Federal versus State Law
When Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, Peyote was listed with heroin, cocaine and LSD as a Schedule 1 dangerous drug, which criminalized its cultivation and set the stage for the endangerment of this sacred plant species. Peyote is currently listed as a controlled substance. Federal law prohibits possession of Peyote except to those who are members of the Native American Church (NAC) and can prove 25% Native American ancestry. The religious use of Peyote is protected by FEDERAL law only for Native American members of the Native American Church (NAC), with which the Peyote Way Church of God is NOT affiliated.
The Federal Exemption (21 cfr 1307.31 (1993))
The listing of peyote as a controlled substance in Schedule 1 does not apply to the non-drug use of peyote in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church, and members of the Native American Church so using peyote are exempt from registration. Any person who manufactures peyote for or distributes to the Native American Church, however, is required to obtain registration annually and to comply with all other requirements of the law.
Although peyote is listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the act and under Schedule 1 of the federal act, a separate federal regulation (21 cfr 1307.31 (April 1, 1989)) exempts the non drug use of peyote in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church. In light of Employment Division v. Smith 494 U.S. 872, 108 L. Ed.2d 876, 110 S.Ct 1595 (1990), states should consider including in Schedule 1 an exemption similar to that found in 21 cfr 1307.31 (Uniform Controlled Substances Act (1990) (U.L.A.) sec, 204 ‘comment’.)
States to the Rescue!
However, in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah, the “bona fide religious use” of Peyote is exempted, regardless of race.
In these seven states, cultivation of Peyote is protected by the First Amendment, which safeguards religious freedom, when bona fide religious intent is evident. The Peyote Way Church Article of Faith #4 clearly states stewardship and cultivation is essential to our religion.
AZ-Arizona Revised Statute Ann. sec.13-3402B
Possession and Sale of Peyote
In a prosecution for violation of this section, it is a defense that the peyote is being used or is intended for use:
1. In connection with the bona fide practice of a religious belief, and
2. As an integral part of a religious exercise, and
3. In a manner not dangerous to public health, safety or morals.
These religious exemptions do not insure freedom from prosecution as the burden of proof still rests with the defendant. Evidence of a spiritual practice is often called for in a court of law. Even in Arizona, where the exemption has been upheld and is well known, we are still subject to persecution.
If you are a Peyotist aspiring to cultivate the Holy Sacrament in the U.S., take these steps to protect yourself legally:
1) Review the laws in your area before starting your garden.
2) Download and print the Declaration of Religious Belief describing Peyote as an essential and inseparable part of your religious practice, and have this statement notarized. For further validation (and we really mean it!!), this statement may also be registered in your County Recorder’s office under “Miscellaneous”, or sent to the Church with a minimum $30.00 donation to be registered at the Graham County Recorder’s office, where the Church has filed all Declarations and Church memberships since 1977. Keep this framed, notarized statement clearly visible with the growing sacrament at all times.
3) Petition your Representative for federal legislation protecting the religious use and cultivation of Peyote for all races.