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Religious Freedom Beats Drug Law

In 1999, Jonathan Goldman’s house in Ashland, Oregon, was raided and Goldman jailed briefly for possession of an hallucinogenic tea known as ayahuasca or daime. The tea contains DMT, a Schedule A narcotic, which means that possession and distribution is a felony. Goldman, however, was the padrinho of a branch of the Santo Daime Church called the Holy Light of the Queen. For practitioners of this syncretic Christian church born in the jungles of Brazil, the tea is analogous to wine used during communion. In fact, the tea is even more integral to the religion than communion wine because the experiences provided by the tea are the essence of the religion. Without the tea, there is no religion.No charges were ever filed against Goldman, but for years his 80-member church had to practice in secret, risking arrest. Then, in 2008, Goldman boldly sued the government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law that was used by Native Americans to legalize peyote ceremonies. In March 2009, Goldman won a unanimous verdict in U.S. District Court. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Ju …

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