I am interested in formalizing and seeking recognition for the religious use of psychedelic drugs in the US via an institution similar but not identical to the Santo Daime Church. To be clear, this is not in the interest of gaming the system in order to get away with taking drugs; I am a very sincere practitioner (let us say for the sake of legal safety that I have practiced in areas of the world where it is legal) considering writing a manifesto to unite other sincere practitioners who have had to practice in secret and in the absence of an organized congregation.

As I understand it, the Santo Daime Church as well as the similar UDV Church have been granted legal legitimacy through cases in Federal courts but were not initially explicit about their use of Ayahuasca and rather relied on not being noticed. This is not the approach I am interested in taking. As a capable technical writer, I am interested in establishing the beliefs and practices of such an organized religion in such a way as to demonstrate sincere and safe religious practice up front. It will be important that the religion be syncretic, making few specific metaphysical assertions of its own but rather emphasizing the process of drawing individual conclusions through direct personal experience, and that use of psychedelics be supervised under safe conditions, ideally in small groups.

From the perspective of establishing a legally recognized religious entity and appealing for exemptions to the Controlled Substances Act on the grounds of religious use, what steps need to be taken? In particular, what criteria should a document establishing beliefs follow?

  • At the height of the Prohibition era, there was still an exemption for Communion Wine for Christian sects that use it as part of worship services (Catholics are the most notable as Communion is a part of every Mass and is the most sacred part of traditional services). – hszmv Apr 13 '18 at 13:36

It is a bit complicated. 42 U.S. Code § 1996a was passed that excepted "use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremonial purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion", and prohibits states from passing their own restrictions. This law was passed in response to Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, where respondents were fired for ingesting peyote in connection with a sacramental service of the Native American Church. The holdings of this case were general but the Congressional response was narrow. So you'd have to try, sue, or otherwise force Congress to develop additional exceptions.

  • Suppose that, rather than being open to any interpretation of the phrase 'psychedelics,' the practice of the religion was limited to psilocybin (mushrooms). Would it still be necessary to interact with this particular law/case? – Rammschnev Mar 13 '17 at 2:58

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