Current Issues/The Law

In 1979, the Federal District Court of New York stated that the the use of the peyote plant in churches other than the Native American Church should be permitted. Under the Arizona law, the Peyote Way Church of God was liscensed as the first all-race organization permitted to use peyote in their religious ceremonies. In 1990 the United States Supreme Court ruled that we do not have the constitutional right to use any controlled substance as a religous sacrament. Instead, each state has the right to pass laws governing the use of peyote in religious ceremonies.

In the 1978, the American Indian Religious Freedom act was passed, which allowed the practice of peyotism by American Indians. The act orders that federal agencies must be aware, protect, and make available for use American Indian sacred sites, objects, plants, and materials. Even though this act was passed, the Drug Abuse Control Act of 1965 states that peyote, along with numerous other drugs is a prohibited narcotic. Suspicion of drug intoxication alone will lead to an arrest and subsequent drug testing. Therefore there is the possibility of an Indian being arrested and incarcerated for using the peyote drug. If the test shows up positive for peyote, and has been determined to have been used in a religious ritual, then the accused can be released. The fact that American Indians can be arrested for using a drug that is so vital to the prosperity of their religion has discouraged many Indian tribes from using peyote as freely in their spiritual ceremonies as should be allowed.

New York, Arizona, and New Mexico are the only three states that have taken peyote off of the controlled substance prohibitions.

Source for this page:

Mount, Guy. The Peyote Book. Cottonwood: Sweetlight Books, 1993.

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