Judge rules Ashland church can brew hallucinogenic tea

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that members of a Brazilian-based Christian church in Ashland can import, distribute and brew hallucinogenic tea.

Judge Owen Panner issued a permanent injunction barring the government from prohibiting or penalizing the sacramental use of "Daime tea," a tea brewed from two Amazonian plants that contain the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltriptamine, or DMT. The tea is also known as ayahuasca tea.

Panner's order, issued Thursday, said activities of The Church of the Holy Light of the Queen, an Ashland-based branch of the Santo Daime (pronounced die-may) sect, are legal. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice can't interfere or prosecute church members who follow a list of regulations set out in his order.

The church must register as an importer, record information about church officials who will handle the tea outside of ceremonies, sample and track each batch of tea, store and transport the tea in a secure manner and warn members who could be at risk of adverse reactions to the tea.

The church sought protection under the religious freedom restoration act after Jonathan Goldman, leader of the Ashland branch, was jailed for 12 hours and tea was seized from his home in 1999. No charges were ever filed against him.

The church's civil suit seeking protection was filed in 2008 and arguments were presented during a two-day trial in January.

— Anita Burke

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