Psychoactive Substances Bill

Written evidence submitted by Danny Diskin , the Inter Faith Alliance UK (PSB 12)

1) I am writing to suggest an amendment to the Psychoactive Substances Bill. I chair a charity called the Inter Faith Alliance, a member body of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, which is the official body that deals with Inter Faith matters in this country. My organization focuses on the persecution of religious minorities.

  

2) Last Monday, October 19th, the Parliament of the World’s Religions met in Salt Lake City, and among the faiths presenting for the first time were the União de Vegetal (UDV) and Santo Daime . These are established faith communities with their roots in Brazil and an international congregation, and they use the Amazonian visionary brew ayahuasca as an essential part of their religious practice. Neither would use the pejorative term "psychoactive substance" for ayahuasca ; they consider it to be a sacrament. In peer-reviewed tests, UDV members scored above average in tests of memory, recall, attention and verbal ability, and were found to be more optimistic, gregarious and confident than sibling controls (McKenna et al, 1999).

 

3) The Brazilian government contracted a team of doctors, social scientists and other academics and scientists to exhaustively investigate the communities and their sacrament for a two year period. The result was that legal protection was extended to the groups, which remains the case today (CONFEN ;1986 ). The professors concluded that:

"Moral and ethical standards of behaviour , similar in every respect to those which exist and are recommended in our society, are observed within the various sects, at times in an even stricter manner. Respect for the law always appeared to be emphasized… The ritual use of the tea does not appear to be disruptive or to have adverse effects upon the social interactions of the various sects’ followers. On the contrary, it appears to orient them towards seeking social contentment in an orderly and productive manner." [ my translation] (CONFEN; 1985)

 

4) Ayahuasca is considered "cultural patrimony" in Peru (National Directorial Resolution No, 836 2008), and its ritual use is also protected by law in several European countries and the USA, where the DEA was permanently "enjoined from applying or enforcing any of the laws, regulations, and treaties that govern the legal importation and distribution of Schedule I substances for the purpose of prohibiting, preventing, unduly delaying, or otherwise interfering with Plaintiffs religious use of Daime " (Meyer 2006)

 

5) Ayahuasca does not constitute a threat to public health at all, nor is it illegal, and nor should it be. In the USA and other countries there are controls to allow the importation and distribution of the sacrament, but an outright ban would be a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically:

Article 9: The right to freedom of thought conscience and religion

Article 14: The right not to be discriminated against in relation to any of the rights in the European Convention

6) In accordance with the articles of the European Convention, the Dutch High Court dismissed charges against Daime practitioners in 2007, noting that "the strictly regulated conditions in which use occurs are a safeguard against misuse" (Waterman, 2007).

7 ) There are UK citizens who are members of one or other group, and they cannot practice their faith as provided for by the European Convention because of the way the drug laws are managed in this country. Though it is not illegal, the legal situation is unclear. After initially indicating a response would be forthcoming in 6 months, the Home Office has delayed for four years in responding to the UDV’s request for license to import, and they continue to delay. Two Santo Daime practitioners were arrested and put on bail for two and a half years, only to be denied the right to state their case in court because the Crown Prosecution Service stated in court they had no evidence to submit. One was a social worker, who incidentally set up one of the most successful centres for victims of domestic violence in the north of England, and she lost her job as a result of the legal proceedings.

8 ) For further details on the legal situation and persecution of Daime practitioners, I refer you to the annexed article by Danny Nemu in The Psychedelic Policy Quagmire: Health, Law, Freedom, and Society by (J. Harold Ellens and Thomas B. Roberts eds .)

9 ) The Prime Minister has said "We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can" (Christian Post). I f the government is to be f aithful to this noble sentiment then the human rights of practitioners of these Christian ayahuasca religions must be considered , and an amendment to this Bill should be made to exclude ayahuasca for ritual purposes (with any reasonable conditio ns that the committee see s fit to impose ) . If the freedom of religion cannot be guaranteed, m y charity will pursue this matter through the institution of the IFN.

 

October 2015

 

References:

Christian Post http://www.christianpost.com/news/david-cameron-says-britain-must-stand-up-against-global-christian-persecution-urges-increased-evangelism-117845/#ilkwSO1DTzwmPVbO.99

CONFEN, (1985). Relatório final das atividades desenvolvidas pelo Grupo de Trabalho (GT)

 

CONFEN, (1986). Resolução No. 06.

 

Meyer, M. (2006). Religious Freedom and United States Drug Laws: Notes on the UDV-USA Legal Case. Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies. NEIP. Retrieved from www.neip.info/downloads/Matthew%20UDV-USA%20case.pdf

McKenna, D. et al. (1999). Pharmacokinetics of Hoasca alkaloids in healthy humans. Journal of Ethnopharmacology . 65(3), 243–256.

Waterman, D. (2007). Ayahuasca in Church; harmfulness of ayahuasca for public health; limitations on freedom of religion under art. 9.2 EHCR. Case Appeal to High Court LJN: AZ2497- Netherlands (2007) Rough translation from "Ayahuasca in [A] Kerk; schadelijkheid ayahuasca voor volksgezondheid; beperking vrijheid van godsdienst ex art. 9.2 EVRM".

Prepared 27th October 2015