TRIAL ORDERED IN CASE
OF HALLUCINOGENIC PLANTS
By Bill Rankin, 24 Oct 2002 ©
A man accused of illegally
importing into Atlanta jungle vines and leaves to brew a hallucinogenic tea
must stand trial, a federal magistrate ruled Wednesday.
U.S. Magistrate Alan Baverman declined to dismiss an indictment against Alan
Thomas Shoemaker, whose lawyer contended the vines and leaves are legal
In his ruling, Baverman noted that Shoemaker is accused of importing into
Hartsfield International Airport almost 1,000 pounds of the materials, "the
combination of which make a potent hallucinogenic brew." In January 2001,
Shoemaker sent three crates of ayahuasca vines and huambisa leaves here from
Peru. For centuries, the jungle vines and leaves have been brewed to
make a tea used by shamans in the Amazon region during religious and
spiritual healing ceremonies.
The bitter-tasting tea is believed to heal the sick, bring contact with
spirits and divine the future. But it also contains the hallucinogen DMT, an
illegal controlled substance. Earlier this year, a federal grand jury in
Atlanta indicted Shoemaker on charges of illegal importation and possession
of DMT. It is the first prosecution of its kind in Atlanta.
Shoemaker, 49, said in a recent interview that he moved to Peru 10 years ago
to study shaman folklore. His lawyer, Page Pate of Atlanta, said Shoemaker
planned to use the jungle vines and leaves to make tea solely for religious
purposes in the United States.
In court motions, Pate did not contend that the indictment infringes on
Shoemaker's First Amendment, or religious freedom, rights. Instead, he
argued that Congress, when enacting the Controlled Substances Act, only
meant to make manufactured DMT an illegal substance, not the naturally
occurring jungle vines and leaves that contain DMT.
Pate also noted that DMT
exists naturally in other plant life, including
some grown by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent soil erosion,
and in the human body.
But Baverman found that the Controlled Substances Act, while not specifying
the vines or leaves as illegal substances, covers "any material" that
contains DMT. "When Congress speaks clearly, the court must follow what
Congress has stated," the judge wrote.
And Baverman found that congressional efforts to prevent illegal drug use
"were directed at the human consumption of controlled substances, not, for
example, their use in basic agriculture or their naturally occurring
presence in the human body."
Pate expressed disappointment at the findings, which will be forwarded to
U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes, who is to preside over Shoemaker's trial.
Pate said he will appeal the ruling to the federal appeals court in Atlanta,
either before or after Shoemaker's trial, if necessary.
Ask Dr. Shulgin Online
Drug Law Library - Ayahuasca
Law office of Richard