Tea Leave


The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has upheld a three-judge panel's decision protecting the sacramental use of ayahuasca, a psychedelic tea made from Amazonian plants. In 1999 U.S. Customs agents seized 30 gallons of the brew from the Santa Fe headquarters of the Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, a religious group that uses ayahuasca in its rituals. The government argued that the tea is illegal because it contains DMT, a Schedule I drug. The church challenged the raid as a violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Now the group's ayahuasca has a legal status similar to that of the Native American Church's peyote.