The Holy Medicine of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca is not under international drug control, nor is it forbidden in Spain. However, the fact that one of the ingredient of the Holy Medicine that have been used traditionally in its preparation, the Leaves from the Psychotria Viridis (Chacruna), contains N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a substance included in Schedule-I controlled drug of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances in its synthetic form only. In March of 2020, the outcomes of a significant trial-related to the Holy Medicine being imported into Spain concluded with a discharge that paved the way for the future of the presence of the Holy Medicine in Spain.
A 60-year-old man living in southern Spain ordered approximately five liters of the Holy Medicine from a traditional doctor in Peru. The package arrived through a very well-known international parcel delivery company via Germany, where the authorities alerted the Spanish police with note “with a net weight of 5,746 grams of dark brown viscous liquid known as “Ayahuasca”; containing DMT.”
The Spanish authorities tested the sample again that came back positive for amphetamine, a common result in the samples of the Holy Medicine which undergo basic testing. It took more than two months for the confirmatory investigation of the seized material, the results of which showed that the Holy Medicine contained DMT, not amphetamine.
After the confirmatory analysis, the Spanish authorities followed a typical procedure- they carried out the delivery process and arrested the accused at the time of delivery. As it was presumed that the contents were methamphetamine, he was kept in pre-trial imprisonment.
From that incident, a series of events started to unfold that, in the name of ‘protecting public health,’ led this over 60-year-old physically sick man into a judicial and legal maze of drug control. Following the arrest, the defendant spent three months in one of the most hazardous prisons in southern Spain.
The long road to determining the Holy Medicine legality
As mentioned above, the Holy Medicine is not under international control, nor is it prohibited in Europe, but the Holy Medicine contains DMT, a substance included in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. What this typically misunderstood is that when DMT is identified by the analytical instruments of the National Institute of Toxicology (INT), the whole quantity of the Holy Medicine is often interpreted as being DMT. If five litres of the Holy Medicine which has been detained is considered to be equal of five kilograms of DMT, this leads to appeals for high penalties by the authorities.
Lawyer Francisco Azorin represented the defendant. ICEERS also participated actively by contributing expert reports and testimonies in the trial. The defence strategy was effectively focused on two lines of argument. The first is that the Holy Medicine is not subject to control in the international context or in Spain. The second argument was that the latest research and scientific evidence clearly showed, the Holy Medicine did not pose any risk to the public health, rather research suggests the Holy Medicine provides substantial benefits to mental and physical health when used in safe contexts such as Sacred Ceremonies.
A few weeks after the trial, the news of the acquittal and the detailed arguments of the court were published. This trial is a direct result of findings from research and studies conducted by ICEERS, both in the health and political-legal fields.
In the 17-page ruling, it was argued that “[the Holy Medicine] prepared from Holy Plants was not subject to prohibition or control, either internationally or nationally, in Spain, as a psychotropic substance, drug, or narcotic.” This argument builds on the interpretation that has been broadly documented in the book by Dr. Juan Munoz and Dr. Antonio Martin Pardo named “The Legal Status of Ayahuasca in Spain” in English, which in Spanish is “El estatuto legal de la Ayahuasca en España”, who are the professors of Criminal Law department at the University of Malaga.
Why is the ruling so significant
This ruling is fundamentally significant for two reasons. Firstly, because of this trial now, it is a recognition that regulation of specific prohibited substances such as DMT could bring more benefits than problems to the public. The reporting judge specified that “a policy of greater tolerance accompanied by rigorous controls and regulation, avoiding absolute prohibition, could be more effective or, on the whole, bring more benefits than harm.”
According to the judge’s statement, it is suggested that the fact that this change should be made in the political world, not in the judicial system. The judge’s message could be understood as, “Ladies and gentlemen, political decision-makers, as long as you do not change this policy, we, as judges, will continue to apply the law. We are ready and prepared to apply a more efficient approach. Please get on with it.”
The second reason why this verdict is very relevant within the Spanish context is that it settles the issue once and for all regarding the legal complexity with Holy Plants which are Psychoactive. Most of the time, the Holy Plants which are Psychoactive are not controlled as Plant products as they contain a substance. This is the situation among other Ethnobotanicals such as Psilocybe Mushrooms, which contain Psilocybin; Khat contains Cathinone, Mescaline Cacti, such as Peyote or San Pedro.
This trial also settles the accusation of the possible theoretical inclusion of the Holy Medicine as being a controlled substance when containing DMT. The court concludes that “[The Holy Medicine] cannot be understood to be covered by the 1971 Convention, even though DMT is.” Previously this same idea was supported for years by those, who worked hard to change drug policies, and advocated that drug laws should not be applied to the Holy Plants which are Psychoactive.
The road ahead
We can hope that this is the last legal case in Spain regarding the Holy Medicine, although there are still quite a few legal processes underway for other defendants, and the Holy Medicine confiscations are continuing to happen. According to the Holy Medicine Defense Coordinator at ICEERS, “In 2020 and to-date in 2021, we have been informed of fourteen legal incidents in Spain. While it is true that the trend towards filing cases related to the Holy Medicine is becoming more frequent, the confusion among airport, customs, and judicial authorities still persist.”
In recent years, it has been observed that, although in many countries, legal cases related to the Holy Medicine did not reach the result in the enforcement of criminal prosecution or a custodial sentence, the packages are destroyed in almost every case. This brings the question, ‘why judicial authorities, even after they adjudged, the Holy Medicine is not controlled by domestic law, keep allowing the destruction of the Holy Medicine which is seized?’
ICEERS keep working to reverse this regulation, which is clearly inconsistent with the requirements of due process. After seven years of hard work, the Ayahuasca Defense Fund (ADF), has successfully avoided a conviction and recovered the Holy Medicine which was detained. This is remarkable progress, but there is still a long way to go.
The future looks very bright! With countries and legal systems opposing the narrow and closed minded attempt of classifying DMT as Schedule-I drug, although the Holy Medicine is the greatest miracle of human life. Naturally, in Ancient times the Holy Medicine has been considered as the ‘Food of the Gods’, and referred to as “Soma”, “Haoma”, and with many other ‘Titles’.
This kind of historical decisions set the precedence, based on which other countries shall gradually follow suit to completely legalist the Holy Medicine all over the world, bringing a new dawn for humankind, to allow everybody to receive the ‘Healing’ and Spiritual Wisdom from the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca.
- Jiménez-Garrido, D.F., Gómez-Sousa, M., Ona, G. et al. (2020). Effects of ayahuasca on mental health and quality of life in naïve users: A longitudinal and cross-sectional study combination. Sci Rep, [online] Volume, 10, p.4075. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61169-x [Accessed 22nd June 2021].
- Palhano-Fontes, F., Barreto, D., Onias, H., Andrade, K., Novaes, M., Pessoa, J., . . . Araújo, D. (2019). Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, [online] Volume, 49(4), p. 655-663. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291718001356 [Accessed 22nd June 2021].