OPEN Foundation

Adèle van der Plas – Ayahuasca Under National and International Law: The Dutch Santo Daime Cases

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This presentation will examine the legal aspects of the use of ayahuasca. No plants or other natural materials containing psychoactive substances like DMT or psilocybin are controlled under the UN 1971 Convention. The same goes for preparations made of these plants like, for example, ayahuasca. The member states of the Convention however do have the right to adopt more strict measures of control, and this has happened in several cases. This presentation will give a general overview of the current status of the use of ayahuasca in various Western countries.

The Dutch Supreme Court chose a far more restrictive drug policy than the Convention ever required. Recently arrests took place of leaders of the British Santo Daime churches because of importing their sacrament ayahuasca from Brazil. So far only the Santo Daime churches and the União do Vegetal have been able to successfully fight the diverse criminal accusations, by relying on their fundamental right to freely manifest their religion. The Amsterdam district court in 2001 was the first one that recognized the fundamental right of the Santo Daime churches to use their holy sacrament ayahuasca during their rituals. It considered the prosecution of the churches for possession or delivery of this ayahuasca in violation of the principle of freedom to express someone’s belief which right is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Sofia Sola Sancho

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