientific context. And yet, my God, they're having these spiritual experiences on an individual basis without a leader, without a group, without a religion."
This is scary stuff, if you work for the Drug Enforcement Administration. To avoid a flood of religious freedom claims from a host of do-it-yourself faiths, drug warriors have to restrict the definition of religion so it does not include this sort of spiritual exploration, and the courts are happy to help. "If these two cases came before the same court, I would put my money on the one that looks more like a religion," says Richard Glen Boire, a senior fellow at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics. "The religious drug cases that might [succeed] are those that look exactly like a [conventional] religion in every way, except the sacrament is not a host but is one of these psychoactives. That's not the way the law is supposed to be, but that's the way that it is now."